Funeral services for colorful long-time Natchitoches mayor Joe Sampité will be conducted Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Natchitoches with interment immediately following at Memory Lawn Cemetery in Natchitoches, LA. Visitation will be Monday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home, located at 848 Keyser Avenue in Natchitoches. A rosary will be held at 7:00 p.m. during the visitation.
Sampité, who died Friday at the age of 81, served five terms as mayor of Natchitoches from 1980 until his retirement in 2000. He was known for wearing white socks, a carryover from his coaching career before becoming mayor, and for the “I Love Natchitoches” stickers that he distributed by the thousands over the years.
Born in New Orleans in 1931, Sampité received a business education degree from Northwestern State University in 1959. He served in the National Guard and U.S. Air Force before beginning a career in teaching and coaching. Sampité was a successful basketball and baseball coach at St. Mary’s High School in Natchitoches and Jesuit High School in Shreveport.
After retiring from his education career, Sampité became one of the most effective and dynamic mayors in Louisiana history. He was instrumental in bringing the filming of the movie “Steel Magnolias” to Natchitoches and was at the forefront of downtown revitalization and the development of a vibrant tourism industry in the city.
Natchitoches was recognized in national publications during Sampité’s tenure as mayor as a leading site for tourism in Louisiana and the South and as one of the nation’s most attractive communities for retirees.
As mayor, he expanded the city’s recreation program and police and fire departments and spearheaded major improvements in infrastructure and the community’s airport. He guided the annexation and development of a corridor from the city to Interstate 49 that increased the size of the city by 40 percent.
Sampité served as president of the Louisiana Municipal Association and was the first recipient of the statewide organization’s President’s Award. While serving as mayor, Sampité was selected by The Shreveport Times as one of the Top 100 Influential People in Northwest Louisiana.
Inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in Winnfield in 2002, Sampité was also inducted in 2000 into the Northwestern State University Hall of Distinction, or Long Purple Line, the university’s highest honor for alumni.
During his political career, Sampité was profiled in the prestigious magazine, “The Oxford American,” in an article entitled “No Ordinary Joe.”
He received numerous other honors, including Man of the Year Awards from the Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce, Natchitoches Jaycees and the Louisiana Parks and Recreation Association. For his many years of volunteer work with handicapped youth, he received the “Louisiana Parks and Recreation Distinguished Service Award” in 1984. He helped establish the Natchitoches Association of Retarded Citizens and was named “Professional of the Year” by the Louisiana Association for Disabled Children. He was a life member of the Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, American Legion and Founders of Natchitoches.
Sampité was a member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at NSU and played a role in the Beta Omicron Chapter’s annual bicycle ride established in 2009 as a tribute to his late daughter Sharon Sampité.
The former mayor was an active member of Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church as well as many local groups during his retirement such as the Agitators, The Gerousia and the Coach Ledet Coffee Club.
Sampité was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Alphonse J. Sampité, and Bathilda Guillot Sampité; his wife, Hazel Barnes Sampité; daughter, Sharon Elizabeth Sampité; along with many of his siblings: Albert Sampité, Eleanor Sampité Dimmick, Leona Sampité Hernandez, Grundy Sampité, Kelly Sampité Poche, Cecilia Sampité Morford, Michael Sampité and Mary Sampité Lacour. He is survived by his son, Chris Sampité and wife, Daphne Gray Sampité, and their sons Michael and Ryan Sampité; daughter, Sheila Sampité Hardin and husband, Lt. Col. Alan Hardin, and their sons Daniel and Andrew Hardin; daughter, Michaela Marie Sampité; and his grandchildren, John and Allison Van Hoof along with siblings: sisters, Sally Logan of Alexandria and Marielise Sampité Brosset of Cloutierville, brother, A.J. Sampité, Jr. of Hemet, CA.; and close friend and companion Sue Vercher.
Pallbearers will be Marvin Brosset, Charles Lee, John Van Hoof, Gary Deblieux, Lawrence Fuller, Mike Poche, Terry Sampité and Frank Cicero. Honorary pallbearers include Aubrey Logan, Charles Wurster, Sam Friedman and Wayne McCullen.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the “Joe Sampité Scholarship Fund” at the Northwestern State University Foundation.