About 10 weeks after former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards died, his widow had him dug up from a Baton Rouge cemetery so she could have him cremated.
For now, Trina Edwards is keeping his remains on her nightstand at their home on a golf course outside of Gonzales – at least until she can find a final resting place for the four-term governor who died July 12.
The former governor’s three oldest children are so angry that they have gone public with their ire with the actions of Trina, their father’s third wife.
“The word for me is astonished and horrified,” said Edwin Edwards’ oldest child, Anna, who added that she learned about the exhumation and cremation from a text message.
“I was beyond shocked,” Anna continued in an interview Tuesday. “I can remember many conversations with my dad over the years about death and burial. He did not like the idea of being cremated. He thought it was abominable. He was horrified that I want to be cremated.”
Trina Edwards, 43, says she informed David, the only child from Edwards’ first family that she talks to regularly, of her plans. The word she received back: nobody was opposed.
Like so many in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards recalled Sunday growing up during the era when Edwin W. Edwards was the center of politics in…
David Edwards declined to comment for this article. But the comments by Anna, Victoria and Stephen Edwards have exposed a rift between them and Trina, who is more than two decades younger than each of them and is the mother of their 8-year-old half-brother, Eli.
“She has lost her 15 minutes of fame and desperately wants to get it back,” Victoria said Tuesday.
Trina Edwards said she and the former governor had discussed funeral arrangements at length in the months prior to his death at the age of 93.
“As far as I’m aware he never discussed anything that was going to happen after his death with any of his children,” Trina said Wednesday. “What Edwin told me about where he wanted to be buried, these are his words, ‘As my surviving widow it is up to you to decide what happens after I die.’”
Trina Edwards met the former governor while he was serving a prison sentence for corruption. She married him in 2011. She was 32. He was 83. She also starred with him in a short-lived reality show called “The Governor’s Wife.”
She pointed out that Edwards’ four grown children did not help take care of him, nor were they on hand when he died.
“I quit my job to take care of him, which I did, and I took excellent care. And he loved me and he was comfortable enough with me to put me in charge,” Trina said, adding that Edwin Edwards’ first wife and the children’s mother, Elaine, was cremated when she died in 2018, 29 years after their divorce.
Trina Edwards said her decision was legal and appropriate, best for her and Eli and that her intentions were known prior to the exhumation and cremation, a contention of which the grown Edwards children dispute.
“They knew when I buried him there. Everyone knew that it was temporary, so I’m honestly just I totally don’t understand what the problem is or why they’re being like this,” Trina Edwards said.
Edwin Edwards was initially buried at Rest Haven Memorial Gardens in south Baton Rouge. Trina, 43, first disclosed her actions Oct. 3 on Facebook, a post she says was in reaction to statements of unnamed critics. “At no point has anyone reasonable or sane ever thought that I did anything to harm my husband or that I was cremating him to destroy evidence,” Trina said in the Facebook post.
Well-known for his wit, charm, and devil-may-care approach to both politics and life, many remember former Gov. Edwin Edwards as a character w…
In an interview Monday on “Talk Louisiana,” which she had hoped would put the matter to rest, Trina Edwards told host Jim Engster that the decision was best for her and her son: “I just decided I wanted to bring him home,” Trina said. “I felt a sense of relief the second they brought him back.”
Stephen Edwards said his dad often told him that he wanted his final resting place to be the Port Hudson National Cemetery, a nod to his service as a Navy pilot at the end of World War II.
Trina Edwards said she plans to have her husband’s cremated remains buried in a final resting place at some point. She likes the idea of placing Edwin Edwards remains near Huey Long’s in the public gardens facing the State Capitol. But it’s unclear who would have to approve.
Nevertheless, she said Edwards will be buried in a location open to the public.
He is the only person in Louisiana to have served as governor for four terms, earning a reputation as a populist who championed the poor and ushered Black people and women into state government.
With his bayou charm, razor-sharp mind and quick wit, Edwards personified the state's "Let the Good Times Roll" motto – too well, in the minds of people who believed he put his pocketbook and those of his political cronies ahead of the state’s welfare.
Edwards was convicted of extorting payoffs from businessmen seeking the state’s coveted riverboat casino operating licenses, a conviction that forever tainted his legacy.
Edwards, however, enjoyed a public renaissance after serving 8½ years in prison, with onetime adversaries expressing admiration at his resilience. He made frequent appearances before supportive crowds, usually with Trina on his arm.
Trina and Edwin Edwards were close with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, a neighbor who was among those at the former governor’s bedside when he died and helped plan the governor’s funeral. Edwards laid in repose for public viewing in Memorial Hall at the State Capitol. The next day, a Sunday, his casket was moved in a horse-drawn cortege through the streets of Baton Rouge to a private service inside the Old State Capitol.
Matching wits with Edwin W. Edwards was like gambling against the house. I always lost.
The three older siblings say Trina froze them out of plans and didn’t cordon off seats for them at the private funeral services, which the children viewed as petty.
“I sat in the back,” Stephen Edwards said Tuesday. “I took the first seat that was available.”
Trina Edwards said seats were set aside for Edwards’ grown children but she was in such grief, she was unaware they couldn’t find their assigned places to sit. “I took them into consideration with every plan I made,” she added.
In interviews, Anna and Stephen Edwards praised Trina for her care of their father. But they and Victoria lamented how little they saw of him in recent years.
What disturbs Anna, Victoria, and Stephen the most now is Trina’s decision to burn their father’s remains.
“He was one of the large group of Christians who believed that if you’re in this world and are cremated, your soul cannot go to heaven,” said Stephen. “He made that well known to all of us and his friends.”
Having him cremated, added Victoria, “is one of the things my father swore he never wanted. He hated that idea.”
“I recognize when people die there are a lot of raw emotions and everyone handles grief differently,” Trina Edwards said Tuesday. “I regret his family feels the need to try to engage me in a public fight, but I will not dishonor my husband’s memory by participating. I wish his family nothing but health, happiness, and comfort as they begin to navigate their lives without their father and I sincerely pray they will someday find peace. I believe my husband would have wanted that for us all.”