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James D. Didier II

A Ventress man who died from injuries after trying to save his elderly father from a house fire is being remembered by family and friends as a local hero.

James D. Didier II died Wednesday due to complications from third-degree burns sustained in a house fire on Aug. 9, Pointe Coupee Parish Coroner Chief Investigator Ty Chaney said. He will be buried in New Roads on Monday.

The fire happened about 2:30 a.m. in the 9800 block of Island Road, according to Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Didier’s 75-year-old father, James Donald Didier, died in the blaze when his son was unable to remove him from the home.

Judy Didier, James Didier II’s mother, said her son had lived with his ailing father at a camp in Ventress for the last several years to care for him.

Family, friends and co-workers remember "Jim" Didier as a fun-loving figure around the New Roads area, one who loved cooking, hunting and fishing.

Family members said he was a culinary expert who worked in several well-known restaurants in New Orleans, including Ralph Brennan’s restaurant, Ralph’s on the Park. He left New Orleans for Pointe Coupee Parish after his father got sick.

Despite the abrupt change from urban life to the quieter world of New Roads, the move was a positive one for Jim Didier, his mother said.

“He fell in love with the people,” she said.

Jim Didier had recently told her he must know at least 500 people in New Roads alone. His mother laughed recalling this, saying she only knew about 15 people herself.

“He never met a stranger,” she said. “He would talk to anyone.”

Though he had left work as a chef in New Orleans he found a way to pursue his passion for food at his new home.

He worked for the last eight months at a local restaurant called Jim’s Bar and Grill, a short drive from the camp where he lived with his father. 

Laura Beard, the manager of Jim’s, said she considered Jim Didier to be a “kind of savior,” even before the fire.

She said Jim Didier saved the life of Jim’s owner Spike Major, after he crashed his truck into a nearby boat launch area by the restaurant when he accidentally accelerated instead of pressing the brake.

As the truck plunged into the water, Didier saw what happened from the restaurant and leapt into the water to pull him from the submerged vehicle. He grabbed hold of Major’s hand and was able to save his life, Beard said.

Judy Didier said after this incident, people called her son a hero. As for Beard, the heartbreak of Jim Didier’s death has resonated at her workplace and left a mark.

“It was a shock — we couldn’t believe it actually happened,” Beard said. “I can’t speak for the community, but everyone at Jim’s place is upset. He made friends everywhere we went.”

Others in the community stressed how loved Jim Didier was, even though he had only lived in the area for the last few years.

Judy Didier remembers her son, above all, as a hero.

“He died giving his life to his father,” she said. “He was just a good, all-around guy. I’m going to miss him so much.”

Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com