‘Bronco’ Wilbert: Recently departed, but he will never to be forgotten
“He never met a stranger.”
“Everybody knew him and everybody loved him.”
“He was quite a character.”
“He will sorely be missed.”
Those comments about the late Sebastian “Bronco” Wilbert were echoed time and time again as his surviving family members and friends talked about the beloved longtime city marshal.
One of those interviewed was his widow, Gayle Adams Wilbert, his second wife. They had been married for 14 years when Bronco died at 72 on Friday, Apr. 6.
Their relationship began as a friendship when he was married to his first wife, Phyllis. After Phyllis died, they continued to friends but it developed over time into something more.
“We were just good friends but it blossomed into something big,” Gayle said. “…I swore I’d never get married again but he swept me off my feet.”
The two continued to interact because of their jobs. Both were in law enforcement, Gayle with the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office and Bronco with the city.
“He loved his work and the people he worked with,” Gayle said.
Like everyone else who talked about Bronco, his widow had nothing but good things to say about the man who served five consecutive six-year terms as city marshal for the City of Plaquemine.
“He was a people person,” Gayle said. “He was awesome. He never met a s stranger, he was loving, he was caring, he was considerate, loyal and giving. He was one of a kind. He was quite a character.”
“He was wonderful,” she continued. “We had been inseparable for 14 years. We went everywhere together and when it was time, I took care of him.”
“After Phyllis died, I think God sent Bronco to me to take care of and now I’m giving him back to Phyllis so she can take care of him for me,” Gayle said, fighting back tears.
“He’s happy where he is,” she continued. “He’s out of pain, there’s no more hurting.”
His daughter Joey Wilbert LeBlanc also thought very highly of her father.
“My daddy was a family man,” she said. “He was a good provider. He always took good care of us.”
“He was very supportive of everything we did,” Joey said, although sometimes he wasn’t particularly enthused about it. Joey and her late sister, Daphne Wilbert Deslatte, took dance lessons for years and Bronco made every recital. He seemed relieved when that was over. “When I graduated from dancing, so did he.”
There were a number of characteristics Bronco possessed that everyone around him appreciated.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” Joey said. “He believed in helping people out.”
Bronco was apparently quite the jokester as well and had a number of old jokes he’d use often. Joey recited some from memory.
“Don’t go away mad, just go away,” she said was a favorite of her father’s, as was, “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”
One was so oft repeated by the old man that it was part of his eulogy, Joey said.
“If you’re walking with your honey and your nose starts to run, you think it’s funny but it’s snot,” she said.
Two elected officials who were close to Bronco also had praise for the man.
“I don’t know of anybody who disliked Bronco,” said Plaquemine Mayor Ed Reeves. “He was a man’s man.”
“He was very passionate about his work,” he continued. “He loved being the city marshal and he was very well received and he did a very good job.”
Plaquemine Police Chief Kenny Payne considered the older lawman a mentor and credited him with his decision to go into law enforcement.
Payne’s mother and Bronco’s mother were best friends, so much so that they were in each other’s weddings.
“I knew Bronco as Uncle Joe,” the police chief said. “He wasn’t my uncle, but that’s what my parents told me to call him.”
Bronco took the young Payne – he moved to Plaquemine in 1967 as a child – under his wing and took the boy riding in his pickup truck and later, when Bronco became a part-time deputy sheriff, he would take him out in his Sheriff’s Office unit.
He was kind of a big brother for me back then,” Payne said. “I think he probably had a lot to do with e going into law enforcement.”
The current police chief had a military background in his family – his father and a brother were both in the military – but it was Bronco’s influence that clinched Payne’s decision.
When the current police chief was still an assistant chief, then Police Chief Orian Gulotta was his boss. Bronco stopped in often to visit.
“There was an awful lot of coffee drinking and biscuit eating in the building back in the day,” Payne said, who called Bronco “fun – and funny.”
“There were quirky things he said,” he continued. “He had quite a sense of humor. He could always rattle off a joke.”
To a person, Bronco was declared a person who would be missed, likely by no one more than his widow.
“It was a horrible loss,” Gayle said. “He took a big part of me when he died.”
“I guess God needed him more than I did.”
In addition to his first wife Phyllis and his daughter Daphne, Bronco was preceded in death by his father, Paul “Crapo” Wilbert.
He is survived by his mother, Celena Morales Wilbert, Joey’s husband Tommy LeBlanc, two grandhcildren, two stepdaughters and their husbands and several brothers-in-law and their wives.