When Leah Chase and I were working on her biography, one of the subjects she liked to talk about was the "duck dinners" for New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial. Dutch had 40 ducks to get rid of, and he wanted Leah to do a duck dinner for 40 of his closest friends. With the help of her daughter Emily, she did. It was a popular event, and the dinners became a tradition throughout the rest of Morial’s term. In 1986, Morial’s last year in office, the biggest of all the dinners was held at the Greek Hellenic Center. More than 600 men attended — plus Iris Kelso. What I’ve thought about these past few days is what Leah told me about the duck dinners. She said, “With Dutch, you have to lay out all the good china, the silver, the crystal. ... There’s no half-steppin’ with Dutch.”

There was no half-steppin’ with Leah Chase's farewell services, either. To the family, and Bill Rouselle and his company, Bright Moments, LLC, not a single detail was overlooked. Streaming of photos at Xavier University Convocation Hall, and art, and multiple sign-in books to handle the crowds, bottled water, incredibly warm and helpful staff; and the family, patiently greeting every guest, warm and gracious. The evening celebration of life service was meticulously planned and implemented.

The Mass of Christian burial at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church even surpassed the Saturday night tribute. To a packed house, the clergy, family, and amazing musicians celebrated the life of this remarkable woman. Listening to the Rev. Asare-Dankwah, I thought, if only the world could have known her; if only the world could hear his words, wouldn't we be in a better place? Prayer, love and hard work. That is what it’s all about. From the church service, we walked in a slow dirge to the restaurant. White pigeons were released into the bright blue sky. The family left for the private burial at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, and the rest of us prepared for the second-line scheduled to leave the cemetery and celebrate its way to NOMA for the repast.

A repast for whom? The city? How in the world do you plan a repast in City Park for the masses who will certainly be present? But they did it. When I saw the big photo of Leah on the front of a bus engaged to take people from one spot to another, I just smiled. Leah must have been so proud. In her restaurant, she wanted things perfect. Miss Leah, your family and their associates did you proud. The entire celebration of your life was perfection. God bless you, and thank you for being such an influence on the lives of so many. May we do as your son, Dooky, said: Carry forward your spirit and your beliefs.

Carol Allen

biographer

New Orleans