Present and past POST SOUTH editors remember Deidre Cruse

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

Impressions of Dee Cruse

(Editor’s Note: The current editor of the POST SOUTH and a former editor provide impressions of the late Dedrie Cruse, longtime governmental reporter for this newspaper.)

By Tryve Brackin

Dee Cruse was the most thorough and hard working reporter I have known over my nearly forty years in the newspaper business.

I can remember many a time she had pages of lawsuits spread over every surface of her three office desks as she poured over each point to dig out a conclusion article.

She also was a very territorial reporter. John Dupont will tell you the very same thing. Once Plaquemine Police Chief Orian Gulotta called and asked me to write an article to encourage people who had lost their bicycles to theft to stop by and recover their lost possessions because a police storage area was overflowing. When she read my article she asked if I had gone by the station to see Orian. I said yes and she demanded I never cross her “beat” again. That was the first time over the last three years, that I had returned full time to the editorial staff, I had to remind her the word “editor” preceded my name on the masthead, not hers.

Her “territorial” nature was not a slight toward me. It was spawn by her tremendous pride in her work and her dedication to the municipal agencies she “covered”.

Because of her pride and work ethic, she claimed at least one, and often multiple, Louisiana Press Association awards for her writing, especially her investigative reporting. If I am not mistaken, her five Gibbs Adams Awards for investigative writing is the most of any journalist since the award was created. And, yes, we were competitive. I had fifteen years on her at the POST SOUTH, so I had the edge on LPA awards, but the key word is “edge”. She was rapidly gaining on me.

Now that she is gone, I am lost. She was my “ying to my yang” over the years at the paper. I was the descriptive sports editor and feature writer. She was the nuts and bolts government writer, breaking down complicated suits, court cases, police incidents, emergency responses, parish and city politics. I have lost my right arm and it may take me a long time to “grow” an adequate replacement.

My relationship with Dee was basically work-driven for two reasons: First, it was our most common thread, despite the fact we agreed on the importance of humanitarianism guiding mankind rather than greed. And, secondly, because I found her to be the most private person I have ever known.

I do know she was very excited about the actions being taken to improve education in the parish. I do know she loved the sport of tennis and watched it every chance she could on television. I do know we liked similar music and art. I do know her mother was once a journalist up in north Louisiana and that she had very close friends that lived in New Orleans. I do know she spent most of her free time reading and that ideas were far more important to her than possessions. Most of that knowledge of my fellow worker, however, came over the last couple of years, and mainly the last few months.

Dee’s health began to decline about a year ago. It took myself and other employees many, many days to finally convince her to see a doctor. And, maybe we had no influence on that decision at all.

Over the last few weeks, I had been spending an increasingly amount of time, bringing her to lunch on Tuesdays, once we finished deadline writing. I also brought lunch to her, or gave her rides around town. With increased conversation I learned things about her I never had previously known.

Over most of her twenty-plus years at the POST, I was working full time in local industry and sports editing on a part time basis. We rarely saw each other.

My fondest memories of her were watching her interact with people of the community. She had a wonderful sense of humor and enjoyed interviewing people face-to-face. She had good friends at all her stopping points: The courthouse, sheriffs and police, city hall, emergency preparedness. She was quite involved with the Parish Library for her deep love of books and had true friends there. She was very supportive of public education, the library, and anything positive that came out of local government that benefited people.

Local businessman and recent Chairman of the Iberville Parish Chamber of Commerce Guy Ruggiero put it best in a telephone conversation with me last week: “She was an icon lost to all of us!”

Public School Administrator Elvis Cavalier tells a wonderful story about Dee. When he first came to the parish, Dee wrote a “Persimmons” column about him. He had told her he wanted to bring “magic to the school system”. Dee wrote: “Here’s hoping the magic will work.” A member of the school staff liked her comment, put it on a plaque, and gave it to Elvis for his office. It remains on the wall in his office today.

“One day Dee came to see me in my office and saw the plaque on the wall. When I reminded her it was a comment by her in a column, she was thrilled to death that she was honor so. She sparkled!” explained Cavalier.

May she best be known for “sparkling” as a journalist. All who have read her work down through the years have benefited from her brilliance and insight.

By John Dupont

Some of us spend so much time in the workplace that the loss of a co-worker hits like the loss of a close relative. Such was the case with my friend and former Post/South co-worker Deidre Cruse.

I always marveled at her dedication. She covered state government for the State Times and Morning Advocate for several years, before she left to pursue other work.

Years later, she landed at Post/South. Like many things Deidre did, it was against the grain.

Most reporters start at the weeklies, and they revel in that first chance to see their byline next to a story. The first time, in fact, is akin to that teenager's first kiss.

Many remember those small town papers, while others thumb their nose at their humble beginnings.

Deidre applied the same dedication to her work at the Post/South as any state or national reporter. She treated every event she covered with equal importance, from the high-profile court trials down to the small-town committee meetings.

When I first came aboard, Ellie Hebert told me I should watch Deidre at work her experience was a valuable learning tool -- and she was so right.

Aside from a great teacher, she became a dear friend.

Between the years 2000 and 2006, Tuesday and Wednesday marked my two roughest days of the week. I'd scramble to finish material for Wednesday morning deadline and production (often a 12-to-14-hour work day).

Quite often, I'd leave on a Tuesday night, just as she returned from a council meeting. She was getting started as I was  leaving. We'd go out for a smoke (she was the smoker; not me), where

we'd discuss politics and life in general. I'd then head back home to  Beauregard Town in Baton Rouge, and I'd drowsily lumber back into work five hours later.

When I'd drag in, she'd still be there hammering away furiously. She'd then give me money to grab us breakfast, and then she'd continue writing until early afternoon. By day's end, graphic design guru Rodney Gascon, Deidre and myself operated mainly off reserves.

It's hard to forget those years, both for better and for worse. I'm thankful that she was there to encourage me and give me that vote of confidence when I thought I was only suited for selling Amway or peddling vacuum cleaners.

It's poetic justice, by the way, that she lived long enough to one final edition. I don't know of a better way to describe someone's dedication to their field of endeavor. I'll truly miss her.