Colleen Salley

Sep 17, 2008 by

New Orleans children’s author, professor emeritus and notable Carnival Character Colleen Salley passed away yesterday, after a battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).   She was of some age I am certain the Times-Picayune obituary writer will publish, but she was always such a southern lady I would never so much as venture a guess in public writing. 

She was many things to many people. To a generation of her students at the University of New Orleans, she was first a teacher. To a generation of children (and not just the children of New Orleans)  she was a story-teller and character in books of her own as well as books by her former pupils. And to those of us who treasure the Odd marching groups of Carnival, she was Queen Colleen, pushed through the French Quarter in a shopping cart with a supply of dry sherry, her adoring subjects making frequent stops to prostrate themselves before her.

To me she was also the mother of my friend George, his brother David and sister Genevieve. They lived just a couple of streets down in Lake Vista, in the upper of a duplex at the circle on Crane Street.  One of the big disappointments I had when living in Fargo, N.D. was to learn after she had come and gone she visited my children’s school, and I regret not having the opportunity to see her there and offer some proper New Orleans hospitality. The second to last time I saw her was when she came to the funeral of my brother, who was close to her youngest son. Thankfully the last time we met was Mardi Gras 2008 when she was still in her Carnival glory.

She was an amazing lady, and I will perhaps write about this some more on Toulouse Street after I have fully digested the news.

The funeral will be Saturday, September 27th, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Jude’s on Rampant. While the formal announcment has not been made, I don’t think I’m reaching to suggest that if you knew her or enjoyed her books or story telling, a gift to the Colleen Salley – Bill Morris Literacy Foundation would certainly be considered a fine memorial.

Tonight in possum heaven Everette Maddox will have good company. Drink will be taken and stories will be told as only Colleen can, and the lambs at Jesus’ feet will be jealous not to be there.

 Mark Folse  Toulouse Street–Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans

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