Thursday, April 5, 2012

John Claude Bourgoyne Sr

My husband's father, John Claude Bourgoyne Sr, was born 16 September 1924 in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, the son of Henry Joseph Bourgoyne and Genevieve Lillie Smith.  He died 24 February 1987 in Plaquemine, Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  He married Lena Mary Rockforte, daughter of Giovanni "John" Roccaforte and Mary Francesca Roccaforte, on 21 May 1949 in Port Allen, West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. From their union, three children were born- John Claude Jr, Charles Raymond and Nannette Marie.  

John Claude Bourgoyne Sr was known as "Claude" to family and friends.  When he passed away, my husband and I inherited his personal documents.  I was really surprised that Mr. Claude still had the documents, considering that most of the family photos didn't survive through the years.  Some of his documents date back to the 1920's and they are so fragile that I'm afraid of even touching them.  I have been saying that I am going to have the documents laminated for safekeeping, but it's one of those tasks I've saved for my "One Day" bin.  We were surprised to learn that his full name at birth was John Claude Fryoux Bourgogne- he had never informed us of that information.  "Fryoux" was the maiden name of his great-great grandmother, Victorine Frioux (also spelled Fryoux), who married Jules Adolphe Bourgoyne.  The surname Bourgogne was used interchangeably at times with Bourgoyne, also Burgoyne, Burgoine, Burgoin.  

Mr. Claude was baptized on 27 September 1924 at St. John the Baptist R.C. Church in Brusly, West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.  His baptismal certificate shows his godparents were Samuel Thompson and Octavia Hebert.   I am curious about his relationship with his godparents- did they share a close bond?  Were they related, or friends of the family?  Did his godparents live near him?  Hopefully I will learn more as my future research unfolds.  

Mr. Claude grew up in the rural Cut Off settlement in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.  The small settlement was established after his parents' families were forced to leave their native Sardine Point community.  I don't recall Mr. Claude talking much about his childhood on the settlement.  If he were still living, I would have so many questions for him!  What was his childhood like?  What did he enjoy doing while growing up?  What were his parents like?  I now understand the importance of obtaining information from our ancestors while they are still living because, once they are gone, their oral history is lost forever.

John Claude Bourgoyne and his brother Norris are shown in this historical photo of the 7th grade graduating class of Levert-Addis school in Addis, Louisiana.  His classmates were Lois Tullier, Mary Drago, Leonard Strehle, Jimmie McDermatt, Iris Bergeron, Ethel Mae Johnson, Farrell Marioneaux, Lorraine Rivet, Helen Lucas, E.J. Wroten, Marion Cazes, Gertrude Smith, Mary Ann Bezet and Faye Tullier.  The principal was C.J. Lousteau.  Did Mr. Claude have any cousins among this group of students?  Were any of them his close friends or playmates?  

This certificate certifies that Claude Bourgoyne has completed the Elementary course of Study of the Public School System of Louisiana as prescribed by the Department of Education, and is, therefore, eligible to promotion to the high-school grades of State-approved high schools, and is awarded this certificate as evidence of graduation from the elementary grades of the Levert-Addis School of West Baton Rouge Parish. Given this 30th day of May, 1940.

This is the only photo of Mr. Claude as a young person in my possession.  Unfortunately, most of his family photos were lost throughout the years.  I'm amazed that he still had ownership of most of his important documents at the time of his death.  He was a handsome young man, wasn't he?  I treasure this photo of him.  It was taken 1940-1941.  Mr. Claude had piercing blue eyes- I remember them well because they were a beautiful, bright blue.  His grandson, John Claude Bourgoyne III, has those same beautiful blue eyes and facial characteristics which remind me much of Mr. Claude.  

Mr. Claude attended Brusly High School in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana from September 1940 until May 1942.  Rather than return to school the next term, he enlisted in the United States Navy on 25 August 1942 and served his country during World War II. 

Mr. Claude enlisted in the United States Navy on August 25, 1942.  He was a handsome young man, then only 18 years old.  Before entering the service, his desire was to attend technical college and obtain certification as an automobile mechanic.  That dream would have to wait.  A world war was in progress and his country was in need of strong young men to help serve their cause.  On the same day that John Claude enlisted for the service, two of his friends from their small community enlisted as well.  I have no knowledge of what military unit his friends served in, but I know they did not serve together.  Did they communicate with each other while in service?  Did they reunite after their return home to the states? 

Navy Training Course Certificate
J.C. Bourgoyne
having completed the Navy Training Course
Seaman, First Class
with a mark of 3.3, is awarded this certificate this 19th day of June 1943.

The USS Takanis Bay was a United States Navy Casablanca-class escort aircraft carrier, named after Takanis Bay on the west side of Yakobi Island in Alaska.  She was laid down under Maritime Commission contract on December 16, 1943 at Vancouver, Washington and launched on March 10, 1944.  She was commissioned on April 15, 1944 with Captain A.R. Brady in command. Takanis Bay operated out of San Diego with Fleet Air, West Coast, through the end of hostilities with Japan in mid-August 1945.  She tested pilots for carrier operations, and between May 24, 1944- August 28, 1945 she qualified 2,509 pilots.  She also returned 1,300 servicemen in two trips from Hawaii to San Diego.

John Claude Bourgoyne Sr served aboard the USS Takanis Bay as a Seaman First Class.  The specific dates of his service aboard the aircraft carrier are unknown, but we know, from the history of the carrier,  it was between 1944-45.   This photo was included in his personal files:

USS Takanis Bay, 3rd Division

Closer view of John Claude Bourgoyne Sr, USS Takanis Bay, 3rd Division

List of Service Men, USS Takanis Bay, 3rd Division

Each of the service men in the photo signed the back of it.  They were: Row 1:  Howard S. Bradley, Cecil R. Tracy (or Fracy), Tracy W. Young, Benny Nowosielaki, Clarence T. Schmitt, Robert Willingham, Bill L. Shaw, C.F. Eaton, S.W. Griffin; Row 2:  S.G.Dour, K.W. Johnson, R.J. Peterson, A.W. Hammond, G.R. Satalino, A.F. Leonard, Harry J. Livingston, E.C. Peterson, Paul V. Adams, Henry J. Teichman, Earl R. Berrie; Row 3:  William G. Putt?, O.B. Cannon, A.W. Amstretz, J.V. McRoberts, J. Reul, A.D.S. DeMuro, M.L. Atkins, Del Duell, J.W. Davenport, Harold L. Sloat, Theodore H. Yng (or Zing), Elmer Durant; Row 4:  M.F. Edmonds, T.F. Jackson, J.L. Blank, H.C. Rambo, W.M. Seboeneck, E.B. Gilslrap?, Bill Skay, J.C. Bourgoyne, Charles S. Thomas, Harold L. Jacob

Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy-
This is to certify that John Claude Bourgoyne, a Seaman First Class is Honorably Discharge from the United States Naval Personnel Separation Center of
New Orleans, Louisiana and from the Naval Service of the United States this 27th day of December 1945.

Mr. Claude was 21 years old when he was discharged from the Navy.  I am curious as to what he was thinking upon discharge.  I'm sure he was happy to return to his native home and anxious to return to his family.  Or was he?  Did he ever regret his decision to return home rather than continue his naval training?  

This Notice of Separation document shows the date of birth for Mr. Claude, as well as other information- he completed 7 years of grammar school and 2 years of high school.  He was a high school student at the time he enlisted in the Navy on 25 August 1942.  He served 3 years, 4 months and 3 days in the Navy.  During his time abroad, he served on the USS Minneapolis, USS Heywood, USS Takanis Bay and at the receiving station in Bremerton, Washington.  Mr. Claude received the Good Conduct Medal, as well as recognition for duty in Asiatic Pacific and American Theater.  His plans after discharge from the Navy was to receive his apprenticeship in automobile mechanics.

At the bottom of the document is Mr. Claude's thumbprint and his personal signature.  To a family historian, these bits of personalized items are a treasure- reminders that give "life" to our past loved ones, indicators that they were "real" and "alive".  

The Notice of Separation from U.S. Naval Service record for John Claude Bourgoyne, dated 27 December 1945, indicated that his job preference was an Automobile Mechanic Apprentice.  Apparently Mr. Claude decided to pursue that goal and entered the Baton Rouge Trade School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana upon discharge from the Navy.  He received his official certificate, granted after completion of  1247 hours of instruction in Machine Shop, on 31 March 1947.

John Claude Bourgoyne and Lena Mary Rockforte made application for license to marry in the clerk's office of West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana on 21 May 1949.  The wedding ceremony was performed on 23 May 1949, officiated by Justice of the Peace, Camile E. LeBlanc and witnessed by Vernon E. Slaven, Joseph J. Rockforte (brother of the bride) and Raymond J. Guacale(?).

Mr. Claude and his wife resided in Plaquemine most of their married life.  They endured tough times throughout their years together.  Since they did not own their own personal automobile, Mr. Claude was alienated from many of his family members who still resided in the Cut Off area.  Transportation, or the lack thereof, limited his social activities to within a small area of the parish.  The marriage of Mr. Claude and his wife dissolved in 1977 and they eventually went their separate ways.

Mr. Claude retired on disability and purchased a small mobile home in Plaquemine where he resided until his health declined to the point that he was unable to keep up with the maintenance of having his own place.  While his health allowed, he enjoyed walking into town and visiting with others in the area.  He was particularly fond of playing Bingo and could often be found at the American Legion in Plaquemine on bingo nights.

John Claude Bourgoyne Sr passed away from this life on 24 February 1987 at 9:45 p.m. in the River West Medical Center, Plaquemine, Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  He was 62 years old at the time of his death.  He had been diagnosed with heart disease in his late 50's and required a pacemaker.  His heart condition gradually declined, and he began to suffer congestive heart failure.

Obituary for John Claude Bourgoyne Sr:

Died 9:45 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 24, 1987, at River West Medical Center, Plaquemine.  He was 62, a native of West Baton Rouge Parish and a resident of Plaquemine.  He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.  Visiting at Wilbert Funeral Home, 8 a.m. until religious services at 10 a.m. Thursday.  Burial in Grace Memorial Park.  Survived by a daughter, Nannette Marie Peck, Wilson, Kan.; a son, Charles Raymond Bourgoyne, Columbia, Miss.; two sisters, Nora Songy, Plaquemine and Ruth Morales, Lafayette; two brothers, Joseph N. Bourgoyne, Plaquemine, and Joseph H. Bourgoyne, Port Allen; and eight grandchildren. Preceded in death by a son, John Claude Bourgoyne Jr; and parents, Henry and Lillie Smith Bourgoyne

The grandchildren unnamed in his obituary are:  Cristina Fae Bourgoyne, Cheresa Renae Bourgoyne, Charles Ryan Bourgoyne, John Claude Bourgoyne III, Patrick Wayne Bourgoyne, Jason Paul Bourgoyne, Thomas Anthony Peck and Timothy Wayne Peck.

In Loving Memory:  From the first moment that I met Mr. Claude, I felt welcomed into his family.  He offered me kindness always.  I spent a great deal of time with him in the late 1970's, after he and Mrs. Lena divorced.  Charles and I lived in Baker, Louisiana briefly while he was working there on a land rig platform.  We would occasionally drive to Plaquemine to visit family and sometimes we would spend a night or two with Mr. Claude.  In those days, Mr. Claude's health was better so he enjoyed getting out- going to Bingo or to the grocery store and I would taxi him around while there.  I went to Bingo with him a few times and observed how Mr. Claude mingled with others.  He always greeted friends or family with a smile and often a handshake.  He was easy going most of the time. I remember our trips to the grocery store together.  Mr. Claude would read label after label on the can goods, scanning them intently with his eyes.  Aisle after aisle, Mr. Claude was reading labels.  I never asked him what specifics he was looking for on the goods but I often wondered about it.  Mr. Claude didn't cook much for himself so he really enjoyed it when I cooked a meal for us.  His favorite dish that I cooked was the baked pork chops with potatoes and onions.  He would brag on how delicious it was and eat until he was content. Mr. Claude was often too generous with his money, what little bit he had.  One time I was talking to Charlie about purchasing a used sewing machine.  Mr. Claude then insisted that he give me the money to purchase one.  I tried to decline his offer but he wouldn't hear of it.  The next day, I had a good used Singer sewing machine.  That sewing machine stitched a lot of clothes for our daughters when they were very young.  When he had money in his pocket, Mr. Claude had difficulty saying no to those who needed a few dollars. When Charlie and I would get into a little argument around him, Mr. Claude would quickly reprimand Charlie, telling him, "You got a good wife there, you better treat her right".  He was always quick to defend me, even over his own son.  I remember his most common advice was, "Don't worry about something you don't know the outcome of, because then if it turns out differently, you worried for nothing".  Mr. Claude occasionally spent time with Charlie and I here at home in Columbia.  We would make the drive to Plaquemine to pick him up for a week or so then drive him back home.  I enjoyed having him around.  I believe Mr. Claude loved me so much because I treated him with only dignity and respect.  He deserved it.  Mr. Claude had been through a lot of turmoil in his marriage then the death of his son, John Claude Jr.  He needed some kindness returned to him and I obliged.  Mr. Claude's health really began declining in the 1980's.  He reached a point where he could no longer function by himself at home.  He refused to come live with us, or anyone else.  After a while he entered a nursing home in Plaquemine.  He wasn't the same after that.  When we would visit, he seemed somewhat distant and depressed.  I felt so sad for him.  He lived in the nursing home less than a year or so before his death.  I remember Mr. Claude with great fondness.  He was a good man, one who would give the shirt off his back to someone else in need; one who was hard working and serving; one who is sorely missed by those who truly loved him.

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal"
~ From a headstone in Ireland


  1. I just bought a U.S.S. Takanis Bay First Anniversary Souvenir album, which marked the first anniversary of the commissioning on April 15, 1945. It's pictorial souvenir. Both Captain A.R. Brady and Commander W.M. Drane signed next to their photographs in the front pages of the booklet. It has several signatures on the back page, but I am unable to find Mr. Bourgoyne's. I'll keep looking. My respects to Mr. Bourgoyne and to his family members.

  2. I just bought a U.S.S. Takanis Bay First Anniversary Souvenir album, which marked the first anniversary of the commissioning on April 15, 1945. It's pictorial souvenir. Both Captain A.R. Brady and Commander W.M. Drane signed next to their photographs in the front pages of the booklet. It has several signatures on the back page, but I am unable to find Mr. Bourgoyne's. I'll keep looking. My respects to Mr. Bourgoyne and to his family members.