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BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

Pat Mason-Guillory had an important message for the crowd that assembled Saturday morning for a visitor’s center dedication that complements the adjacent St. Landry Parish Veterans Memorial complex.

The completion of the $450,000 Bobby Dupre Visitors Center is just another milestone in an attempt to continue recognizing the efforts of parish war veterans who served in the U.S. military from 1918 until the present, Guillory told the crowd that settled inside the recently-completed structure..

“This building is just the beginning as we plan to continue serving and expanding our mission to serve the veterans of this parish and all of their families,” Mason-Guillory said just before a ceremonial ribbon-cutting that climaxed the event.

For the past 20 years, Mason-Guillory has served as the executive director of a volunteer Veterans Memorial committee that has helped formulative plans for the Memorial, completed in 2014 and the Visitors Center named after Dupre, who donated the Memorial acreage on La. 182 south of Opelousas and provided a $25,000 check which launched funding for the 400-square foot Visitors Center.

Now that the Visitor’s Center is functional with display cases for veterans artifacts and areas for filing firsthand accounts of their lives and stories, Mason Guillory indicated that working with veterans issues is an ongoing effort.

Mason-Guillory said she plans to continue traveling statewide to extract ideas from veterans programs in other parishes and insert them into the Memorial located on property Dupre once owned.

The Visitor’s Center designed by Opelousas architect Jerome Gaudet will attract more visitors to the overall Memorial site, Mason-Guillory said.

There are additional plans to help finance the Visitor’s Center further by purchasing a rectangular brick commemorating a parish veteran, Mason-Guillory told the audience.

Other Funding

In addition to the initial startup money provided by Dupre, Mason-Guillory said financing the Visitors Center featured a campaign that included envelopes with five dollars inside to $125,000 from American Rescue Act money approved by parish government and another $150,000 in state money.

“This building is something that we always wanted to have. In 2019 we started the effort to build it and the money came from donations and help from elected officials and the construction began in 2022.

“In 2004 I went to the (Parish) Council and asked them to put a marker on the Courthouse Square to honor Staff Sergeant Craig Davis, who died in Iraq. Then I was later told by the Council I needed to find some way to honor all veterans in the parish. So we came up with the idea for the Memorial that would some way include a building like this,” said Guillory.

The Dupre Connection

Family members connected to Bobby Dupre were featured guests. 

Meghan Dupre Montgomery remembered that her father, who died in 2022,  was always anxious for the chance to help with the overall veterans project vision and what the project represents.

Longtime Dupre business partner Andrew Guidroz said Dupre personally selected the land for the Memorial and that Mason-Guillory nearly fainted when she was told by Dupre that the land for the site would be donated property.

Elected Officials

Parish president Jessie Bellard added that parish and local state lawmakers provided a collaborative approach to helping fund the construction.

State senator Gerald Boudreaux noted that completing the Visitors Center represents a project that reflects more significance that any other expenditure in his political career.

“What we are here to celebrate (on Saturday) shows our veterans that we appreciate what you  have done for us,” Boudreaux added.