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The late Joe Champeaux, who went to Tulane, served as a city planner for Lake Charles from 1968 to 1972. One of the larger projects he worked on during this time was ''Operation GRIP,'' which used urban renewal grant money to improve Goosport. (American Press Archives)<br>

The late Joe Champeaux, who went to Tulane, served as a city planner for Lake Charles from 1968 to 1972. One of the larger projects he worked on during this time was ''Operation GRIP,'' which used urban renewal grant money to improve Goosport. (American Press Archives)

Family, friends gather to honor and remember Joe Champeaux

Last Modified: Saturday, December 07, 2013 11:19 PM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

Joe Champeaux was an architect. He was a city planner. He was the head of The Chamber/Southwest Louisiana in 1978. Champeaux was a husband, a neighbor and during Saturday’s ceremony at the Central School Arts and Humanities Center, he was remembered as a man whose personal and professional life influenced everyone around him.

The event was a dedication ceremony for Central School’s plaza, which was designed by Champeaux. A few dozen people gathered on the steps in the plaza and listened as Mayor Randy Roach and state Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, spoke at length about Champeaux’s legacy.

Much like his architectural designs, Champeaux’s work history was unique. He spent four years as a city planner for Lake Charles. One of his most memorable endeavors was using urban renewal grant money to improve Goosport. He served as the head of the chamber in 1978. Champeaux was also the only architect in Southwest Louisiana to be named as a fellow by the American Institute of Architects.

Roach, who spoke first, strayed away from trying to quantify who Champeaux was as a professional. Instead, Roach talked about Champeaux as a family man working to make the community around him a better place. Roach said Champeaux was at ease in any setting and his ability to not only work with others, but to enjoy their company was something residents should emulate.

“Each one of us has an opportunity to became a piece of a mosaic which is called the community,” Roach said.

After leaving his job with the city, Champeaux founded his own architecture firm in the early 1980s. His main focus was to improve the city for the residents and this was evident in his work on the city’s original boardwalk around the lakefront. One of Champeaux’s public hearings on the project had an attendance of about 300 people.

Johns also spoke about who Champeaux was outside of business. He described how Champeaux’s professional successes were rooted in how much he cared about the area. “He was involved in so many things in this community,” Johns said. “He left behind a huge footprint in this community, and he will be missed.”

Johns also reflected on how everybody was going to remember something about Champeaux unique to them. Each memory would be different between the people gathered in the audience.

“Everyone in this world leaves a legacy,” Johns said. “Joe Champeaux left behind a very special legacy in this community.”

At the end of his speech, Johns read a recently passed resolution recognizing the accomplishments of Champeaux by the state Legislature. Considering Champeaux’s diverse background both socially and professionally, Johns joked about how he was choosing not to read the entire thing.

“I’m not going to read it because you would miss your lunch today,” Johns said as the crowd laughed.

Instead, Johns read just the last part, which was a mixture of Champeaux’s personal life and the state’s appreciation for what he accomplished as a professional.

Champeaux often credited his wife, Poddy, for his successes. She closed the speaker portion of the event. Even though her remarks were relatively short, she made sure to show just how much she appreciated the outpouring of support and gratitude from the local community.

“I look at all of you and my heart just grows and grows,” she said. “Just know that he’s in heaven and if you want to send a prayer to a good friend, then he’s the one to do it.”

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