Erath 4th of July Celebration

2016 Grand Marshal

Curney Dronet

 

The Erath 4th of July Association has chosen Brigadier General Curney J. Dronet, Sr. (Retired) of Erath to serve as Grand Marshal of the 80th Erath 4th of July Celebration.  Dronet has been a leading member of business and civic affairs in Erath for decades.  He will reign over the grand parade that will roll through the streets of Erath on July 4th at 5:00 PM.

Dronet was born on July 5, 1923 and was the only child of Joe “Pye” and Eula Nunez Dronet.  When he began school in Erath in 1929, he was punished because he could only speak French.  He soon learned to speak English and became an exceptional student and athlete.  He graduated as Valedictorian of the 1940 class at Erath High School.  The following year, he married his high school sweetheart, Irene LeBlanc, on July 6, 1941.  In two day, on July 6, 2016, they will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary. 

The Dronet’s happy life was interrupted with the outbreak of World War II.  Dronet enlisted in the Army Air Corp on May 1, 1943, and he was stationed at the Midland Air Force Base in Texas.  He was trained in navigation and as a bombardier.  The Army Air Corp recognized Dronet’s leadership skills and made him an instructor training other soldiers.  He spent the remainder of the war in Midland and was discharged on October 2, 1945.  He then returned to Erath.

Dronet initially began working with his father, Joe “Pye” Dronet, who was a leading contractor in the area.  In 1948, he opened Dronet’s Department Store.  He also served as secretary-treasurer for the Town of Erath from 1949 to 1953.  Dronet, always an entrepreneur, opened two more businesses: a furniture and appliance store and a flooring store.  The population was growing around Erath and Dronet saw a need for housing.  He quickly established a real estate firm and developed several of the subdivisions in and around Erath.  After 22 years in the furniture business, Dronet closed the furniture store in 1975 and sold the department store a year later in 1976.  Two of his children continue to own and operate the flooring store, Dronet’s Floor Gallery, that their father founded.

Dronet was a very astute businessman, but he was also very active in making Erath a better place to live.  In 1946, he joined Roy Theriot and the Erath Lions Club in planning and staging the Erath 4th of July Celebration.  He served as chairman of the annual parade.  His daughter, Leslie Mencacci, has continued in her father’s footsteps.  She has chaired the annual 4th of July parade for over 20 years.

In 1950, the future of the festival was in serious jeopardy.  None of the organizations in town stepped forward to sponsor and stage the festival.  Dronet decided this was unthinkable for Erath not to have our 4th of July celebration.  Two weeks before July 4th, Dronet and a five man committee took charge of the festival.  They planned and staged a successful festival in only two weeks!  He served as chairman of the Erath 4th of July Association for the years of 1950 and 1951.

State grant money became available for agricultural festivals in 1952.  The Erath 4th of July Celebration began operating as the Vermilion Parish Agricultural Fair in order to qualify for the grant money.  Dronet served as president for two years, co-manager for two years, and manager for one year of the Ag Fair.  He also served as chairman of the children’s parade.  Six years later, in 1958, Erath reverted back to the Erath 4th of July Celebration.

Dronet is a charter member of the Derouen Moss American Post in Erath.  He served as the first vice-commander of the post in 1946.  He is also a charter member of the Erath Volunteer Fire Department and served as secretary-treasurer of this organization from 1948 to 1954.  Dronet is a lifelong parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.  He served as trustee of the church for eleven years from 1978 to 1989.  He was Grand Knight of the Erath Knights of Columbus from 1962 to 1963 and again from 1979 to 1980.

Dronet served on the Vermilion Parish School Board from 1955 to 1964.  Our current Erath High School and Erath Middle School were constructed during his time on the school board.  He also led the effort in 1956 to acquire four acres from the Erath Sugar Company for the construction of a football stadium.  The stadium was constructed in 1963.  These were important accomplishments for our community.

Four years after Dronet was discharged from the Army Air Corp, he joined the Louisiana National Guard in 1949.  Within two years, he assumed command of the Combat Support Company based in Abbeville.  He continued to rise through the ranks of the National Guard and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in command of the 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry in 1963.  By 1973, Dronet had assumed command of the 256th Infantry Brigade and was promoted to Brigadier General.  He retired from the National Guard in 1978.

Dronet and his wife are the parents of seven children.  They also have 20 grandchildren, 36 great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. 

As we celebrate our 80th year of our 4th of July Celebration, we can look back at this web of time and celebrate Dronet’s almost 93 years.  He will be 93 on July 5th.  Since the end of his service during World War II until today, Dronet has served his country in two different branches of the armed services – the Army Air Corp and as a Brigadier General in the National Guard.  How truly appropriate it is to honor someone of his lofty statue as we celebrate our country’s 240th years of independence.  These two military achievements are enough to make Dronet our 2016 Grand Marshal, but his list of accomplishments in life don’t end here.

Dronet came home after the war to help to build a community.  He founded three businesses that impacted the Town of Erath.  He volunteered his time to his church and to countless civic organizations.  In addition, he was an honorable public servant.

One insightful act of Dronet was to keep the festival going in 1950 when it was in danger of being abandoned.  Today, we might not be celebrating our 80th annual 4th of July Celebration where it not for this one man.  We owe it all to his supremacy in duty to his country and to his community.

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