Part 1 of a series
By Juanice Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org
A pedestal stands as a lone sentinel watching over City Park on Second Street in Natchitoches. No plaque adorns the brick, no figure graces its surface. Nov. 10 that will change and Robert Buford “Bobby” DeBlieux (Jan. 26, 1933 – Jan. 31, 2010) will be forever memorialized with a bronze bust.
DeBlieux was a historian, preservationist, painter, author, businessman and former mayor. The sculptor, Larry Crowder of Hurst, Texas, said, “This is the first time I’ve sculpted a bust for someone I had the pleasure to know. He had such a joy for life. I am honored to create this sculpture of him.” Crowder is not new to Natchitoches. He also created the busts of St. Denis and Sam Sibley. “I started sculpting in the 70s. I’m self-taught and my art is based on my love for Greek and Roman art,” he said.
Working mostly for cities and universities, his story began in 1983 when he was commissioned to create a bust of Sterling Robertson, an icon from that area, for the University of Texas at Arlington library. Dr. Malcolm D. McLean, a Robertson heir, was discussing ideas with Crowder when he caught on to his passion for history. “He asked me if I’d ever heard of Athanase DeMezieres?” Crowder said. “Then he explained how he and others explored the West Texas and Natchitoches areas. He suggested I visit Natchitoches to find illustrations of DeMezieres.”
Once here, Crowder called the tourism office and spoke with Betty Jones. She suggested he contact the Descendants of the Founders of Natchitoches and attend their next meeting. In July 1984 he was introduced to then mayor Joe Sampite. Their conversation during a tour of the City turned to the history connecting Natchitoches to Texas in the 1700s and ultimately to the discussion of a marker for St. Denis. “I showed them my portfolio July 30, 1984, when we met in Betty’s office. Members of the St. Denis Foundation were present including Sudie Lawton who was their president at the time. I left there with a commission to create the St. Denis bust. It was paid for by the foundation and was unveiled April, 18, 1986.”
Members of a delegation from Beauport, Quebec, Canada, St. Denis’ birthplace, attended as did Bobby DeBlieux. “He was quite remarkable,” Crowder said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to experience his personality.” Dignitaries from Beauport asked about a duplicate casting for their city. There was no objection from Natchitoches. The duplicate bust was unveiled June 6, 1987, attended by a delegation from Natchitoches, including Jones, Sampite and DeBlieux.
“We spent several days in Quebec and coincidentally, I sat next to Bobby on the plane ride back to DFW airport. We talked the whole way. As a side note, I had received a letter from Bobby commending me on the bust the previous December.”
To be continued in Weekend Edition, Oct. 27-28