Leo Ehrhardt Central Park
Mr. Leo Ehrhardt came to Simmesport during the building of the Simmesport railway bridge over the Atchafalaya River. While here he married Ms. Elanor Roberts, a Simmesport native, who he stayed with his entire life. After moving away briefly, Mr. Leo and Mrs. Elanor moved back to Simmesport in 1936. He opened a business on Old Highway 1.
He was elected to his first term as Mayor of Simmesport in 1940. For 52 years after that election, Mr. Ehrhardt was elected as Mayor for every term but three. When he decided to not seek reelection in 1992, Mr Leo Ehrhardt ended a 40-year stint as Mayor of Simmesport. Although he passed away in 1997, Mr. Leo’s presence is still felt in and out of Simmesport to this day.
On May 31, 2017, twenty years after his death, Mayor Leslie Draper, III and the Simmesport town council renamed a park in the center of the town as Leo Ehrhardt Central Park in honor of the long-time mayor. The Park is across Mission Dr. from the Town Hall and makes up 2.25 acres of wonderful space for public use.
The Town of Simmesport will be planning the dedication of this park in the coming months. At the January, 2018 Town Council Meeting the Mayor Draper presented to the Council possible plans for the park. This presentation can be seen in the link below. We would invite the public to comment and make suggestions about the development of the park. We will publish regular updates on events and happenings here and on our Facebook page.
Ehrhardt Park Dedication
On May 25, 2019 the Town of Simmesport, in conjunction with the R.I.S.E. organization, held a ceremony to dedicate Leo Ehrhardt Central Park. Mr. Leo’s children, Leo Jr. and Mary, were on hand along with a host of his grand children and great grand children. On a beautiful Saturday morning Mayor Draper and the board members of RISE, Mr. Wayne Coco representing the Simmesport Historical Society, and former Police Chief Sylvester Calahan came together to honor the former mayor.
An invocation was given by RISE board member Mrs. Shari Kirk. The Simmesport VFW raised the American flag and led the crown in the Pledge of Allegience. Mrs. Beth Gaspard then sang the National Anthem. RISE board member Mrs. Foresteen Washington-Jones welcomed those assembled to the dedication.
Mr. Wayne Coco, representing the Simmesport Historical Society, gave a talk about his interactions with Mr. Leo as mayor of Simmesport. Mr. Coco recounted the first time he met Mayor Ehrhardt and their journey to becoming fast friends. Mr. Wayne also shared an audio recording created at KLIL studios in which Mr. Leo told his life story. This was a touching and surreal account of Mr. Leo’s childhood, his marriage to his lifetime wife Elanor Roberts-Ehrhardt and his 40 years as mayor of Simmsport. Listening to his proudest moments and deepest regrets in Mr. Leo’s own voice is an amazing experience, especially for those who knew him.
Mr. Sylvester Calahan who worked for the Town of Simmesport for many years and was the last Chief of Police with Mr. Leo as Mayor told his fond remembrances of Mr. Ehrhardt. Mr. Calahan, who is currently serving as Justice of the Peace, told many humorous and warm stories of working with Mr. Leo.
Mary Ehrhardt and Leo “Lonnie” Ehrhardt, Jr., took the stage and graciously thanked the Town of Simmesport and the RISE board for honoring their father. Both of them related their fondness of growing up in Simmesport and the times they spent with their mother and father. Both recounted incidents of their Mr. Leo both as a father and a mayor.
For the Acts of Dedication, RISE President Marsha Strong gave an introduction and short speech about how and why RISE got involved in this particular undertaking. She then introduced Alderman at Large Jacob Coco who red the resolution passed by the Simmesport Town Council naming the area Leo Ehrhardt Central Park. Alderman Coco then presented a framed copy of the resolution to the Ehrhardt family. Father Paul Kunnumpuram blessed the monument before the unveiling.
The monument was unveiled before the Ehrhardt family. The plaque was met by smiles and gasps at the likeness of Mr. Leo looked back at the crowd.
Mr. Leo would have been proud of the residents, family, and former residents assembled in his honor. Mayor Draper closed out the dedication ceremony and thanked all those assembled as well as all those those who helped in putting on the dedication. RISE gave out free hotdogs, chips and drinks while the Town of Simmesport had a local vendor serve free snow balls. The entire event was closed out with a wonderful cake provided by RISE. This was a wonderful celebration not just of Mr. Leo Ehrhardt’s life, but of the spirit of Simmesport and its people. Community…family..celebration.
Groundbreaking For Leo Ehrhardt Central Park
On Monday, September 17, 2018 the Mayor, Simmesport City Council and the organization RISE, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Leo Ehrhardt Central Park. At the event, Mayor Draper welcomed everyone attending the ceremony and outlined the plans to make the park a centerpiece of the community. Further, Mayor Draper reaffirmed his belief that the founding purpose of the park was to create a safe environment for the children of Simmesport. R.I.S.E. (Reinvesting in Simmesport’s Expansion) is a non-profit organization dedicated to economic and social development of Simmesport. They have already received several donations for the park, which is a feature project for the organization. If you would like to donate to the RISE organization, you can click on the donate button or you can go to PayPal and donate to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information and events regarding the Leo Ehrhardt Central Park will be coming in the future.
R.I.S.E Board of Directors
(l to r) Tisha Moreau (Treasurer), Foresteen Washing-Jones, Marvin Guillot, Marsha Strong (President), Shari Kirk, Carol D. Lindsey (Secretary)