Harry Brenson Summerlin passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his wife and family on Thursday, January 30th, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. A mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Father Hampton Davis and Father Thomas Voorhies on Tuesday, February 4th at 2:00 p.m. at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Eunice, LA. Rite of Committal will follow at St. Paul’s Cemetery.
Harry was married to his high school sweetheart Jeanie Bordelon Summerlin for 48 years, and together they have three children Ben (Laura), Sarah Oliver (Ian) and Douglas (Aimee), and eleven grandchildren, Harry III, Douglas, Susannah, Blake, Henry, Stella, Oscar, Joseph, Liam, Archie and Michael. He is survived by one brother, Archie (Phyllis) Summerlin of San Antonio, TX, and one sister, Michelle Summerlin of Saratoga Springs, NY.
He was preceded in death by his parents, J.B. “Johnny” and Dorothy “Tee” Ransom Summerlin; his sisters, Jean Tanner and Renee Fleming; and a brother, Damien.
After graduating from St. Edmund Catholic School, Harry attended LSUE serving as member of the first Student Council. He then continued his education at LSU where he was known to rowdily cheer on the Tigers. Upon graduation, he began his career as an educator serving as football coach, teacher, and principal at many schools in the area. His first assignment was at his alma mater, Saint Edmund Catholic School, working as a football coach and teacher. Following his time at St. Edmund, he taught and coached at Eunice Junior High then Eunice High. He stepped away from teaching for several years to work in the oil and gas industry for Sunland Construction and I.E. Miller & Sons Oil Field Hauling Co. However, his passion for teaching remained, and he eventually returned to education as a teacher and then as an Assistant Principal of Eunice Junior High School. In 1991, he was hired as Principal of St. Edmund Catholic School and remained for 15 years. The rest is history as the Blue Jay at heart began to mold and shape generations of students entering the halls of St. Edmund. During his tenure, enrollment steadily grew, the football field was completed, the convent was converted to make room for more classrooms, and plans began to take shape for the new gymnasium/classroom complex. Nothing made him prouder than being a part of St. Edmund. He loved to greet the students in the morning and bid them farewell each day. He was even known to greet his students dressed as Santa during the Christmas season. He worked to advance parochial school athletics within the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and served on the LHSAA Executive Committee, being the only private/parochial school representative elected to the Committee at that time. After retirement from St. Edmund, Harry spent several years teaching at Iota Middle School.
Harry served as Alderman for the City of Eunice from 1990 - 1998, during this time the City of Eunice celebrated its 100th year of incorporation. After retiring from education, he worked briefly as an assistant to both Mayors Rusty Moody and Scott Fontenot.
Harry could even be considered a renaissance man as his hobbies encompassed many disciplines. He was an avid fisherman and hunter and never passed up the opportunity to spend time outdoors. He especially loved spending time at his beloved BeSaDo. When hunting season ended and the fish weren’t biting, he spent many hours reading or in his workshop, building furniture, carving wooden decoys, crafting walking sticks, and painting his decoys and various scenes on whatever medium he could find. He even found time to write a word or two of poetry.
While Harry spent his time enjoying his hobbies, his most precious moments were those spent with family and friends. His friends and card buddies are the keepers of many stories of Harry’s shenanigans. His sons and grandsons are the benefactors of early morning crabbing trips to Holly Beach, hunts, fishing, and marathon games of Chess and Monopoly. His daughter and granddaughters enabled him to love unconditionally with absolute affection, giving them the moon and the stars just to see them smile. But his wife received the greatest gift, his heart. He often said that he married the one person that would help him get to heaven. He is loved by all who knew him and will be remembered for his great affection for those around him.
At the request of the family, visitation will be held at Ardoin’s Funeral Home in Eunice on Monday, February 3rd, from 2:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and again on Tuesday, February 4th, from 9:00 a.m. until time of services. A Rosary will be recited at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, February 3rd by Deacon Chuck Ortego.
Memorial donations can be made to the St. Edmund School Foundation or the Monsignor Harry Benefiel Foundation, 351 West Magnolia, Eunice, LA 70535, PH: 337/457-3777.