Edward “Brent” Dufreche was a life-long resident of Tangipahoa Parish, born in 1922. A true native son of South Louisiana, he spent his formative years exploring swamps with his family. His uncle, who served as game warden before nationwide logging efforts decimated much of the area in the late 1890s, always claimed the “most beautiful place on Earth was the swamp between Ponchatoula and Manchac before all the cypress trees were cut.” Upon hearing those stories, Brent’s love for South Louisiana took root and only grew stronger for the rest of his storied life.

Brent joined the U.S. Army at 18 and was awarded the Bronze Star during WWII. After he returned to civilian life and his beloved family (wife Ruth and sons Roy and Lucien), Brent set up a law practice in his hometown. He went on to serve the community in many capacities: as city attorney, Hammond City Court judge, and several terms as 21st Judicial District Court judge, to name a few. “The Judge,” as he became known, led with a philanthropic attitude and knack for problem-solving.

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“My dad was a visionary, a man far ahead of his time,” said Roy.

An example of Brent’s unique vision still stands today—less than five miles away from Southeastern’s campus. In 1954, he helped secure the property that would become home to Seventh Ward General Hospital, which is known today as North Oaks Health System. Many other organizations in the area benefited from his involvement, including the Tangipahoa Parish Library System. Time and time again, Brent proved that he had a unique ability to assess potential and fill the needs of his fellow citizens.

“My dad just cared about people,” said Lucien. “He wanted to help people as much as he could.”

Over the years, Brent continued to share his love for the Louisiana swamplands. He took his sons on countless fishing and hunting trips. After retirement, he took up woodworking—fashioning tables and other furniture from the “tidewater red cypress” he’d fallen in love with as a boy.

Surrounded by his loving family, Brent passed away in 2015 at the age of 93. Three years later, Roy and Lucien honored their father in a way that was truly unique to his philanthropic legacy—by donating a 233-acre tract of land in his name to the Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station through the Southeastern Foundation.

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“The donation of this land to Southeastern and the Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station is a remarkable gift to students, faculty, and staff here,” said Dr. Robert Moreau, instructor of biological sciences and director of Turtle Cove.

Dr. Gary Shaffer, wetland ecologist and instructor of biological sciences, will guide students at the site in preserving and protecting South Louisiana’s unique ecosystem through cypress tree reforestation and other
environmental studies.

“It checks all of the boxes needed for this sort of work,” said Gary, “including the soil properties; low soil salinity levels; overall habitat potential; and, of course, accessibility.”

Brent’s family is proud that his legacy of generosity, service, and vision will live on at Southeastern—through learning enhanced by the swampland.

By Kati LeBreton

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