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A Father's Day Love Letter to Our Dad : Emile Lionel Chaillot Jr
You live on in our hearts, Dad, and we think of you daily, not simply on this special day set a ... side to honor Fathers ...
Our father was born Sept. 27, 1925, in Mobile, Ala., ( I was born on his 26th birthday ) and was the only child of Fanny Ella Kruse of Bay Minette, Alabama ( across Mobile Bay from Mobile) and Emile Lionel Chaillot Sr., of New Orleans.
Emile was their only child, although both of his parents came from large families of 9 children each. Little did Dad know he would be the father of eight ! But Dad was lucky - he was surrounded by dozens of first and second cousins, though, and one still survives : The Matriarch of the paternal side of our family - Betty O'Neal Thatcher of Katy, Texas, an octogenarian who, herself, celebrated 60 years of marriage a few years ago ...
Emile was a favored only child who lived a charmed life, starting at a young age. As a schoolboy in the early 1930s, he was featured in a "Back to School" edition of his hometown paper, The Mobile Press Register, sticking out his tongue while he wrote "I love my teacher" several times on a chalkboard as the first day of school arrived. That photo has become iconic in our family.
Dad grew up playing baseball in a city park ballfield across the street from his back yard at 308 South Conception Street ( this home was destroyed to make room for Interstate 10's approach to the Mobile River tunnel ). Most of what USED to be Galvez Park is now a parking lot for the structure that hosts America's Junior Miss Pageant.
He later attended Mobile's Murphy High School, where he lettered all four years in baseball (at First Base & as a Southpaw Pitcher) for the Panthers and graduated in 1942.
"But I was not part of the 'in crowd' in high school," he often joked, "and don't recall attending any proms or homecoming dances. Those nights I was probably steppin' on roaches as they ran away from the streetcars passing on Government Street." (Mobile's Main Drag)
After high school, Emile worked for the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad as an apprentice & later mechanic first-class while continuing to play baseball in the summers. It was during this time that he was noticed by Brooklyn Dodger second baseman (and Mobile native) Eddie Stanky. Stanky felt Dad was a Major League prospect, and convinced the Dodgers to give him a tryout ! As the story was told to me by a teammate of Dad's who visited years later "Your Dad hit 3 of the first 5 pitches out of the park!"
Chaillot was subsequently invited to the Dodgers' Spring Training in Vero Beach, Fla., in 1948 and ended up on the April 5, 1948 cover of LIFE Magazine, along with other Dodger rookies. This honor was later part of our hometown Radio Station's "Morning Quiz" question "WHO was the ONLY Crowley resident ever to appear on the Cover of LIFE Magazine?" queried hosts Shel Kanter & Bill Williams.
The following two years Emile played with various teams in the Dodger organization, including Olean and Schenectady in New York, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Greenville, Mississippi.
In the Spring of 1950, his contract was sold to the Crowley Millers, and he pitched, played first base, and hit home runs for the Acadia Parish team as it won the Gulf Coast League Pennant.
Emile married Crowley beauty Jane Alice "Sis" Bernard in the fall of 1950, and the raising of his eight children and the building of his Crowley Television & Radio Sales & Repair business became the center of his life, as he took great joy in his four girls and four boys as they grew up in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s.
After a Korean War era stint in the Army from 1951-1953, during which he played for the Army's Fort Monmouth baseball team alongside Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford and other Major Leaguers, Chaillot played baseball for one more summer, splitting his time between teams in Dublin, Georgia, and Thibodaux & New Iberia, Louisiana. (in The Evangeline League).
Dad served with the United States Army during the Korean Conflict and was a 3rd-Degree Knight of Columbus ( we loved his dress KofC regalia, with that feathered hat, sash, and sword ! ). In both capacities, he liked to joke, his main job seemed to be hitting baseballs (with the US Army's recruiting team out of Ft. Monmouth, NJ) or softballs (for the champion Crowley Knights of Columbus teams of the 1960s), respectively, over the right-field fence.
Emile was a soft-spoken yet active participant in every community in which he lived. By his own account, he lived a charmed life in many ways, from the time he was very young and extending into his ninth decade. Charmed. AND Charming ...
After a semester studying electronics, Chaillot went into the television and radio sales and repair business in Crowley in the Spring of 1954, apprenticing himself to his wife's Uncle Mose Bernard. Emile established Chaillot Television Service the next year, setting up shop on the side of Hamic's Service Station at 9th & Parkerson. He would change locations several times over the next 40 years (on 2nd St. next to Signorelli's Grocery, then near the Central Fire Station, and finally on Western Avenue at 10th Street) before retiring in the mid-1990s, after a 40-year stint.
Along the way, he coached the Crowley American Legion "Millers" baseball team (17- & 18-year olds) at both the start and end of a 20-year volunteer effort of coaching for the Crowley Recreation Department (which was directed by his former teammate Oscar Johnson) at all age levels as his eight children grew up.
Chaillot was the only coach who wore a complete baseball uniform like his players, and he earned a lifelong devotion from many of his former players, who continued to visit him up to the very end of his life.
Chaillot's other community activities included putting out American flags in downtown Crowley on special "flag holidays" as part of his Kiwanis Club activities. He also served as a Third-Degree Knight of Columbus in Council 1318, for whom he also played first base during the 1960s when the local KCs fielded a championship team.
In his later years, Emile was a volunteer for Hospice of Acadiana and served local law enforcement as a counselor to certain substance abusers in jail.
He especially enjoyed seeing his former Crowley Miller teammates while attending the Miller Reunions each year, organized capably by Richard Pizzolatto. In October 2007 (Dad's final Miller reunion), he told several of those gentlemen that he enjoyed this event more than any other during the year. He would join the angels four months later.
For fun, Emile loved to watch the ponies run at Evangeline Downs and New Orleans' Fairgrounds, was skilled at cards, croquet, pool, and games of all kinds (never letting his children or anyone else win by losing on purpose) and spent much of his time after retirement visiting friends as he made his 'rounds' each morning in his truck.
Although shy by nature, those who got to know Emile were kept grinning as he displayed his legendary dry sense of humor or uttered wry, sharply-pointed remarks on a wide range of subjects.
He frequently shook his head at his unexpected longevity, as his own father died of a heart attack at age 68, on Veteran's Day 1966, though his mother lived to be 90, dying on May 23, 1987. I called him on the day he surpassed his own father's age (HIS Dad, btw, was born on June 19, 1898 !! ), and he wasn't even aware of it ( I had counted the exact days and knew that day he would pass his father, who died young, at 68, on Nove 11, 1966 ). Dad would live about 15 more years, beyond the lifespan of his own Dad. I should be so lucky ... if I accomplish the same feat, I will live to be 98 ...
Dad died after a very brief illness on February 22, 2008. It was the week that the nationwide call went out that "Pitchers and Catchers Report" to major league baseball clubs in the USA. A call he had to heed many years prior here on Earth, and one he heeded yet again that day, to join that Great Team of ballplayers in Heaven ...
IN fact, the very last joke he told was of having a dream the night of Feb 20-21, 2008, where God came to him and told him that he had good news and bad news. The Good News, God told him, was that in Heaven, there was a wonderful baseball field, perfect in every way, even with a short right-field "porch" that he could home runs into; the Bad News was that Dad would be the starting pitcher in that ball field tomorrow.
He died early the next morning (Feb 22, 2008), at about the time (near 7am) he used to rise and fix us all breakfast before we went off to school & he went to work at the business he owned (cuz Mom was a late-night bird & slept in) ...
Dad's Survivors included his eight children, Suzanne Chaillot Breaux and Jacqueline Chaillot Hanisee of Lafayette, Michelle Chaillot of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Lafayette, Jane Claire Chaillot of Sydney, Australia, John Chaillot-Louganis of Los Angeles, David Chaillot & Bernard Chaillot, of Crowley, LA, and Joseph Paris Chaillot, of Lafayette; his eight grandchildren, Alex Chaillot, Dominick Chaillot, Naomi Chaillot (who died at 32 on Sept 8, 2015, as a pedestrian hit by a truck), Simon Hanisee, Sam Breaux, Christopher Paris Chaillot, Madeline Tedeschi and Harry Tedeschi and great grandchildren, Sebastian Chaillot and Myah Chaillot (Naomi's children), several blended family children and grandchildren, many cousins, special friends, and all the boys and men he coached and/or helped in one way or the other during his lifetime aline wedding dresses
Per his wishes, his body was donated to Tulane University Medical School for research. I received 1/8 of his ashes, and sprinkled them around the mound and the first base area in Miller Stadium in Crowley, where he was playing professional baseball when he met my Mother ... I know he's Resting in Peace ... See you soon, Dad ... see you soon ... <3 <3