Former educator, mayor Ralph Soileau passes away at age 81
Pine Prairie officials lowered the flag flying over the community’s town hall on Friday to honor former Pine Prairie High Principal and Mayor Ralph Soileau, who passed away in his home after a short illness on Thursday, May 16, 2019.
The long-time educator spent 81 years living a life dedicated to serving others not only as a teacher, principal and mayor, but also as a husband to the late Roberta Deshotel Soileau of Pine Prairie, father to Julie Soileau Landreneau and Ralph A. “Tony” Soileau, II, grandfather, veteran and the first fire chief for the Pine Prairie Fire Department.
Soileau’s long-time family friend Noelie McDaniel described him as a “fair and quiet guy.” She said, “He was not the kind of person that would stand out in a crowd. His wife Roberta was the life of the party and did that for both of them.”
As a leader, McDaniel, said Soileau was the kind of individual who “didn’t like confrontation so he always tried to compromise with people.”
As an educator, Terry Ardoin, who served as assistant principal at Pine Prairie High under Soileau, said, “Ralph was a pure professional. He was a good educator and a great administrator.
“He set high standards for himself and achieved those standards, and he expected others to follow. I was assistant principal with him, and he helped me a great bit. I always looked forward to going to work with him.”
Current Pine Prairie Mayor Quint West remembers Soileau as a man who had “impeccable integrity.” He said, “You never heard him say one bad thing about anyone, and you never heard anyone say one bad thing about him.”
Soileau got his start in life in Ville Platte where he was born on December 23, 1937 to Aline Veillon Soileau and J. Percy Soileau.
He graduated from Ville Platte High in 1955. He continued his education at USL in Lafayette, where he received a Bachelors Degree in Education in 1958.
Soileau’s first teaching job landed him in New Iberia where he educated students at Hopkins Street Elementary from 1958 to 1960.
In 1960, the next move in Soileau’s life brought him back to his home parish, but to a new community - Pine Prairie.
Soileau’s time teaching at Pine Prairie High began in 1960 as a sixth grade teacher. His time in the classroom was short lived however, as he was called to serve others in another capacity in 1961 when he was drafted by the United States Army during the Berlin Crisis.
In 1963 he received an honorable discharge, and by 1964 he and his wife found their way back to northern Evangeline Parish, which is where Soileau resided before moving closer to his children in Lafayette during his later years in life.
After being back in the classroom as the educator bestowing his wisdom and knowledge upon Pine Prairie students for a couple of years, Soileau decided he would once again further his own education and in 1965 he received a Masters Degree in Administration and Supervision from USL.
With multiple degrees under his belt, the next step for he and his educator wife Roberta was to grow their family. The Soileau’s adopted their first child, Julie, when she was just five-and-half-weeks old in 1965, and then their son Tony when he was two-and-a-half-weeks old in 1967.
Today, Julie is married to Paul Landreneau and they have five children, and Tony is a dentist in Lafayette.
It didn’t take long as an educator for Soileau’s work ethic to propel him into an administrative position and by 1971 he had been appointed Assistant Elementary Principal at Pine Prairie High. During his career in education, Soileau was also appointed to serve as Coordinator of the Continual Progress Program in 1977 and then appointed Master Teacher in 1977 until 1982.
In 1973, Soileau entered the arena of politics and found himself in a new leadership role as Mayor of the Village of Pine Prairie. Soileau held this position until 1981.
His service to the community of Pine Prairie continued when he became the village’s first fire chief in 1982.
Soileau’s final position to hold before retiring began in 1982 when he was appointed as head principal of Pine Prairie High School.
Soileau then said goodbye to education after nearly 30 years devoted to the learning of children in 1988.
Funeral services for Soileau will take place at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Pine Prairie. Visitation will be Sunday, May 19, from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with a Rosary recited at 6:30 p.m. Visitation will resume on Monday, May 20, from 9:00 a.m. until the time of service at 1:00 p.m. Entombment will follow in St. Peter’s Catholic Church Cemetery.
Ardoin’s Funeral Home in Ville Platte is in charge of arrangements.