Joseph Brossette, 1923-2005
Born and reared in New Orleans, Joseph Brossette grew up on Urquhart Street, one of eight children. His sister, Virgie Rizzo, describes him as a handsome man, tall and slender with dark brown eyes and a head full of curly brown hair.
"As he aged," she said, "his hair turned silver, then white. Oh, it was beautiful white hair. And he had a beautiful white beard, too."
Brossette served as a paratrooper during World War II with the celebrated 82nd Airborne. He spent much of his tour of duty in the Philippines. It was a significant time in his life, and he talked about it frequently.
"He liked jumping out of those planes," his son-in-law Austin Bodden said. "And later, he liked watching the old movies about it with those old-time actors."
He and his wife, Frances, now deceased, brought up their children first in the Lower 9th Ward and later in Chalmette.
"We lived on Forstall Street in the Lower 9th Ward," his daughter Sue Bodden said, "and it was just like the country. Only a few houses here and there, no fences. And the neighbor behind us had a cow."
For much of his career, Brossette worked for the Railway Express Co. on Julia Street, as a shipping and receiving clerk. Later, he joined his son-in-law at Mechanical Equipment Co., which manufactures water purification units.
In retirement, he did some carpentry and a lot of household projects. He also went bowling at Imperial Lanes in Chalmette, where he scored an average of 170. And he went fishing for redfish and speckled trout with his son-in-law at Delacroix.
Everybody in the family tried to talk Brossette into leaving before Hurricane Katrina struck. He told them all the same thing.
"I'm quoting him now," says Sue Bodden. "He said, 'I'm 82 years old, I made it through World War II, I survived Hurricane Betsy. I'm not going anywhere.'"
And he didn't.
Before the family left town, they left Brossette with a slew of canned goods and an ice chest full of sandwiches and other food. They talked to him on Saturday night, then Sunday, then early Monday morning. He said his power was out but there was no water in the streets.
"When I hung up with him that morning," says Austin Bodden, "he said, 'Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back.' But it didn't work out that way."
Weeks later, when they were finally allowed back into St. Bernard Parish, the family went to the house and saw the mark on the door: a bright orange X with 9/9 0L 1D -- September 9, zero living, one dead.
Published in The Times-Picayune.