In 1966, the men of Grand Isle would work hard all day to rebuild the island after Hurricane Betsy laid waste to it the year before.
In a barroom on the island, a group of men were drinking the stress of the day away. Among them were Samson Guidry and Jerry LaFont, who were best friends.
If Jerry’s name sounds familiar, it is because he was the father of District 8 Lafourche Parish Councilman Jerry LaFont Jr.
Samson’s wife, Myrnel, was frustrated with her husband drinking and went to the bar to fetch him. She yelled at him and told him to come home.
The other men began to tease Guidry about being chastised so harshly by his wife. The teasing escalated and things got heated. Samson was a “hothead” and got into a fistfight with Jerry’s cousin.
“My dad was a big guy and Deacon’s dad,” said Jerry LaFont Jr. “They were best friends at the time…and my dad jumped on Deacon’s dad and basically whooped his [behind].”
That’s when Samson did leave the bar, but came back with a pistol.
He shot his best friend twice in the shoulder and once in the spine, killing him.
It was considered a crime of passion. Samson was charged with and convicted of 2nd Degree Manslaughter and served 18 months in prison.
Jerry Jr., who was one-year-old at the time, then had to grow up without a father. The crime actually tore the island apart, dividing it into two factions of Guidry and LaFont supporters.
Jerry eventually moved with his mother to Galliano. They left the island and the feud behind.
When Samson went to prison, Myrnel was 17-years-old. She went to cosmetology school and sent Deacon, who was an infant, to live with some relatives.
“I just ended up staying with them, so because of this incident I never had a dad in my life,” Deacon Guidry said. “So I told Jerry, ‘You know the day you lost your dad, I lost mine, too. He’s still my dad, I know him, but he never was in life and there was no affection. No coming to my basketball games or tee-ball, teaching me how to fight or anything like that.’”
Regardless, both grew up to have wonderful families of their own. In 1986 or ’87, Deacon and Jerry’s wife, Kelly, became best friends. That’s how they met.
Jerry didn’t know it was Deacon’s father who took his away, but Deacon knew.
“I mean, I knew who Jerry was because his name was Jerry LaFont Jr.,” Deacon said. “I always knew the whole story, but I don’t think Jerry really knew who I was. We had never been formally introduced like, ‘Hey, how you doin’? Deacon. My daddy killed your daddy.’”
As their friendship developed, Jerry found out the truth, but Jerry didn’t hold a grudge against him. They became friends, and later, best friends.
The feud still lived on, though. Once, a man from Grand Isle was so disgusted with the fact the two were friends that he hit Jerry in the face with a bottle.
“He got his that night,” Deacon said.
Jerry actually saw Deacon’s dad since then a handful of times, but Samson didn’t recognize who he was. Three months ago, Jerry was at Keith’s Hardware in Raceland and ran into Samson.
“And I knew who he was because I knew what the man looked like,” Jerry said. “And his dad was there with another gentleman. I knew the other guy and he shook my hand and his dad shook my hand. And something just told me that I needed to go talk to him.”
“And I walked up to him and I asked if he knew who I was and he said, ‘No,’” Jerry continued. “And I asked if he knew my name and he said, ‘No.’ And I’m a junior, so when I said my name his whole jaw started trembling. He didn’t say much. He didn’t say nothin’ actually. And I told him, ‘You know, I was raised without a father, but it made me the person I am today because I had a strong mother. So, I wanted to just tell you from the bottom of my heart, that I forgive you.’”
Jerry told him that he knew Samson and his father were best friends and that he and Deacon were as well.
“And I said, I forgive you once again for Deacon and for myself because our friendship will continue and I want you just to know that for the rest of your life that I forgive you and you can go on living knowing that you’re forgave [sic].”
“It was really about pride when my dad got his [behind] whipped and he wanted revenge,” Deacon said. “He made a mistake that would affect a lot of different people. Not just him.”
Deacon maintains contact with his father still.
“You could see a man whose spirit is crushed,” Deacon said. “He’s a grown man. He’s in his 70s now. But there’s something, you know, there’s a hole in his heart. There’s a lot of guilt and remorse.”
“And I think that forgiveness, I hope it’ll help you, just as much as it helped me,” Jerry said to Deacon. “I look at it this way: Jesus died on the cross and he forgave people while he was dying on the cross, so if he can forgive them, we should all be able to.” •
Jerry LaFont Jr. poses for a photo with his best friend Deacon Guidry, whose father killed his own during a bar fight in 1966.