The extraordinary wake, funeral and second line for Ernie K-Doe was a grand spectacle that only the city and the people of New Orleans could produce. After all, it's no small feat producing a funeral for an Emperor.
Executive Director Jackie Harris, of the Mayor's New Orleans Music and Entertainment Commission, worked tirelessly to ensure that all arrangements were met. Mayor Marc Morial was quite helpful, and his assistant, Reverend Connie Thomas, invited us to a meeting at City Hall to plan the huge event. There were so many details to attend to ... planning and coordinating the wake and funeral services ... deciding who would offer the invocation, scripture readings, eulogy and prayers .... choosing those who were important in Ernie's life and career to partake in oral and musical tributes ... obtaining necessary permits, police escorts ... arrangements for Gallier Hall .... setting the stage, procuring the podium, instruments, sound equipment and personnel ... logistics ... ushers ... organizing the second line .... planning the program book .... listing acknowledgments ... providing coffee and donuts for thousands of fans.
Perhaps the most important decision involved the selection of the funeral home to handle arrangements. The Emperor's widow, Antoinette, allowed us to choose Duplesis W. Rhodes Funeral Home in time to extend funeral director Joan Rhodes an invitation to the organization meeting, where she was able to offer her experienced advice. Joan Rhodes and Sandra Rhodes Duncan were extremely professional and dedicated, as was their competent staff. They never lost their composure, even when the hospital lost the body!
It took frequent midnight calls with Joan and Jackie to help pull this off. In addition, many folks pitched in. Anna Ross and Heather Twichell donated their family tomb for K-Doe's burial. Rob Florence and the Friends of New Orleans Cemeteries volunteered restoration of the tomb. Though firmly entrenched in producing the Essence Festival, Quint Davis put together the ultimate funeral second line event courtesy of Festival Productions. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation printed 10,000 program books. Philip Baptiste paid for the funeral hearse and horses. Jackie Clarkson helped with arrangements.
Coffee for the thousands of guest who paid tribute was provided by Kenneth and Melba Ferdinand of the P.J.'s located on Frenchmen Street and Louis Armstrong International Airport location, as well as the good people of Still Perkin'. Steve Kaplan procured the equipment and manned the coffee room. David Yeates drove all around and across town to pick up donuts, generously donated by Winn Dixie, for delivery to Gallier Hall. Rick Delaup gave up two days of his busy life to videotape the wake and funeral for Antoinette. Dave Cash, webmeister for the K-Doe site <www.K-Doe.com>, gave up all money making endeavors for several days to maintain and update the site with the constant flow of incoming photos and information. Andrea Garland stayed up all night to print photos of K-Doe for lamination and make Emperor and Empress buttons. Doc Mansina and Louie Nugent printed memorial tee shirts. Sherif Foti sent deputies to the Mother-in-Law Lounge to maintain peace and security. Wanda Rouzan was our cheerful Grand Marshall. John Blancher volunteered his Rock 'n Bowl for the repast, where Pampy's and the House of Blues generously sent huge pans of food. Accolades to our great community, to all the loving people who stepped up with their "whatever it takes" attitude. I feel so blessed to have been a part of such a tremendous effort. I am so proud of our community!!!