Still running... At 83, Ronnie Rodrigue still loves autos – and now it’s family affair

Staff Report

Never tell Ronnie Rodrigue he’s too old to enjoy his lifelong hobby.

On Saturday, the native and resident of Plaquemine also proved he can still run past much of the competition in a car show.

Ronnie Rodrigue is seen here with his trophy for his 1962 Chevrolet Impala, which won him the top prize in the 1958-70 car competition in the 24th annual St. Jude Open Car, Truck & Cycle Show at Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Waterfront Park.

Rodrigue, 83, placed first in the 24th annual St. Jude Open Car, Truck & Cycle Show at Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Waterfront Park. The event was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Corvette Club. It was first presented in 1998 by Joe and Fay Colletti, whose passion for Corvettes was only surpassed by their labor of love for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., which receives a portion of the proceeds from the show.

For Rodrigue, his shiny black Chevrolet Impala won him first prize in the 1958-70 car division.

He came up short for the “Best of Show” award, which went to Lowell Childress. The Gonzales resident won the Founder’s Award for the 1937 Ford Coupe he entered in the event.

While the competition still means a lot to Rodrigue, the chance to participate in the shows suits him well.

“I’ve always had a love for cars, particularly Chevrolets,” he said. “I’ve worked on them nearly my entire life and it’s always been my hobby.”

Rodrigue has refurbished cars, as well as vintage gas pumps over the year.

His love for Chevrolets extends beyond the fascination of the vehicle.

Rodrigue worked 21 years for Iberville Motors (now Supreme Chevrolet), where he worked on those vehicles practically every day on the job.

The love for cars spread to his sons Ronnie Jr. and David, both who entered the car show. Ronnie Jr. received a trophy for the 2010 Corvette he entered in the show.

His sons got some of their car experience after Ronnie left the dealership to purchase a full-service Exxon Station on La. 1.

“We grew up in that gas station,” Ronnie Jr. said. “Dad would work on cars, David did the full-service chores and I did oil changes.”

Rodrigue eventually sold the gas station and focused on a radiator shop.”  

Regardless of the business, cars have always been a part of the family for Ronnie Sr.

“I just can’t get away from it,” he said. “My grandson Dakota wants to get into it now.

“It’s all in the family,” Rodrigue said.

The extends far beyond a love for cars, however.

The St. Jude Children’s Hospital, founded in 1974 by the late TV comedian Danny Thomas, is their main focus when they participate – and for a good reason.

Ronnie Jr. and Arlette Rodrigue lost their son Josh at 13.

He received a Ford Mustang at age for his final birthday party at Frostop Drive-In in Baton Rouge. 

His received that gift from his parents just before he went for treatment at St. Jude.

“The Mustang Car Club came out and they made him an honorary member,” David Rodrigue said.

Josh’s memory remains over the whole event, Arlette said.

“He was a patient of St. Jude, so we believe in St. Jude, and we support St. Jude,” she said. “He’s with us here today.”