- August 9, 1937 - March 2, 2017
- New Orleans, Louisiana
of Constance's Passing
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New Orleans, Louisiana–Lifelong teacher, coach, principal, and friend Constance “Connie” Yeaton, 79, was lifted into the Lord’s embrace on Thursday, March 2nd, 2017. Having moved to NOLA in the mid 60’s, her family theorizes that as a passionate New Orleanian and as a faithful Catholic, she specifically waited until after Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday to fly to the other side of the horizon that she looked upon so often from her parade route residence.
If you’re a New Orleanian, chances are you, your kids, your cousin, or your momma or daddy were taught by Connie. She was an iconic principal, teacher, and coach in the City of New Orleans for over 40 years. After having taught at Martin Behrman School in Algiers, she became a teacher and administrative assistant at O. Perry Walker School, also in Algiers, where she was a founding faculty member. She served as principal of Livingston School in New Orleans East from 1976 to 1990 when she moved to become the principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School at Freret and Napoleon. After Hurricane Katrina, she was a key figure in the renewal and reopening of Andrew Wilson School in Broadmoor, serving as their first school board president.
When she retired from Livingston, The Times-Picayune wrote a feature article with the headline, “Principal Leaves A Legacy Of Helping Others Grow.” And perhaps that simple line captures Connie’s life essence. To her students, Connie was known as a tough, but approachable mentor with an unwavering mission to help each and every one grasp their potential–no matter what. Throughout her life, it was hard to travel anywhere with Connie in New Orleans–especially when “making groceries”–without a former student stopping her, thanking her, and hugging her for believing in them.
Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell has graciously established a scholarship in Connie’s name, to continue her legacy of helping New Orleans students and their families grow.
To teachers, Connie was a clear and hard-working leader, never intimidated by a challenge. While some principals would dread complaints about their decision-making, Connie not only welcomed it, she loved it! She saw every challenge as an opportunity to build an alliance. And it was this approach that made Connie one of the most effective principals in the City of New Orleans, being honored by the New Orleans City Council in 1989. One of her proudest points was training and mentoring roughly 26 principals in the region.
Connie was born on August 9, 1937, and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Few people know that Connie was an all-star softball pitcher receiving the “Best Pitcher in the State of Florida” title six years in a row. (She was also the Florida Yo-Yo Champion). She graduated with her undergraduate degree from Florida State University–where she received the FSU Athletics Award and is a lifetime member of the ‘F’ Club. She earned her graduate degrees at LSUNO.
Upon her graduation, Connie’s first teaching job was at Jean Ribault High School, a newly-organized African-American school in late 1950s Jacksonville. As a first-year teacher, she was immediately respected for her care, enthusiasm, and her signature approach of consistent praise with concurrent encouragement. This experience would be the foundation of Connie’s commitment to underserved youth and their families. While at Livingston School Connie established a class of students who were having difficulty in school and invited Patrick Taylor, a self-made millionaire and businessman, to speak to them. After asking them how many planned to go to college and seeing no response he rephrased his question to ask how many would attend if they were able to afford it. Every student raised their hand and at that moment the TOPS program was born. He made a promise that if they graduated high school he would see to it that they had the opportunity to attend college in Louisiana. Connie was extremely proud of establishing opportunity for all students in Louisiana.
Connie loved McDonald’s soft serve vanilla ice cream, Mickey Mouse, the Saints, and her godchildren.
In the warmth of Heaven’s light, Connie is joining her father and mother, Elmer Aloyne Yeaton and Pauline Walker Yeaton. She is welcomed by her siblings Barbara Goss, Harry Yeaton, Howard Yeaton, her nieces Cindy and Diane and her nephews, Craig and Michael. Chairing the heavenly welcome committee will be Fr. Bob Napier and Minnie “Cookie” Finley.
She is survived by Sheila Thomas, her nieces and nephews Rick, Roger Paul, Aaron, Cathy, Susie, Howard Jr., William, and Jim. And the children of her heart (her godchildren), Colleen, Aija, Alex, Lily, Tommy, Quentin, and Nicolas.
Throughout Connie’s life, she had angels who used their education in medical science to care for her comfort. The family expresses its deepest gratitude to those who served Connie so tenderly: Touro Hospital Staff, Dr. Frank Cruz, Sr., Dr. Ellen Zakris, Dr. Leonard Glade, Dr. Scott Sonnier, all of their nurses and staff, and to Lakeside Hospice, Denise Faucheaux, Martha Hawkins, and Connie’s gentle caregiver Elizabeth Johnson.
Connie’s legacy will be honored on Friday, March 10th at Lake Lawn Funeral Home. Visitation will begin at 11:00 am with a 1:00 pm mass celebrated by Msgr. John Cisewski. A gravesite ceremony will follow for any who wish to attend.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests that donations be made in Connie Yeaton’s name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (jdrf.org), the Girl Scouts of the USA (GirlScouts.org), or the American Cancer Society (CancerSocietyOfAmerica.org).
While her physical presence will be memorialized and celebrated, Connie’s spectacular impact and influence will be carried like seeds in the wind, growing in a wide landscape of lives.