OBITUARY

Nancy "Evelyn" Cruse-Blanchard

May 26, 1938May 14, 2019
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Evelyn, as she would come to be known, was born a "blue baby" in rural Louisiana, outside the small town of Holum. She was delivered by her grandmother, whose mother had been a midwife, and her father. Her family struggled often in the tough times of the era. Her parents worked to provide Evelyn, her sister Helen and her brother Billy with all they could, but most of what they provided was love and a sense of self assurance that served all three well. Evelyn learned many things from her parents, but, the importance of education was the most lasting lesson. She loved and excelled in school. Her truest love was music. She began singing in church at three and continued to enjoy singing her entire life. Lean and tall she was every inch a tomboy. After the family moved to Monroe, she was the only girl playing with thirteen boys. She learned how to box, wrestle, whistle, roll stump water cigars and spit. In school she took every chance she had to sing. She became the youngest member of the Ouachita High School Chorus. She was sought after to sing for many of the local churches, civic groups and even performed on KNOE-TV in the early days of television. She was selected to All State Chorus multiple times and did not learn to read music until she went to college.

At Northeast Louisiana State College, currently University of Louisiana-Monroe, she pursued her love of music with a major in voice and a minor in piano. Evelyn was a member of every vocal group on campus. Blessed with perfect pitch, she was also student conductor for the bands. Her talent was such that she was one of two students selected to sing in the annual production of "The Messiah," which featured members of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Again, she and her voice were widely sought after, performing in countless venues. One of the highlights of her singing experiences was singing with Ray Charles, twice when he was making a circuit performing at colleges. Evelyn was stunned that he recognized her, just by the sound of her voice, the second time they met. She was very popular. Known for being a great dancer. Member of Phi Mu. President of Delta Omicron music sorority.

After completing college with more hours than many of her professors, rather than peruse the opportunities she had in New York, Nashville and Las Vegas, Evelyn moved herself and her baby daughter, Vanessa, to New Orleans to teach music, in the Jefferson Parish School System. Her first job was at West Jefferson High School. Evelyn's talent for teaching and her creativeness gained her much acclaim, in an area that was little emphasized, in the schools. Several years later she transferred to T. H. Harris Jr. High School, where she again created an exemplary program. To add to her efforts she started the flag and dance teams. Evelyn started a talent show to raise money for the school. Known as "Raiders on Parade" the events were wildly successful. She patterned many of the skits after the ones that she directed for her Phi Mu sisters. She continued her own education as well, earning a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision at Loyola University New Orleans. Because of her grades she was selected to join Kappa Delta Pi, Honor Society. After vocal music was removed from the curriculum, Evelyn launched herself into the physical education department with the same enthusiasm as she did music. She went to Tulane University to get her certification in Health, Physical Education and Athletic Injury. The curriculum required her to take anatomy and physiology with the medical students. Her second year teaching PE, she was named department head.

One of the most lasting lessons she learned from her father was the power of political activism. From an early age she learned what it took to change the world around us. She began a campaign to root out members of the school board who were impeding progress. With a group of like-minded friends and allies, they were able to make Jefferson Parish Schools into one of the top systems in the country, at the time. As the tide of equal rights gained momentum, Evelyn began to familiarize herself with Title IX. In doing so she became the moderator for 7 states and the new Athletic Director for the school system.

During her tenure as AD, Title IX was implemented, the coaches got their first raise in twenty years and Jefferson Parish Athletics experienced the most success of any system in any sport, statewide. Winning more state championships during her time as AD than any other system in the state before or since. Her accomplishments did not go unnoticed she was named Athletic Director of the Year for the State Coaches and AD's Associations multiple times. The highlight of her came in 1984 when she was named National Athletic Director of the Year by the NCSSAD. President Reagan honored her in The Oval Office of The White House, as the first woman in the world to be so named. Evelyn, is still the only female system AD to receive this honor. In 1989 she was named Athletic Director of the Year by the National Coaches Association. While serving as AD, Evelyn completed her Specialist Degree in Athletic Administration, at the University of Southern Mississippi.

After 17 years as AD and the birth of her granddaughter, Evelyn took on a new challenge, as the principal of Kate Middleton School, a kindergarten center. Typical of Evelyn, she eventually expanded the school from 6 to 9 classes and added pre-K. Garnering notoriety from as far away as Japan.

Even in retirement Evelyn still stayed involved in the LHSAA, hosting tournaments and conventions. Also serving on the Visitation Committee. She was inducted into the LHSAA Hall of Fame and named as an Outstanding Contributor, as well.

Despite her many professional accomplishments her greatest joys in life have been family, friends and travel. Evelyn and her husband John have been together nearly 39 years. Lovingly married for over 38 years. Her daughter Vanessa has always been the "greatest gift" to her. "Little Evelyn," her granddaughter, Brittany brought another level of joy to her life, eventually following in her grandmother's footsteps and becoming a teacher. Brittany along with her husband Jeff provided a perfect addition to Evelyn's legacy with Kennedy Marie.

Evelyn Cruse-Blanchard passed away from dementia related natural causes. She joins her father William "Willie" Ernest Cruse, Sr., mother Annie Louise Allbritton Cruse, sister Helen Louise Cruse Gaspard, brother-in-law Sherman Gaspard, best friend Marie Krantz, in heaven. She is survived by her husband John Michael Blanchard, daughter Vanessa Raven Cruse, granddaughter Brittany Evelyna Schiro (Jeff), great granddaughter Kennedy Marie Schiro, brothers William "Bill" E. Cruse, Jr. (Lois Ann) and William "Willie" Ragan. Uncle John F. Blanchard, Sr., brother-in-law Joe Blanchard (Tina). She is also survived by nieces and nephews, Sandy Grubbs (Mark), Coy Cruse (Melissa), Clay Cruse (Alana), Alex Sikes (Lyndsey), Sherman Gaspard (Jan), Graham and Caroline Grubbs, Ashleigh, Olivia and Benjamin Sikes, Shane, Sydney, Shelby and Spencer Cruse, Dade, Kesley, Stoney and Xander Gaspard, Connor Cruse, Logan Roof and Ethan Vess, Renee Blanchard Wilson (Casey, Allie), Scott Blanchard, Ryan Blanchard (Nicki, Cayden), Nathan Lingle (Emily, Sawyer), Matthew Lingle. Double first cousins Jo Ann McDonald (Tim), Jimmy Cruse, Sr. (Liz), Brenda Dello-Stretto (Richard), Ronnie Cruse (Cheryl), Jerry Cruse (Debra), Tommy Cruse. The family would like to thank the following for their excellent treatment of and compassion for Evelyn: Drs. Quynh Mai, Jayne Gurtler, Padmini Nagarag, Nagarag Nanjappa, Archie Melcher and Harold Miller; the staff at EJGH; but especially the good people at Laketown Village Memory Care, Advantage Med Nurses and the Passages Hospice staff.

Services will be held at Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 4747Veterans Blvd., Metairie, LA 70006, on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Family visitation 9 - 10, public viewing 10-1, followed by a Catholic Mass. Burial to be in St Louis #3, Esplanade Ave. NO. Followed by a reception at Chateau Country Club, Chateau Blvd., Kenner, LA. In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make donations in Evelyn’s name to the Alzheimer's.Org or Breast Cancer Society To view and sign the guestbook, please visit www.LeitzEaganFuneralHome.com

Services

  • Visitation Saturday, May 18, 2019
  • Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, May 18, 2019

Memories

Nancy "Evelyn" Cruse-Blanchard

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Anona Moffett

May 16, 2019

Evelyn loved deeply and was deeply loved. She had a gentle spirit that will be remembered by all.

Kimberly Eid

May 16, 2019

I just wanted to say thank you to John and Vanessa for allowing us to care for Ms Evelyn. I've been doing long-term care for about 12 years and I don't know if I've ever seen another family love someone so much and be so caring. You all truly became part of our family, and she will be greatly missed.

Denise Douglas

May 15, 2019

Brittany,
So sorry to hear about your grandmother. With our deepest sympathy to you and your family.
You are in our thoughts and prayers!
Love you,
Denise and Bill Douglas

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Biography

Evelyn, as she would come to be known, was born a "blue baby" in rural Louisiana, outside the small town of Holum. She was delivered by her grandmother, whose mother had been a midwife, and her father. Her family struggled often in the tough times of the era. Her parents worked to provide Evelyn, her sister Helen and her brother Billy with all they could, but most of what they provided was love and a sense of self assurance that served all three well.
Evelyn learned many things from her parents, but, the importance of education was the most lasting lesson. She loved and excelled in school. Her truest love was music. She began singing in church at three and continued to enjoy singing her entire life. Lean and tall she was every inch a tomboy. After the family moved to Monroe, she was the only girl playing with thirteen boys. She learned how to box, wrestle, whistle, roll stump water cigars and spit. In school she took every chance she had to sing. She became the youngest member of the Ouachita High School Chorus. She was sought after to sing for many of the local churches, civic groups and even performed on KNOE-TV in the early days of television. She was selected to All State Chorus multiple times and did not learn to read music until she went to college.

At Northeast Louisiana State College, currently University of Louisiana-Monroe, she pursued her love of music with a major in voice and a minor in piano. Evelyn was a member of every vocal group on campus. Blessed with perfect pitch, she was also student conductor for the bands. Her talent was such that she was one of two students selected to sing in the annual production of "The Messiah," which featured members of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Again, she and her voice were widely sought after, performing in countless venues. One of the highlights of her singing experiences was singing with Ray Charles, twice when he was making a circuit performing at colleges. Evelyn was stunned that he recognized her, just by the sound of her voice, the second time they met. She was very popular. Known for being a great dancer. Member of Phi Mu. President of Delta Omicron music sorority.

After completing college with more hours than many of her professors, rather than peruse the opportunities she had in New York, Nashville and Las Vegas, Evelyn moved herself and her baby daughter, Vanessa, to New Orleans to teach music, in the Jefferson Parish School System. Her first job was at West Jefferson High School. Evelyn's talent for teaching and her creativeness gained her much acclaim, in an area that was little emphasized, in the schools. Several years later she transferred to T. H. Harris Jr. High School, where she again created an exemplary program. To add to her efforts she started the flag and dance teams. Evelyn started a talent show to raise money for the school. Known as "Raiders on Parade" the events were wildly successful. She patterned many of the skits after the ones that she directed for her Phi Mu sisters.
She continued her own education as well, earning a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision at Loyola University New Orleans. Because of her grades she was selected to join Kappa Delta Pi, Honor Society.
After vocal music was removed from the curriculum, Evelyn launched herself into the physical education department with the same enthusiasm as she did music. She went to Tulane University to get her certification in Health, Physical Education and Athletic Injury. The curriculum required her to take anatomy and physiology with the medical students. Her second year teaching PE, she was named department head.

One of the most lasting lessons she learned from her father was the power of political activism. From an early age she learned what it took to change the world around us. She began a campaign to root out members of the school board who were impeding progress. With a group of like-minded friends and allies, they were able to make Jefferson Parish Schools into one of the top systems in the country, at the time.
As the tide of equal rights gained momentum, Evelyn began to familiarize herself with Title IX. In doing so she became the moderator for 7 states and the new Athletic Director for the school system.

During her tenure as AD, Title IX was implemented, the coaches got their first raise in twenty years and Jefferson Parish Athletics experienced the most success of any system in any sport, statewide. Winning more state championships during her time as AD than any other system in the state before or since. Her accomplishments did not go unnoticed she was named Athletic Director of the Year for the State Coaches and AD's Associations multiple times. The highlight of her came in 1984 when she was named National Athletic Director of the Year by the NCSSAD. President Reagan honored her in The Oval Office of The White House, as the first woman in the world to be so named. Evelyn, is still the only female system AD to receive this honor. In 1989 she was named Athletic Director of the Year by the National Coaches Association. While serving as AD, Evelyn completed her Specialist Degree in Athletic Administration, at the University of Southern Mississippi.

After 17 years as AD and the birth of her granddaughter, Evelyn took on a new challenge, as the principal of Kate Middleton School, a kindergarten center. Typical of Evelyn, she eventually expanded the school from 6 to 9 classes and added pre-K. Garnering notoriety from as far away as Japan.

Even in retirement Evelyn still stayed involved in the LHSAA, hosting tournaments and conventions. Also serving on the Visitation Committee. She was inducted into the LHSAA Hall of Fame and named as an Outstanding Contributor, as well.

Despite her many professional accomplishments her greatest joys in life have been family, friends and travel. Evelyn and her husband John have been together nearly 39 years. Lovingly married for over 38 years. Her daughter Vanessa has always been the "greatest gift" to her. "Little Evelyn," her granddaughter, Brittany brought another level of joy to her life, eventually following in her grandmother's footsteps and becoming a teacher. Brittany along with her husband Jeff provided a perfect addition to Evelyn's legacy with Kennedy Marie.

Evelyn Cruse-Blanchard passed away from dementia related natural causes. She joins her father William "Willie" Ernest Cruse, Sr., mother Annie Louise Allbritton Cruse, sister Helen Louise Cruse Gaspard, brother-in-law Sherman Gaspard, best friend Marie Krantz, in heaven. She is survived by her husband John Michael Blanchard, daughter Vanessa Raven Cruse, granddaughter Brittany Evelyna Schiro (Jeff), great granddaughter Kennedy Marie Schiro, brothers William "Bill" E. Cruse, Jr. (Lois Ann) and William "Willie" Ragan. Uncle John F. Blanchard, Sr., brother-in-law Joe Blanchard (Tina). She is also survived by nieces and nephews, Sandy Grubbs (Mark), Coy Cruse (Melissa), Clay Cruse (Alana), Alex Sikes (Lyndsey), Sherman Gaspard (Jan), Graham and Caroline Grubbs, Ashleigh, Olivia and Benjamin Sikes, Shane, Sydney, Shelby and Spencer Cruse, Dade, Kesley, Stoney and Xander Gaspard, Connor Cruse, Logan Roof and Ethan Vess, Renee Blanchard Wilson (Casey, Allie), Scott Blanchard, Ryan Blanchard (Nicki, Cayden), Nathan Lingle (Emily, Sawyer), Matthew Lingle. Double first cousins Jo Ann McDonald (Tim), Jimmy Cruse, Sr. (Liz), Brenda Dello-Stretto (Richard), Ronnie Cruse (Cheryl), Jerry Cruse (Debra), Tommy Cruse.
The family would like to thank the following for their excellent treatment of and compassion for Evelyn: Drs. Quynh Mai, Jayne Gurtler, Padmini Nagarag, Nagarag Nanjappa, Archie Melcher and Harold Miller; the staff at EJGH; but especially the good people at Laketown Village Memory Care, Advantage Med Nurses and the Passages Hospice staff.

Services will be held at Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 4747Veterans Blvd., Metairie, LA 70006, on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Family visitation 9 - 10, public viewing 10-1, followed by a Catholic Mass. Burial to be in St Louis #3, Esplanade Ave. NO. Followed by a reception at Chateau Country Club, Chateau Blvd., Kenner, LA.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make donations in Evelyn’s name to the Alzheimer's.Org or Breast Cancer Society
To view and sign the guestbook, please visit www.LeitzEaganFuneralHome.com