Today, my family lost its center, and the University lost its greatest cheerleader.
Gail Heinbach Savoie passed away peacefully this afternoon surrounded by family and friends. She was my wife for 44 years and my best friend for more than a half century.
I met Gail when we were both students at Sulphur High School. What attracted me to her then was what drew people to Gail throughout her lifetime – her radiance, compassion and sense of fun.
Gail loved life and lived it fully, and I feel so fortunate that she chose to spend hers with me. When I think of the happiest moments I have had, I think of Gail – and there’s no other person I’d rather that be true of. Many people find spouses, but finding a soulmate who offers strength and support is a true gift. She was mine.
The University was fortunate to have had her, too. As First Lady, she was a proud ambassador for her alma mater. Gail cherished the time she spent with her Ragin’ Cajuns family at campus and athletic events. Every year, she looked forward to Homecoming and Sneaux Day, and she loved hosting functions at the President’s House. And she was always the life of the party and ensured that participants felt welcomed and special.
Gail was a cheerleader, in high school and here at the University where she came to pursue her degree in elementary education. Throughout her life, she met challenge with exuberance and rallied others to causes greater than themselves. A cheerleader always, neither time nor illness withered her spirit.
Gail had much love to give and she did so abundantly. She adored the “Delta Roses,” her sorority sisters with whom she maintained lifelong friendships. In a crowd of softball fans, hers was the loudest cheer. The students she taught and their parents found in her a friend and champion. She gave the gift of her artwork, which carries a brightness and vibrancy that mirrored her personality. She had a soft spot for animals, both our own and those who belonged to others. And to our children, Blaire and Adam, and our granddaughter, Addison, she was a constant source of love and encouragement.
Gail left everyone who knew her with so many memories to treasure, and thoughts of her smile, her laugh and her vitality will sustain – and cheer – us as we try to comprehend the passing of this extraordinary, irreplaceable figure in our lives.
My family and I are grateful for your thoughts of support at this difficult time. Gail loved her University family, and so do we.
Dr. Joseph Savoie