The South Lafourche community is tight-knit — the kind of place where everyone has known everyone else for multiple generations.
Ask the average young adult from those parts about a memorable educator, then mention the name ‘Linda Guidry.’
Immediately, most will smile, then tell the tale of the sweet, but sometimes fiery red-headed educator with a heavy Southern accent who loved to teach, but who loved even more to bring out the potential in her students over the course of her long, successful career in the school system.
Guidry passed away on April 15, surrounded by the comfort of family. She was 73.
Family and friends remembered the life of the longtime teacher and principal this week, saying that she was as genuine and passionate in their home as she was in the classroom.
Guidry is survived by by her loving and devoted husband of 39 years, Roy Guidry, and daughter Laurie Laine Coleman (Mike) and grandson Charlie, daughter Kristine Collins (Drew) and grandchildren Kanaan and Dru.
She is also survived by her step-son Keith Guidry (Paula) and granddaughters Rachel and Ashley, step-daughter Lillie Toups and step-grandchildren Roxie and Lee, and several sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
“So many people have offered their condolences or memories and thoughts about Mom to us,” daughter Laurie said. “And they all seem to step around a few things — how much she loved her students and they loved her; how she encouraged and inspired so many people; how she made everyone feel special and important — she always had time and kind words for everyone she met.”
Guidry was actually not born a Cajun. We’ve just adopted her to the area over time.
She’s actually a native Alabamian who traveled around a lot as a child and young adult before marrying husband Roy in her early 30s and coming on to the Bayou.
The two were a match made in heaven — both diligent. Linda knew little of the Louisiana life as a child, but often trawled with Roy, and did it well.
“My dad always bragged how a woman from Alabama who had never trawled in her life could pick shrimp faster than any of his deckhands,” Laurie said. “She was the hardest working person we knew, I think that’s why she and my dad were a match made in heaven - both of their hobbies included working.”
Guidry got started as a teacher later than most — going into college when Laurie started school. But family and friends say it was one of her biggest passions and she knew she’d wanted to be in the profession since childhood.
“She always played school whenever she’d get the chance,” Laurie said, recalling the words of her mother.
When in the classroom, she taught with a passion and energy that became memorable to all those she’d impacted during her lengthy career at Galliano Elementary, then as a principal at Golden Meadow Lower.
In the classroom, she’d wow with her “magical” science lessons. She also wore a butterfly on her attire every day — sometimes not always in plain sight. She’d challenge students to find it and sometimes offer prizes.
Why butterflies? Laurie said it was a spiritual reminder that sometimes that ugly caterpillar is actually beautiful — just in the same way that Jesus was vilified before dying, then rising again.
“Mom used her butterflies as a way to share the word of God with others in hopes that it would inspire people to develop the same relationship with the Lord that she had,” Laurie said.
Behind the scenes, family remember her quiet acts of kindness for those in need.
Guidry would put money into a side account in the cafeteria and instruct workers to charge that account when any student couldn’t buy food. She also bought uniforms and supplies for those in need.
“She had a heart for those in need,” Laurie said. “My mom once said that when she was a child, she was the student that teachers often turned their nose up towards. She said she was probably ‘the poor kid’ or ‘the dirty kid’ because of different situations in her life. Because of that, she gravitated towards these children and did her best to make them feel special, something that not everyone has a heart for doing.”
As a principal, she also worked magic — albeit in a different way. She gained popularity for her willingness to go to bat for her faculty and staff in their times of need.
It’s the same love she showed to family members at home.
Laurie said her mother and father worked hard to give their daughters a solid foundation. The family lived in the same home their entire lives, and both daughters are now grown, but live in the same neighborhood. Both, like their mother, are educators.
Guidry retired later in life at as her health began to fail, but she adored being a grandmother. She also was an avid gardner (especially when planting things that attracted butterflies and hummingbirds). Guidry also loved to read and shop.
In her final days, her health steadily declined, but in those final moments, family members say her strength never showed stronger.
She survived breast cancer, severe asthma, Crohn’s and a heart murmur and other cardiovascular issues.
After suffering two strokes earlier this year, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. In her final days, she inspired by never bringing attention to her fight, but instead of the feelings of others.
“She kept working and never complained,” Laurie said. “She never shed a tear. She never gave up. She never questioned God. She cared for others. She worried about others. She put everyone else first. Even in her final two months, she was worried that I wasn’t getting enough rest or was doing too much. What an inspiration? To be so selfless. To have such will and fortitude.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: I was taught by Mrs. Linda Guidry, and like everything mentioned in the story, I, too, can speak to the wonderful impact she had in my educational career. A Linda Guidry high-five as a child meant you were doing something super special, and she had that awesome ability to make us always feel worthwhile — a rare, but admirable trait. To the family, friends and former colleagues, my sincerest thoughts and prayers! May God grant you all healing and comfort in your times of need. •