Former longtime T-P horseracing scribe Bob Fortus dies at 69

Bob Fortus, a longtime Times-Picayune writer who won national awards for his painstaking coverage of horse racing in New Orleans over three decades, died Tuesday of complications of injuries he suffered when a car struck him on March 29. Fortus, who died in Capitol House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Baton Rouge, was 69.

Fortus, who had walked with a cane after surgery two years ago to remove a benign tumor from his spine, was hit when he was crossing North Lopez Street at Grand Route St. John, police said.

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Obituary: Melvin Phillips

Benton – Mel Phillips, age 69, passed away on Monday June 17, 2019, after a rather short battle with pulmonary fibrosis. The visitation will be held Saturday, 10:00 AM at First United Methodist Church, Old Minden Road, Bossier City, followed by a Celebration of Life.

Mel attended Mcleansboro HS in southern Illinois and played basketball on scholarship at North Texas State University. He entered the U.S Navy where he met Brenda which would begin their journey from CA to LA, where they’re resided 37 years. Mel started his career with Prudential and years later transitioned to Edward Jones, Acquiring many loyal clients and friends. His hobbies have been golf, horses, baseball and fishing, but his most recent passion has been watching his two granddaughters play softball. Mel loved people and gatherings with family and friends. He was a man of strength and honor, who set a Godly example and lived out his faith. “Mr. Mel” will remain in the hearts of those he touched.

Mel was preceded in death by his Father, Carrol Phillips; mother, Kathleen; Brother Leon; son, Tony Ortiz, he is survived by his wife, Brenda; brother, Roger and wife Miya; children are daughter, Ginger, and Michael Bellindo, son, Tommy Ortiz; daughter, Tina Phillips. Grandchildren are Marco, Bryson, Jessica, Ava and Dylan; One great-grandson Luca, with numerous nieces and nephews.

The family request memorials are made to the Helping Hands of United Methodist in lieu of flowers.

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Obituary: Mario Andre Espin

Mario A. Espin (better known as Kit among his friends) was born in 1950. Over the years he lived in Montana, New York, Missouri and Florida. He earned degrees in engineering and business administration, but his passions were rodeo and horses, and he was always easy on horses. A true cowboy, he and his wife Dee owned Santa Fe Equine, in Earleton. He passed unexpectedly on May 29, 2019. He is survived by his wife, siblings and niece, and in-laws.

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Ronnie Virgets, distinct New Orleans voice and storyteller, dies at 77


Ronnie Virgets, a thoroughly rounded, freewheeling writer who could hold forth in a distinctive New Orleans accent on such diverse topics as modern literature, horse racing and the foibles of his fellow citizens, died Monday night (May 20) at Ormond Nursing Home in Destrehan. He was 77.

The cause of death has not been determined, said Lynne Jensen, his longtime companion.

Mr. Virgets, awarded for his writing and television work, never shed the distinctive accent of his native 3rd Ward. “He was a walking, talking paradox,” Jensen said. “He was a genius y’at. How much more of a paradox can you get?”


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Obituary: Judith “Judy” Foster


Judith “Judy” Foster

JUNE 27, 1949 – APRIL 4, 2019
Obituary of Judith "Judy" Foster

A gathering of friends and family will be held for Judith “Judy” Foster, 69, at Hill Crest Memorial Funeral Home on Saturday, April 6, 2019, between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Judy was born on June 27, 1949, in Hodge, LA and passed away on April 4, 2019. She was a 1967 graduate of Jonesboro Hodge High School and raised her family in the Haughton, LA area. Her greatest delight was her family and spending time with her nine grandchildren.

Judy is preceded in death by her sister, Tootie Vines; and her parents, Dwight Vines, Sr. and Marie Vines. Left to cherish her memory are her husband, Bob Foster; her children, Shannon Smith, Donna Freeman and husband Greg, Amy Anderson and husband Randy, and Lori Rhymes; and her grandchildren, Brad, Cody, Tucker, Liv, Marie, Sydney, Kylie, Landon, and Thad; five sisters and one brother.

The family would like to thank Judy’s home health nurse, Christie Jones and the ICU staff of Willis Knighton Bossier for their compassion and care.



Memorial Visitation

12:00 pm – 2:00 pm



601 Hwy 80
Haughton, Louisiana

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Obituary: George F. Graham Jr.

George F. Graham Jr. Obituary

George F. Graham Jr. passed away on Friday, March 29, 2019 at the age of 81.

George is preceded in death by his parents, George F. Graham Sr. and Hellen Marie Graham-Boutte; and his beloved wife of 48 years, Ione Nichols Graham. He is survived by his daughter, Connie G. Garnes (Timothy) of Madisonville, LA; grandson, Jordan Graham Martinez (Stacy); great-grandchildren, Mason and Presley; sister, Cindy Boutte Cannizzaro (Mike); brother, Nol A. Boutte (Terry); as well as many dear nieces, nephews, and cousins.

George proudly served his country as a member of the Louisiana Air National Guard, 122nd Fighter Group, Belle Chasse, LA from 1954-1958. He owned and trained thoroughbreds at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Track, Evangeline Race Track, Jefferson Downs, Suffolk Downs, Mountaineer Park and Delta Downs. George was also a Steward and Louisiana Racing Commission Association Judge for 38 years. He was also a contractor, and built many homes in Belle Chasse.

He will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Relatives and friends of the family are invited to a visitation beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Dr., Metairie, LA 70001. A Catholic Funeral Service will be held at 11:00 a.m. in the funeral home chapel. To express condolences, please visit

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Obituary: Jan Murrell

54362914_2247823165239047_4944113141358264320_nJanine Gilman Murrell passed away on Friday, March 22, 2019 at her home in Folsom, LA. She was born on January 5, 1954 in Shreveport, LA to the late Stanley L. Gilman and Grace Elaine Johnson Gilman.

Jan was the beloved wife of Val Charles Murrell for 44 years. She was the loving mother of Michelle Murrell LaVoice (Trey) and Jerold Marcus Murrell, DVM (Kate). Adoring MeMe to Elizabeth Grace LaVoice. She was the devoted sister to Babette Gilman Lanius (Malcom) and beloved aunt to Nicole Lanius Hoffmann (Raymond), Bridget Lanius Braud (Thomas), and Jonathan Marshall Lanius (Jessica). Cherished great aunt to Emma Rae Hoffmann and Leah Grace Braud. She is also survived by numerous cousins whom she loved dearly. She will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.

Jan graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelors Degree in Business. She worked as a dental hygienist through high school and college and then as the Office Manager for Clear Creek Stud Farm to present. She grew up riding and showing Quarter Horses in Dixie Garden in Shreveport, La. Jan treasured her church community and her many friends and family, and thoroughly enjoyed her precious time as a Grandmother to Elizabeth.

Relatives and friends are invited to the Memorial Service at First United Methodist Church of Covington, 203 N. Jefferson Ave., Covington, LA 70433 on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 3:00 PM with visitation from 2:00 PM until service time. Interment will take place on Friday, March 29, 2019 at 2:00 PM at Beech Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Beech Creek Church Rd., Olla, LA 71465. Visitation on Friday will be at Beech Creek Baptist Church beginning 1:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First United Methodist Church of Covington, Please Share a Memory on the Tribute Wall at

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Obituary: Peggy Joyce Peart Balentine

Peggy Joyce Peart Balentine Obituary

Peggy Joyce Peart Balentine

Benton, La – Funeral services celebrating the life of Peggy Joyce Peart Balentine will be held Thursday March 14, 2019 at 11 a.m. at Rose-Neath Funeral Home Bossier. Visitation will be Wednesday March 13, 2019 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Officiating will be Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk of Winners Circle Church and Pastor Destiny Deas of Northpoint Community Church. Interment will follow at Rose-Neath Cemetery.

Ms. Balentine passed away Friday March 8, 2019, in Bossier City, LA. She was born July 19, 1938, in Alexandria, LA, and was raised in Pineville, LA. Ms. Peggy was a resident of Bossier Parish for over 40 years. A childhood love of horses aspired her to achieve a successful career as one of the first licensed female racehorse trainers in the state of Louisiana as well as holding trainer licenses in Arkansas and Texas. Her talents for breeding and raising good horses didn’t stop at the racetrack, Ms. Peggy bred and raised numerous World Champion caliber barrel racing horses. An avid lover of agriculture and the outdoors Ms. Peggy always could be found outside raising livestock and tending to an always large and bountiful garden. One to never see anyone go without, she could always be found cooking and caring for those who needed a hand. Her famous gumbo, pecan pie and fruitcake will be greatly missed by all of those who had the privilege of eating at her table. As a 4-H livestock leader, Ms. Peggy helped youth from all over north Louisiana as well as her own grandchildren with livestock projects ranging from chickens, steers, lambs, goats and horses. She was a fixture each year at the State Fair of Louisiana helping teach kids life lessons through their livestock projects.

She was a loving mother of three children and is survived by daughter Pam Balentine McBeath and husband Carl, son Darrell Balentine and wife Tina, and daughter Rhonda Balentine. One of her most prized roles was “Granny” of 6 grandchildren Casey McBeath, Jessica Balentine, Hannah Balentine, Kendyl Balentine Tipton and husband Zach Tipton, Samuel “Sam” Balentine, and Darrell Balentine Jr., and one great-grandchild Ainsley Balentine, as well as numerous “adopted grandchildren”; sisters and brothers Clarice Pennington of Kolin, LA; Clarence L. “Sonny” Peart of LeCompte, LA; Wanda Faye Berry of Houston, TX; Beverly Peart Fox and husband Jerry Fox of Olathe, KS; and Greg Peart of Pineville, LA; and a host of nieces, nephews and extended family whom she loved.

She is preceded in death by her parents Clarence Alexander and Ruth Belgard Peart of Pineville, LA; sister Patsy Peart of Pineville, LA; sister Hattie Peart Savoie and brother-in-law Percy Savoie of Pineville, LA; and brother-in-law Rudy Berry of Houston, TX.

Honoring Ms. Peggy as pallbearers will be Bart Coleman, Casey McBeath, Clint DeLaune, Darrell Balentine Jr., Samuel “Sam” Balentine, Timmothy “Timmy” Peart Jr., Zach Tipton and Mike Leflett.

Serving as honorary pallbearers will be Mr. Ralph Balentine, C.L. “Puddin” Daniels, Clarence L. “Sonny” Peart, Greg Peart, Kerney Peart Jr, Carl McBeath, Darrell Balentine, Jerry Fox, Dr. Robert Hewlett, Mohamed Shamsie and members of the 4-H livestock community.

The family suggest in lieu of flowers memorials may be made to, Bossier Parish Riding Club, P.O. Box 203 Benton, LA 71006.

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Obituary: Ronald Perry Webb

Coushatta, LA – Funeral services for Ronald Perry Webb, 71, of Coushatta, LA will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Rockett-Nettles Funeral Home Chapel. Brother Wiley Cole will officiate. Interment will follow in Springville Cemetery, Coushatta. Visitation will be held from 6:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. on Tuesday March 5, 2019 at the funeral home.

Ronald was born July 22, 1947 in Shreveport, LA, raised in Coushatta, LA and passed away at home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. He was preceded in death by his parents, Vernon and Annie Mae Brown Webb and one brother, Douglas Webb. He is survived by two brothers, Ralph Webb and wife Jan of Monroe, and Sandy Webb of Coushatta; three sisters, Judy Huckabay, Virginia Webb, and Elizabeth Perkins and husband John all of Coushatta; sister-in-law, Jana Webb of Coushatta; and numerous nieces and nephews.

After graduating from Coushatta High School, Ronald completed a degree in Agriculture at Louisiana State Universitybefore beginning work at the Farmers Home Administration. He worked at offices in Oak Grove, Oakdale, Natchitoches, and Coushatta, LA. After leaving the FHA, Ronald farmed and helped care for his parents. He attended Hanna Baptist Church in earlier times and was the Church song leader for several years.

Ronald was a horseman and member of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the Red River Street Rod Association. Ronald loved horses and was a successful breeder and owner of stakes winning horses. He said he was the only poor man to have two $100,000 race winners on the same day (Hot Zapper and Sea Vow in 2015). Ronald was well-known for picking up tickets for a lot of meals in the local eating establishments. His family and friends will miss him, his stories, and his sense of humor.

Pallbearers will be his nephews Ray Spruill, Jeffrey Webb, Layne Huckabay, Dustin Webb, Jim Perkins, John Ralph Webb, Cody Webb, Jay Perkins, Chase Burns, and Cole Hinds.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to Shriner’s Hospital, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607; Springville Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 1023, Coushatta LA 71019; or the charity of your choice.

Published in Shreveport Times on Mar. 5, 2019

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Obituary: Martin Anthony Spindel DVM

Martin Anthony Spindel DVM Obituary

On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, Dr. Martin “Doc” Anthony Spindel passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 88. He was born September 13, 1930 to Edward Robert Spindel and Mildred Blanchard Spindel, and was a lifelong resident of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 55 years, Patricia McWilliams Spindel, and sibling Joyce Mary Ann Spindel. Survived by children Brian M. Spindel (Cathy), Allison S. Travers (Tom), Kimberly S. Perniciaro and Marcia S. Weilenman (Chris); Grandchildren Denise Matthews (Craig), Paul Romig (Lindsey), Michelle Stacey (Xavier), Robin Goodin (Roland), Quentin Sierra (Dara), Jordan Perniciaro (Olivia), Ryan Schneider (Chris), and Zack Weilenman; Great Grandchildren Fable, Jack, CJ, Carmen, Kalina, Jet, Jax, Oakley and Keaton. Doc Spindel received his BS in Microbiology from Louisiana State University, and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Oklahoma State University. He practiced Equine – large animal medicine in New Orleans until his retirement, including many years as track vet at the Fair Grounds and Jefferson Downs. After retiring Doc enjoyed volunteer open hearth cooking at area historic sites and plantation homes. The Spindel family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the community of River Ridge for their support and friendship, especially to the Harahan Senior Center and Mr. Po Boy! There will be a private graveside service with his children and grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, Doc wished for donations to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine ( Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences (

Published in The Times-Picayune from Feb. 22 to Feb. 24, 2019

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