Laura Gatz Deavers, who for 30 years served as editor of the Catholic Commentator before retiring three years ago, died early Wednesday morning after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 69.
"She was diagnosed in January and it's been a miracle seven and half months," said brother Les Gatz, who praised his sister's positive attitude and strong faith. "She said, 'I'm not going to let it stop me until it kills me.'"
And Deavers, of Baton Rouge, didn't miss a beat. She went to Baltimore for a 12-day visit with daughter Ann-Margaret.
"She got to see everybody and say goodbye," said sister-in-law Jean Gatz. "She went to Rotary and did the things she wanted to do."
Almost a week to the day before she died, Deavers played cards with friends in the afternoon. Later that night, things took a turn for the worse.
Wanda Koch, who worked with Deavers at the Commentator, the newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, said, "She was devoted to the diocese. It didn't matter what time of day, if something needed doing she'd take care of it. Laura loved working for Catholics and for the diocese."
"Laura Deavers applied her Catholic faith to everything she did," said Bishop Robert Muench. "She was a superb editor of the Catholic Commentator and a highly qualified journalist and photographer who showed her love for the people of the Diocese of Baton Rouge by telling their stories so that all who read the paper might find deeper meaning in their lives. She was a model for all who aspire to excellence in life and in their chosen vocations. She was dearly loved, and will be dearly missed."
"She never said no unless she had a very good reason, and if she told you no, she did it in a very diplomatic way," said Gail Gaiennié, who befriended Deavers when they started first grade together. "We were seated by the nuns alphabetically together for 12 years at St. Joseph's Academy and that thread wove a tapestry that knew no time limits. … For me personally, she rekindled my faith over this past year. She firmly believed that she was in God's hand from the beginning."
In addition to her brother and sister-in-law, daughter and partner Lee and Buz Norwood, Deavers also is survived by her sister, Charlene Reis and husband John, of Bethel, Connecticut; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert "Bob" Deavers, and parents, Margaret and Charles Gatz.
Visitation is Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with recitation of the rosary at 7 p.m. at Rabenhorst Funeral Home, 825 Government St. Visitation continues Saturday at noon at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 2 p.m. celebrated by Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes. Interment follows at Roselawn Memorial Park.