Skip to main content

BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

Lead Photo, by Freddie Herpin: Honoree Virginia Erlingson is led to the stage Thursday night. 

Opelousas General Hospital Systems Foundation honored a pioneering physician, radiologist and four nursing staff members with a combined 187 years of experience Thursday night during a Hall of Fame gala held at the Evangeline Downs Events Center.

The sixth annual event which has now chronicled the contributions of 31 former and current OGH Systems employees featured testimonials from co-workers of the honorees that included Dr. Suzanne Bourgeois, Dr. James Dugal and nurses Dianne Celestine, Virginia Erlingson, Jackie Harbour and Theresa Sue Kirkpatrick.

Dugal, Erlingson and Harbour attended the event and provided anecdotes about their OGH employment.

Recognized posthumously were Celestine, Bourgeois and Kirkpatrick.

Suzanne Bourgeois

Bourgeois, the first female physician in Opelousas and OGH chief of staff, was remembered by former employees as a doctor who exhibited humor, exemplary bedside manners and a kind heart after she arrived at the hospital in 1956.

“I didn’t realize all the firsts associated with my mother, but she was able to accomplish that in addition to having a domestic side, which included dancing, playing basketball with us and balancing a life with her family. Not many are able to do that,” said Michelle Bourgeois.

Dr. Bourgeois also displayed a versatility at the hospital, including assistance in the hospital autopsy room in addition to areas of pathology and psychiatry.

Dianne Celestine

Dr. Hunt DeBlanc recalled that Celestine reminded him of a sentry who presided over her nurse’s station with authority and delivered impact on those around her.

“She was always there at her desk and she had the ability of always doing the right thing. I remember her as loving, caring and someone who also enjoyed fishing and watching her team, the Saints,” said DeBlanc.

DeBlanc mentioned that he was also awed by the versatility that Celestine displayed while on duty.

“She did labor and she had the ability to read doctors’ handwriting,” DeBlanc added.

Other workers remembered that Celestine had nicknames for everyone at the hospital, while performing her duties like “a mother on the floor.”

Dr. James Dugal

Dugal, who retired in 1999, first arrived at OGH in 1963 and spent his career at the hospital  providing a series of upgrades that provided several important technical advancements at the facility.

OGH, under the leadership of Dugal, began incorporating physical mammography screenings, MRI’s CT scanning and other forms of nuclear medicine.

“What he did for the hospital was truly significant and it allowed (OGH) to move forward from a rural, country hospital to one that was able to feature state of the art equipment,” said Dr. Henry McLemore.

Dugal, described as one of the medical visionaries of OGH, said during a taped testimonial that he always attempted to provide state of the art diagnostic equipment for the hospital.

Virginia Erlingson

Erlingson began her 42-year initial training as an OGH nurse under the tutelage of the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross, who operated the facility during its inception.

By observing the techniques of the Marianites, Erlingson said that she gained a comprehensive knowledge in all areas of nursing and something that would guide her career.

“(Erlingson) is what I would describe as an old-school nurse and someone who would make decisions that were in the best interests of the patient,” said Dr. Ty Hargroder.

Gretchen Erlingson, a daughter of Virginia Erlingson, said nursing for her mother was more than a job. “It was part of her being,” said Gretchen Erlingson.

Hargroder recounted an incident when Erlingson once attempted to contact him.

“I heard sirens and a Sheriff Department vehicle pull up and they told me (Erlingson) had called them because she was trying to contact me. Definitely (Erlingson) was a nurse who was able to think outside the box,” Hargroder added.

Jackie Harbour

Harbour was one of the first OGH nurses to operate inside the ICU division at the hospital.

Additionally Harbour also trained and became adept at working inside the cardiac and advanced life support units.

“She was already a legend when I first started working (at OGH). Jackie taught me things that I needed to know when I got there. She always had high expectations and served as a coach and was responsive to her patients,” said nurse Michelle Lindsey.

Lindsey added that Harbour was an employee who always seemed unaffected by the hours that she was required to work.

“She would stay at the hospital all hours of the night in order to care for people,” Lindsey mentioned.

Theresa Sue Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick worked at OGH 47 years and her colleagues reminded the audience she possessed the soft skill abilities that included a willingness to listen to her patients.

“She was able to win me over with her kindness. I would say that (Kirkpatrick) is someone who was the definition of a lady who was gentle and kind, with a willingness to accept all people,” Harbour said.

Virginia Erlingson said that she and Kirkpatrick realized it would be beneficial to the hospital if the facility was able to coordinate efforts with the LSU-Eunice nursing program.

Harbour said that Kirkpatrick possessed the ability to meet everyone at the hospital with a smile.

“What I remember about her is that she was so kind to me and everyone,” Harbour said.

Granddaughter Christine Carrier said that Kirpatrick was someone who could be defined as a “nurse’s nurse.”  

View the full photo gallery here on St. Landry Now.


  • Courtney Jennings

    Courtney Jennings is a contributing writer with St. Landry Now since 2023 covering local events throughout the parish. She also runs the local publication MacaroniKID Acadia-St. Landry, an online publication and weekly e-newsletter on family friendly activities, local events, and community resources for parents.

    View all posts
  • Bobby Ardoin