In Memoriam Danieal Breaux

Apr 29, 2005 by

It’s Jazz Fest again. This year there are no night shows. THe main concourse has a large display of Daniel’s paintings. I never had the pleasure of knowing you, but from my fiance to Claudia at Eve’s on down the line you have affected most of the people in my life. I am sorry I never got to meet you, and I am sorry that there are kids out there that cannot respect the neutral ground of Jazz Fest. I reprint this as a reminder and my own little memorial. You touched so many lives around me and I know you are deeply missed.>>>>>

Murder victim lived for Jazz Fest, fun

03:13 PM CDT on Monday, May 3, 2004

Alexa Hinton / Houma Courier

HOUMA — Watercolor waterscapes covered the bare, wood floor of Daniel Breaux’s School Street studio Sunday, awaiting final preparation for display by the hand of the 57-year-old Houma artist.

But Breaux will never touch them again because of a bullet that claimed his life Saturday night as he completed a day of dancing and revelry at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

According to friends, Breaux had just attended Latin musician Fredy Omar’s performance and was walking back to his car when he was shot and killed. The shooting allegedly occurred about six blocks from the festival’s gates at North Dupre and Orchid streets.

Breaux was confronted by a group of young men and shot in the head about 8 p.m. during a failed robbery attempt, New Orleans Police said.

Officers patrolling the Jazz Fest area responded immediately and found the wounded Breaux lying on the sidewalk and several men running away.

Breaux was rushed to Charity Hospital in New Orleans, where he died shortly before 10 p.m.

This is the first murder to take place in connection with Jazz Fest, event organizers said.

After a brief foot pursuit, police caught a 14-year-old boy from Prairieville. He is charged with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. Police are not releasing his name because of his age.

The boy was one of two people arrested, but police later determined that the second person was not involved. Police said they are searching for three other suspects.


For nearly eight hours the day of his death, Breaux did what he loved most: Under the festival’s Economy Hall tent, he held friends in the embrace of dance and kicked up his pink-clog-clad heels in a style all his own.

Just as Cajun and jazz musicians were featured regulars on the stage, family members said Breaux was a 35-year regular on the adjacent dance floor.

“He never missed it, from the very first year, he always went the second weekend and always danced the entire time,” Breaux’s sister, Jeré Hart, said.

With his white beard and paint-splattered outfit, her brother was unmistakable and unforgettable, she said.

“If you saw him one time, you remembered him,” Hart said. “White shirt, jeans, red clogs; that was his uniform at Jazz Fest.”

For as long as she could remember, Hart said Breaux wore red clogs that were extensions of his feet.

Sunday morning a pair of red clogs rested silently by Breaux’s back door. On the wall a self-portrait forever captures the artist in his signature shoes.

Breaux painted his red shoes pink this year to celebrate the festive mood of Jazz Fest, friends said.

“He had read that pink was the new black, so he was making a fashion statement,” said Claudia Dumestre, Breaux’s girlfriend of over 20 years.

The clogs’ color was the first thing Dumestre spotted Saturday morning when searching for her boyfriend.

Breaux drove to Jazz Fest with another friend, Diane Lundeen, to attend a brunch held by friends. Dumestre said Lundeen left the festival early and was not with Breaux when he was shot.

At the brunch, Dumestre said she and Breaux held one another while others talked about friends who had recently died or were in need. She said that embrace is now a poignant memory of a man who meant everything to her.

“He was my boyfriend, my best friend, my dance partner,” Dumestre said. “He helped me through some rough times. We are as close as two people can get.”

They met later at the Economy Hall tent, the same spot they had been meeting for years, and danced.

In particular, Dumestre remembered dancing to clarinetist Michael White’s “Dancing in the Sky.”

White once told Breaux and Dumestre, who met on the dance floor of Tipitina’s in 1983, that “I can feel my music when I play, I can see it when I see you two dancing,” Dumestre said. “And Daniel would always say, ëWe are puppets for the band.’ ”

Dumestre said, “I expected to have lots of dances with him on Sunday.”

Instead, she assembled a shrine in Breaux’s memory, putting a cloth on the dance floor and a pair of his red clogs, which she pried off stilts he made for a Mardi Gras costume, on top. He was happiest on the dance floor, she said.

“It was the closest I could be to him and I felt him out there on the dance floor with me,” Dumestre said. “It was a really sad time, but he would have wanted me to do it.”

By the end of the day, the shrine included flowers, candles, a copy of Saturday’s Jazz Fest schedule and Breaux’s favorite delicacy, homemade dark chocolates.

Musicians remembered Breaux through their music.

Gregg Stafford, a trumpet player, dedicated a long, solo to the 30-year fan. The solo started slow, like a funeral dirge, and gradually gained speed.


As news of Breaux’s death spread, family and friends from all over the state gathered at his house, famous in Houma for its meticulous renovations, to remember the man inside the home he was so proud of.

Friends said Breaux was a self-taught Renaissance man.

For many years he supported himself by painting portraits in Jackson Square. He ran a successful art studio in New Orleans, which he left to move to Houma to be closer to his aging parents.

Breaux taught himself to play piano and violin. He worked as a social worker for the federal program Vista, helping teenagers fight drug addiction and truancy problems. He was a talented jeweler, leather craftsman, costume designer and carpenter.

As a wedding present for his younger brother, Marc, and his wife, Carla, he sculpted a pirogue from cypress. At the bow and stern stems of the boat he carved ducks using wood he collected after helping dismantle the Zephyr rollercoaster from the now defunct Ponchartrain Amusement Park.

Most recently, he bought the house at 820 School St. and transformed it, room by room.

Neighbors said Breaux will be missed for his lifestyle as well as the wisdom he shared during conversations.

“He hasn’t had air-conditioning since 1964. He wasn’t into superficial or monetary things, it wasn’t about that with him,” said Shawn Morgan, who lived across the street from Breaux. “We didn’t have the patience or the time to live like he did, but he taught me to appreciate the simple things.

“He was a good, kind, gentle person. I was happy I knew him,” Morgan said.

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