Discovery of missing man's body in Bayou Barataria brings closure to loved ones
When two days of searching Bayou Barataria for any sign of Louis "Bill" Adams turned up his shoes, a paddle and his boat, each new discovery deepened the grief of his loved ones. But when Adams' body was finally found Friday morning, there was also a sense of relief.
"I cried when they found his paddle. I cried when they found his shoes," said Roselee Williams, a sister. "But I didn't cry when his body was found because I was elated. It gives us a little closure so we don't have to always wonder where he is."
Adams, 64, disappeared Wednesday morning in a thunderous downpour while crossing the bayou in a pirogue to go to work at Nunez Seafood in Lafitte, a 500-foot-long aquatic commute he made virtually every day for the past 45 years.
Adams' body was discovered by fishers in a patch of lily pads just a few hundred feet downstream from the seafood plant, which is directly across the bayou from his Barataria home.
Relatives said it is fitting that Adams, a man of deep faith, was found on Good Friday. A couple of days before he disappeared, he had caught a 54-pound catfish that he cut up and distributed to friends for their Lenten meals.
"I prayed and asked God that my husband would surface today," Stephanie Adams said. "When they found him, it was like something released out of me because I don't have to worry about him washing out into the Gulf."
She said her husband left the house with a life jacket that fateful morning, but authorities said Adams was not wearing one when his body was discovered.
The revelation puzzled co-workers and relatives, who said Adams always wore a life vest after suffering a stroke that limited use of his left arm a couple of years ago.
"After the stroke, that life jacket was part of his everyday wardrobe," said Randy Nunez, who runs the seafood plant where Adams began working as a 12-year-old. "For him not to wear it on a day with such bad weather is a mystery that will never be solved."
Nunez said he's finding comfort in Adams' own faithful approach to mortality.
"When someone passed away, especially at a young age, Bill would always say, 'It was just his time to go. When the good Lord calls you, you can't do anything about it,'" Nunez said. "But that doesn't mean we're not going to miss him. Every day that this dock is open, we'll be thinking about him. I'll take that to the grave."
Friends remembered Adams for a restless energy that compelled him to constantly wash car windshields or tidy up his surroundings. They also recalled Adams' generous spirit as he kept his friends up and down the bayou well stocked with fresh fish.
"If you were sick or up in age, he would give you fish," said Jules Nunez, 79, who founded the seafood plant. "People thought he was selling it, but he was just giving it away."
Adams' name is expected to be added to a maritime memorial next to the Jean Lafitte Town Hall that features a large black anchor and a plaque with the names of 66 fishers who drowned in the waters in and around Lafitte.
The list includes two of Adams' relatives: His brother Dimitrie Adams, a deckhand who drowned while swimming to get help in 1999 when his fishing boat began taking on water, and his brother-in-law, Steven Carter, who drowned about 30 years ago while crossing the bayou at the same spot where Adams disappeared.
Stephanie Adams said her husband was well aware of the dangers of living on the water but didn't want to live anywhere else.
"He was born on the bayou, and this is where he wanted to be," she said. "He's gone now, but I know I'll still be looking for him coming across the bayou."
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