Mary Delle Gerald, who was instrumental in creating Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge’s Capital Chefs’ Showcase fundraiser 32 years ago, died Wednesday at 84. It was Gerald who dubbed the event the “largest moving cocktail party in Baton Rouge.”
Along with her friend Mary Jane Howell, she worked at Cancer Services for more than 20 years. “She was willing to do anything,” said Howell, who served as executive director until 1994. “She even took on two jobs at one time, serving as director of services as well as development director, and she built up both programs to where they are today.”
Together, Gerald and Howell helped raise $1 million in a 1992 capital campaign to buy and renovate Cancer Services’ current location at the intersection of Lobdell and Government streets.
“She was just such a wonderful person,” Howell said. “She was from an old Baton Rouge family and knew so many people, and they all had such respect for her. Mary Delle was a huge asset for Cancer Services and such a good friend to me. I sure will miss her.”
Gerald’s father was Robert Bogan, Baton Rouge’s first fire chief, from 1918 to 1960. According to Gerald’s son, Don, every time there was a fire, the fire bell went off in the Bogan home.
“It would wake up the whole family, and they would go pray for the firemen and help out the people affected by the fire,” he said. “I think that’s where mother’s dedication to volunteering came from. Her mother (Ethel Bogan) taught us all to volunteer.”
Aside from her work with Cancer Services, Gerald was instrumental in founding the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation (Emerge Center), and she served on the boards of Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, Ollie Steele Burden Manor, St. Clare Manor and the LSU School of Social Work. She was a lifelong member of the Junior League, serving as president in 1969-70.
In addition to her son, Gerald is survived by daughter-in-law, Meg Gerald; son Todd and his wife Ann; son Barry and his wife Connie; daughter Susan and her husband John Hawfield; and eight grandchildren, Austin Gerald, Maura Hawfield, Hudson Gerald, Rainey Gerald, Taylor Hawfield, Fallon Gerald, Kelly Gerald and Bo Gerald.
Visitation is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church until Mass at 11 a.m.