Longtime St. Charles superintendent Rodney Lafon dies _lowres

Dr. Rodney Lafon

With the average tenure of a public school superintendent at about four years, former St. Charles Parish school leader Rodney Lafon’s 18 years at the district’s helm made him a rarity, parish officials said Tuesday.

“He was a blessing to work with,” said Clarence “Sonny” Savoie, who was elected to the parish School Board in 1986.

Lafon, who spent more than 38 years working in education, almost entirely in St. Charles Parish, died Monday of congestive heart failure.

He was 64.

Long before he settled into the superintendent’s office, Lafon was a band director and music teacher at several parish schools.

For years, he also played gigs as a trumpet player and managed the Jerry Leonard Society Orchestra, Nola.com reported in a 1990 profile.

Lafon studied music at Loyola University, then taught music in St. Bernard Parish and traveled with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders for three years beginning in 1972. He became principal of Des Allemands Elementary in St. Charles in 1982 and was named parish superintendent in 1995.

He retired last summer, saying, “I am confident that we have built a foundation that will position the St. Charles Parish public school system to continue on its path of excellence.”

His successor, Felecia Gomez-Walker, said Tuesday, “We lost a leader who was truly passionate about students, the community, public education and life. We will remember him fondly and continue the legacy that he has established.”

Savoie described Lafon as a leader who could rally others behind his ideas. “He could get things done better than anyone that I ever knew, and it was amazing to watch him in action,” he said. “He really carved out a place for himself in St. Charles Parish history.”

Lafon is survived by his wife, Joyce.

A memorial service will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center in Luling.

A funeral will be held at 6 p.m. May 22 at Schoen Funeral Home, 3827 Canal St., New Orleans. Visitation will begin at 2 p.m.