A friendship bonded by Cajun backgrounds
Cal’s loyalty and generous heart made him special. He’ll be missed
I’ve dreaded this day even though, over the last few weeks, I knew it was coming sooner than later. My buddy Cal Broussard, an ex-Marine fighter and former boxer, was not one to throw in the towel until the fight was done. Over the last year, Cal had been in a battle for his life. Fourteen surgeries, seven months without swallowing food or drink, he had insisted he would beat it and one Wednesday show up to dine with his friends at a Lunch Bunch gathering.
After all those months in the hospital he did come out temporally, at first walking on a walker, then a cane and finally on his own. He was his old self again and for a couple of months enjoyed the weekly gatherings with the gang. In fact, he mentioned that when he did go, he wanted the Lunch Bunch to serve as his honorary pallbearers.
After a doctor suggested he should have chemo and radiation just for prevention, Cal agreed. Rather than slow any cancer growth, it’s my belief that it rushed his demise. He was still too weak and had been through too much. It knocked him down after just a few treatments. He never bounced back.
While still a teenager, the boy from Morse / Crowley La., married a hometown girl. He and Lou Ella had three children, Dale, Randie and Vicki. He joined the Marines and after service he joined the Orange Police Department. His longtime friend Judge Claude Wimberly was his sergeant. The Judge has a lot of stories about Cal and those times. When an officer was out of sync with regulations, he was given the night walking, downtown beat, checking doors at businesses. Sergeant Wimberly once told Cal, “With those steel taps on your shoes a burglar can hear you coming.” “That was the idea,” Cal said. It was an interesting time under Chief K.B. Green.
After leaving the department, Cal went to work for Liberty Cable in Port Arthur for our friend Al McKay, who later built Bridge City and Vidor Cablevision. McKay died at age 42. Cal became manager of Liberty Cable and would go on to make it his life’s career.
He met some people from New York that made him a deal he couldn’t refuse. They were interested in buying and building cable companies and would cut Cal in on the action if he would acquire and build them. For years Cal established companies all over the country. He managed them and became big in the industry. He often testified in Washington, D.C., before Congress on cable’s behalf. He lobbied many of the senators and congressmen he knew.
When his investors decided to sell out Cal cashed in a wealthy man.
He made some wise investments in Seattle, his home for several years. Life was good there where he served on the school board and hospital boards. He spent most days on his large boat taking out fishing parties. He got his captains license and for a while, after returning to this area, because he was bored, would pilot tugs down the Intercostal to all points, including New York.
Years ago he had married Yvonne, a San Antonio girl. They had two children, Dominick and Sara. Cal had returned to Orange because his dad had died, his mom Gladys was left to care for his brother Kenneth, a deaf mute who was also paralyzed in a diving accident in his youth. His brother Calton was left to care for them and Cal thought it unfair for him to carry the burden alone. He bought a home on Cow Bayou from Cleon Hogan and spent a lot of money remodeling it. He loved the place that has now been ravaged by Ike. Because of a hang up on cabinets he never returned.
He and Yvonne divorced and three years ago he met a wonderful lady, Betty Lou Womack, a widow. She and Cal were the perfect match. He said, “I’ve never been happier.” Through his many months in the hospital, Betty never left his side. When it was determined nothing could be done to save him, Betty took him to her home and has attended to his every need. It’s a shame life didn’t give them more time because they enjoyed each other so much.
Cal was a giver. He had a handout for every down-and-out person he saw. It was more than that though; he just loved doing for others.
When I was going through some illness he called every day and asked what he could do for me. He volunteered and insisted that he would drive me to doctor’s visits, etc. He and I both like breakfast at any time of the day so we would stop at IHOP. He often said, “Never eat at a place where the waitresses are all skinny, the food is not good.” We always looked at each other and laughed when eating at a new place, “Good place to eat, I’d say. “I bet,” he would answer.
Cal could have afforded to live anywhere in the world. He had lived on the ski slopes of Colorado, Fort Smith, Ark., the Pacific Coast and all points in between but he loved it here. He often said there were no greater people anywhere in the world.
When Cal first returned, a dozen years ago, he had strong Republican leanings. His associates were all Republican and he was in a tax bracket where he could afford to be. One day, at the Lunch Bunch gathering shortly after returning here, Parker Thompson told him, “Cal, if you’re going to hang with us you will have to leave that Republican @#%# at home.” Cal, from that day helped every local Democratic candidate who deserved and needed it.
Cal was back at his roots. He was humble and down home as they come. He was always the life of the party. A sharp dresser, who loved to dance and was good at it. His mission was helping people and if I knew of a cause, he wanted in on it. He often asked if I knew someone who needed help. He was a prince of a guy, raised very poor but never forgot where he came from.
Since his return, he buried both of his brothers and placed his mom at the Meadows where she resides today. Miss Gladys is unaware that her final child and benefactor is headed to join the others. He had prepared meals for them every day and had taken care of her and Kenneth anytime they needed him.
Cal was my special friend but he was everyone’s friend. He loved people. Over the last few weeks, I got to visit and reason with him until he was no longer responsive. He was sharp until then. At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Calvin Broussard was pronounced dead. I’ll miss him and his winning optimistic views but like most everyone who knew and cared for him, I’ll miss his friendship and loyalty. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. Just a plain Cajun, with a big heart and lots of smart. A guy who beat all the odds until he was too tired to fight anymore.