Absence of Unsung Hero ‘Pop’ Still Felt on Campus

(COVINGTON, La.) Last month, on Wednesday Sept. 13, 2017, the St. Paul’s School community lost a valuable friend, Mr. Israel Batiste. For more than 30 years, Batiste, or “Pop” as many knew him, devotedly served St. Paul’s through his work in the maintenance department. Behind the scenes, Batiste would help set up for any major event hosted on campus. Development could always count on Batiste to lend a helping hand regardless of the situation. From dances to fundraisers to ceremonies to everything in between, he was ready to help. Now, a month after his passing, his absence is still felt on campus.

Israel Batiste in Golf Cart
Wiley Powell (left) and Israel Batiste (right) ride in a maintenance cart outside the shop. (Photo Source: St. Paul’s Conifer 1985)

“He had a very naturally pleasant disposition,” said Brother Ray Bulliard, FSC. “Whenever he was given a task, he would attack it willingly without complaint. I hope he will be remembered as more than just a skilled worker for St. Paul’s, but also as a loving husband, father, and man of God.”

While many maintenance workers are out on the open campus, Batiste spent many hours in the shop, repairing whatever came his way. According to many teachers, Batiste was considered the best repairman that St. Paul’s has ever seen, and he could fix just about anything. Batiste was one of the most active figures in St. Paul’s history, despite his low profile on campus. He would move about campus with a smile on his face and hat atop his head, ready to return any greetings sent his way. However, many students went their entire tenure at St. Paul’s without encountering Batiste.

“There was really no reason for students to see him; he was always hard at work in the shop, or out about, doing whatever was needed of him,” said Bro. Ray.

Russell Wilcox Jr. and Israel Batiste stand side-by-side in the maintenance shop, ready to help whenever they can. Wilcox worked alongside Batiste for decades, but retired last school year. (Photo by Jordan Kliebert)

Aside from his hard work on the campus of St. Paul’s, Batiste could be found in one other place: behind the wheel of a bus. Batiste acted as a bus driver for Our Lady of the Lake School Roman Catholic School (OLL), in Mandeville, for many years. Many St. Paul’s students and graduates hold Batiste very dear in their hearts, as he was an extraordinary man who made a lasting impression on them while growing up.

“I remember he was never angry with anyone,” said senior Patrick Baldone, who rode Batiste’s school bus during his nine-year tenure at OLL. “He would never yell, or even raise his voice. If there was an issue, he would confront it in a calm manner with a smile on his face, no matter what the problem was. Then, it would immediately stop. We all respected him so much, we never wanted to upset him. Every now and then, I would be late to the bus stop, and I would have missed the bus that day. My mom would call Mr. Batiste, who gave all parents his phone number, and he would actually drive back to my stop to pick me up. Sometimes, if someone who never missed the bus was not there one morning, he would even walk up to the house to check and see if everything was okay. Honestly, he was a huge role model for me.”

Below the obituary of Israel Batiste, comments flowed with love, support, and memories of the beloved father, son, husband and friend. Many comments were submitted by former bus riders and co-workers, who reflected on the best qualities of the man they knew as Pop. A significant portion of the reflections referred to his glowing smile and positive attitude. To further signify the outpouring of love in the response to Batiste’s death, it has been stated that his funeral, held in the Our Lady of Peace Chapel on St. Paul’s campus, filled the chapel more than any other occasion known to memory, according to Bro. Ray.

One comment

  1. Pop was not just the cousin he was my best friend I just can’t get it in my head that he’s gone. Love You Man Tucker



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