Words fail to describe the sadness in the fishing community after news spread about Theophile Bourgeois’ fatal seaplane crash over the weekend.
This time the bad news came in the all too-oft-described “threes,” because Jack Padorsky and Charlie Antrobus died in the same three-day stretch.
It’s been a rough few days among friends who knew Theophile. He was a one-of-a-kind man, ruggedly handsome, a Cajun deep into his soul, a fisherman, and more.
Theophile called nearly 30 years ago. He was in his 20s and had a dream of something more than taking folks fishing. He wanted his clients to feel the experiences he’d had in his young life.
Long before he bought the old schoolhouse in Lafitte, his base was a camp in the marsh far enough away from the old Sea Way Marina in Barataria, but not too far.
His plan was the experience: meet clients near noon, ferry them to the camp, fish through the afternoon, enjoy a bountiful Cajun-Creole meal that night, rest to the sounds of the night marsh, wake to breakfast, fish through the morning, back to camp for a seafood po-boy, pack filleted fish and return to the marina.
It was 24 hours of a deep dip into south Louisiana, and Theophile had few peers when it came to serving as an ambassador for our fishing and our culture.
In the years since, Theophile had his ups and downs, recovered from the downs like hurricanes and an oil spill that had wrecked other fishing operations, and came out with his “there’s another tomorrow” attitude.
He spent time in the kitchen — his eggplant sticks are legendary — and he cooked breakfast for his fishermen. Man, could he boil seafood.
He was more. He holds a patent for a device he was proud to demonstrate, a boom of sorts to hold and grab oil. We cut wood together for stairs and bannisters and tables way back when, and shared many meals. And he could catch fish, even when conditions were tough.
He held an ultralight pilot's license some years ago and would take it on trips around the marsh, sometimes to scout an area, sometimes just for fun. A couple of years after the 2010 oil spill disaster, he asked if anyone remembered the decades-ago seaplane fishing trips from Belle Chasse. I did, and we talked about what would become his latest fishing adventure — a venture that proved to take his life.
Know what, Theophile Bourgeois died doing what he loved.
For his family and friends, for the family and friends of Jack Padorsky and Charlie Antrobus, heartfelt condolences. These men, these God-fearing men, will be missed.