The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is mourning the loss of its First Lady.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Gail Heinbach Savoie – teacher, artist, wife, mother, grandmother and First Lady of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette – will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2022 at Our Lady of Wisdom Church.
Gail passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends on Sunday, June 12, 2022, following an extended illness. She was 67 years old.
Father Stephen Pellessier will be Celebrant of the Mass and conduct the funeral services. Burial will follow at Holy Mary Mother of God Cemetery.
Gail is survived by her husband of 44 years, Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president; children, Blaire Savoie and Adam Savoie; a granddaughter, Addison Marie Saulnier; a brother, Clay Heinbach and his wife, Paula; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.
A native of Sulphur, Gail earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now UL Lafayette, in 1977. While a student at the University, she was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and was a cheerleader. She retained an enduring connection with her Tri-Delt sisters – her beloved “Delta Roses” – and to Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics throughout her lifetime.
Gail taught at St. Ignatius School in Grand Coteau, and at St. Antoine and Woodvale elementary schools in Lafayette. Her vivacious personality and enthusiasm for students made her a favorite teacher among them, their families and her fellow educators. She listened to students, empowered them to reach their individual potentials and celebrated their accomplishments with an unforgettable smile, an infectious laugh and kind words that encouraged them to succeed further.
A gifted painter, she regularly gave her creative works to friends as presents. Children, angels, and nature were among her subjects. She specialized in Louisiana primitives using acrylic paints and vivid colors. The aesthetic choice was appropriate; it reflected the brightness and joy that Gail carried with her wherever she went. She loved life and lived it fully, and those who met her, even in passing, found themselves warmed by the brilliance of her inner light and spirit.
Born Norma Gail Heinbach on Feb. 16, 1955, she was the daughter of the late Charles Clayton Heinbach and Norma Wray Pearson Heinbach. In her youth, Gail was a Camp Fire Girl, a dancer and a multisport athlete. She entered USL at a time before Title IX opened a pathway for women to participate in collegiate sports. Her later support for Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics, particularly the softball program, reflected Gail’s desire to ensure that all student-athletes had opportunities to compete and succeed.
She was a graduate of Sulphur High School, where she was also a cheerleader. There, at age 16, she met and began dating Joseph “T-Joe” Savoie, who was also a student at Sulphur High. Their courtship continued while both were pursuing degrees at USL. They married on Aug. 12, 1977, in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Sulphur. Gail adored her husband. She was his strength, support and soulmate from the day they met. Her children, Blaire and Adam, and granddaughter, Addison, brought her immeasurable happiness.
Following her husband’s investiture as president of UL Lafayette in 2008, Gail became the University’s First Lady. In that role, she served as a local, state and national ambassador for her alma mater. Gail was a fixture at University activities and athletic events, and she cherished the time she spent with members of her Ragin’ Cajuns family. She regularly was a judge for the annual Paint the Town Red contest during Homecoming week. Every year, Gail proudly hosted multiple events at the President’s House for the campus and Lafayette communities. Her favorite was Sneaux Day during the holiday season.
Gail’s love for animals led to the creation of Campus Cats, a rescue organization for stray animals. The Savoie family adopted a number of animals through the years, including dogs Cookie, Maya and Wilma and a cat, Ragin’. They rarely left Gail’s side.
She was also active in charities throughout Lafayette, including the American Cancer Society.
The family requests that visiting hours be observed at Delhomme Chapel of the Flowers on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Rosary will be prayed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the funeral home. Visiting hours will continue on Thursday, June 16, 2022, from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gail’s memory to the Savoie Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, c/o the UL Lafayette Foundation, P.O. Box 44290, Lafayette, LA 70504.
The Savoie family wishes to thank Gail’s dear friend, companion and caretaker, Barbara Jeanlouis; and the staffs of the Cancer Center of Acadiana and Hospice of Acadiana.
Personal condolences may be sent to the Savoie family at www.delhommefuneralhome.com.
Gail Heinbach Savoie and her family were cared for and entrusted final arrangements to Delhomme Funeral Home, 1011 Bertrand Drive, Lafayette, LA.