'One of a kind': Friends, loved ones remember Mike Little
Mary Little Duncan said she will forever remember her father’s approach to life.
“He always had the best advice, and he was always so levelheaded,” she said. “He was a great problem solver and protector who loved his family and friends beyond imagination.”
The memories of her father, longtime public servant Harold M. “Mike” Little, are also shared by his colleagues and friends who bid him farewell last week.
Little, who served 46 years with the Plaquemine City Police Department, died March 13 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 70.
He was survived by his wife Noreen and daughter Mary. He was preceded in death by a son, Christopher.
Mike took office in 1975 under then-Police Chief Emile J. LeBlanc, when the department was domiciled in the old railroad depot at the intersection of Main Street and Railroad Avenue.
Little started his law enforcement career long before computer technology changed departments. His era involved handwritten reports stored in file cabinets, and portable radios and cellphones were still decades away.
He would eventually serve under C.J. Cazes, Orian Gulotta and current chief Kenny Payne.
The combination of Little’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War (in which he earned a Purple Heart) and the years of experience with the police department made him a father figure to the department.
“He was just a wealth of knowledge,” Payne said. “He was the kind of guy who didn’t give advice unsolicited, but if you had a question, he’d give you an answer.
“Mike was a father figure to me and so many others,” he said. “Aside from that, he was a great mentor for me, Assistant Chief Robbie Johnson and so many others … just an invaluable resource.”
Little advanced to the rank of police captain by the time Payne joined the force in 1983.
“When I started, he told me to always treat everyone the same,” Payne said. “When the police department rewrote its rules and regulations in the early 1990s, he was always the person they went to when they had a question about the rules – he knew them so well.”
Little retired from the police force in 2000, but then-Police Chief Orian Gulotta hired him to work as an administrator.
Upon Gulotta’s death in 2015, then-Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta (who died two year later) made a special request to Payne.
“Tony asked me if I’d keep Mike, and I said, ‘Absolutely’,” Payne said. “Mike was an invaluable resource.”
Little had become synonymous with the Plaquemine Police Department, Mayor Ed Reeves said.
He said Little symbolized the model police officer.
“I told his wife I’ve been through a lot of officers and chiefs over the years, but he was my number-one law enforcement officer,” Reeves said. “He was relentless in his work and was just a good guy, good friend and had the best interests of the police department at heart. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Little’s professionalism perhaps stood out best in the most stressful times, according to his godchild, Capt. John Little.
His experience and wisdom had a profound effect on the department, he said.
“He was always the calm one in the room and would always make us think on multiple avenues on ways to go with a case,” Little said.
“Not that we had to take the original approach, but he made us think about every single thing first to make sure we made the right decision.”
John Little said he did not set out to become a police officer. He moved in with Mike and his family after Mike and Noreen’s son, Chris, died in a hunting accident.
John often rode with Mike on callouts, which deepened the admiration he had for his godfather.
“He was so loyal to his job and so loyal to his family … he was a real standup person,” he said. “He had this sense of honor and was always forthcoming and very straightforward.
“You may have wanted to hear what he told you, he would always tell you the truth and the right thing to do. He was that voice of reason.”
Much of how Mike lived his life stemmed from his time in Vietnam. He was shot in the leg during time in duty.
His sense of patriotism and love for law enforcement went hand-in-hand, John said.
“When (Iberville Parish President) Mitchell Ourso put up that gigantic flag by Ochsners on Hwy. 1, nothing could’ve made Mike prouder than to see that flag every day when he went to work,” John said. “He was so patriotic, and it wasn’t about a T-shirt or a cap or just a front – he was 100 percent Marine Corp, always faithful, and that’s just how he lived.”
Mike had already made a list of things he wanted to do before he died, according to John.
One of those wishes was to take the oath once more for his work with the Plaquemine Police Department.
Mike, though very frail, got his wish.
“He felt it was imperative to get there, put his hand on that Bible and raise his hand again,” John said. “He must have talked about that every day thereafter because he was so proud of it. Every day in his life had a purpose.”
Mike’s work as a police officer defined him as a human being, John said.
“For him, the service to the community was far more than just a job – it was something he truly believed in,” he said. “He’d tell people his life was far more than just being a cop, and that it was about citizen helping others.
“He never looked for recognition, never wanted limelight or praise, but he was the one you wanted at your side when everything was going on,” he said. “He had the friendship and respect of millionaires, and of the people who had absolutely nothing. He epitomized the term “one of a kind.”
Mike took the same approach at work that he used at home with his family, Mary said.
“He loved his family and friends beyond imagination, and he and my mom did a great job raising my brother and me,” she said. “I was always proud to call him my father and always will be. I miss him so much already.”