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Dr. Raghotham Patlola, Red Lerille and Dr. David Allie

Lloyd "Red" Lerille, longtime Lafayette health club owner and former Mr. America, was honored Thursday by the Louisiana CLI & Limb Salvage Club with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Club founder David Allie said he's been wanting to present the award to Lerille for months, but schedules never lined up until now. He said Lerille's commitment to promoting healthy living and the community made him the first person who jumped to his mind when he started thinking about whom to give the award.

"Red has affected three generations of families and people here in Lafayette," Allie said. "With his employment and the number of people who come through (Red Lerille's Health & Racquet Club), they've learned character, healthy living and how to work. He's touched almost everybody's life in this community in a positive way over the past 56 years."

Lerille said it was an honor for him to receive the award and he loves going to work every day in Lafayette as it's the "greatest place in the world."

"The best thing in all this was coming to Lafayette. … I didn’t realize that day in 1959, Sept. 9, when I stepped off the plane in Hammond and came here, that this is the greatest place in the world," Lerille said.

Lerille was a protege of Joe Gold, founder of Gold's Gym and World Gym International, and was a bodybuilder who won Mr. New Orleans, Mr. Audubon Park, Mr. Navy and several other bodybuilding titles before becoming Mr. America in 1960. He then opened his health club, Red Lerille's Health & Racquet Club in 1963. It was moved to 301 Doucet Road in 1965.

Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.