Saturday, February 4, 2012

One of New Orleans' characters has passed

Jean Brady Hendrix, born in 1923, passed away Jan. 27. I didn't know her, but couldn't miss noticing her when she lived uptown New Orleans.

I would see her riding a bicycle up St. Charles Avenue, her white, waist-length tresses streaming behind. Not three months ago, I passed her on the levee path, stopped with her bike. I warned of oncoming cyclists, but she seemed undismayed.

Jean had been interviewed by NPR about living on the batture - the land between the river and the levee. Those ramshackle houses are built on stilts where only the hardiest of souls can live - though it must be beautiful beside the Mississippi.

She merited but the briefest death notice in the newspaper, which mentioned her "beautiful, childlike spirit." After 89 years, you'd think there would be more to say. Probably most of her contemporaries are already gone.

She'll be buried on Long Island, where I was born. I would grieve the loss of yet another New Orleans character. There was the Duck Lady and Ernie K-Doe and a host of other distinct personalities. But dozens more characters arrive in New Orleans daily. Those of us who choose to stay here eventually become characters if we weren't that way at the start.

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