Statue, memorial service planned for Cajun music legend

Seventy-two years after his death, a statue and memorial service are planned to recognize the man who is widely recognized as one of the fathers of Cajun and Creole music.

Vermilionville will host a veillée, or “informal gathering,” Thursday to celebrate the music and life of Amédé Ardoin. The event kicks off a campaign to immortalize the accordionist with a statue on the campus of LSU at Eunice.

The fund, organized by former state Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and the Ardoin family, aims to raise $35,000 to $45,000 for the project.

Thursday’s event will instruct attendees how to hold fundraising veillées of their own in Ardoin’s honor.

Ardoin, born in 1898, was known for his high singing voice and expertise with the accordion.

He was one of the earliest artists of the Acadiana region to record the region’s folk music, recording a series of tracks in the 1920s and 1930s.

Although there are multiple stories of the circumstances and time of his death, it’s widely believed Ardoin died in 1941 or 1942 following a racially motivated attack in which he was severely beaten.

According to a profile of him on PBS’ “American Patchwork,” Ardoin borrowed a white woman’s handkerchief to wipe the sweat off of his face during a performance, angering onlookers. He was assaulted and found lying in a ditch the next day.

Ardoin’s final six months following the attack were spent in a mental hospital in Pineville, where his health declined.

He was buried in an unmarked grave in the hospital’s graveyard.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. There will be a chance to meet Bourque, as well as playwright and theater director Pat Cravins.

Copies of Bourque’s book on Ardoin, “if you abandon me – comment je vas faire,” will be on sale.

A portion of the book’s sales will go to the memorial fund.