Luvenia Breaux, WAC volunteer, founder of free breakfast program, dies at 94
Luvenia Breaux, a member of the Women's Army Corps who later started one of the city's first free breakfast programs for impoverished schoolchildren, died March 14 at her New Orleans home of complications of a stroke. She was 94.
Ms. Breaux, a native of Slidell who spent the rest of her life in New Orleans, stopped attending school after the eighth grade, but wanted to travel. So in 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps and headed to Des Moines, Iowa, for basic training.
The armed forces were segregated, but her barracks was not. On her first night there, she said in an interview last year, some white recruits tried to make a point of isolating her by setting up a dividing line of blankets and other gear. When the commanding officer, a white man, happened to enter, he ordered the recruits who had set up the barricade to leave.
"I think integration began right then," she said in the interview.
From then on, her life in the Army was good, she said.
As a member of the Women's Army Corps, Ms. Breaux was a beautician, office worker, clerk, cook and recruiter. She also got to salute President Franklin D. Roosevelt and share a stage with Louis Armstrong.
Her experiences, bolstered by her training, instilled the self-confidence she carried with her for the rest of her life, said two of her sons.
"She was an aggressive personality, a go-getter," Walter Breaux Jr. said. "She had ideas about things that should be implemented, and she went after them."
For instance, when she was cafeteria manager at McDonogh No. 24 Elementary School in the 1950s, she realized that many of the pupils from poor families were coming to school without a proper breakfast.
Convinced that sound nutrition would help them learn, Ms. Breaux persuaded school-system officials to let her set up a program to give these children free breakfasts, years before the federal government instituted such an initiative, son Dwight Carter said.
And when she was a PTA member at one of her children's schools, she visited the homes of children who had been truant or were falling behind in their schoolwork, becoming a one-woman liaison, Walter Breaux Jr. said.
Ms. Breaux, who ran unsuccessfully for the Orleans Parish School Board, "was the kind of person who saw a need and was aggressive enough to act on it," he said.
Sometimes, he said, his mother acted on the spur of the moment. For instance, one night, she heard the screams of a woman whom several men were attacking in her yard.
Ms. Breaux grabbed her gun and fired it into the air, sending the young men fleeing, he said. "That's how fiery she was."
She was a member of Second Free Mission Baptist Church, in the Carrollton neighborhood, for 90 years. Friends and family members said she enjoyed attending Sunday School and wearing striking hats to church.
Survivors include three sons, Dwight Carter, Walter Breaux Jr. and Gregory Alan Breaux; two daughters, Dinah Breaux and Jennifer Breaux Pepin; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Second Free Mission Baptist Church, 1228 Burdette St. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m.
Burial will be in Carrollton Cemetery.
Louisiana Undertaking Co. Inc. is in charge of arrangements.
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