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Local News

May 13, 2013

“Cajun DaVinci” Don Chance dies

— Local artist Don Chance, best known for his Cajun artwork, wildlife paintings and Hill Country western themed art, has died.

James Donald “Don” Chance, 80, died Saturday at Cypress Glen Nursing Home after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

His art is well known and appreciated in the area and the man behind the art is as well liked as his paintings.

Couples spin on the dance floor at Larry’s French Market and Cajun Restaurant with a backdrop of Cajun inspired scenes painted on murals at the local hot-spot and his work has even fallen into the hands of artists and musicians.  

Larry Judice, owner of Larry’s, called Chance the “Cajun DaVinci.”

“He was a good friend of the family and he and his (deceased) wife Sylvia would shop here back when we had the store,” Judice said of his businesses which began in 1978. “We’d talk and we came up with the idea of having  murals with the atmosphere of a Cajun family.”

Judice gave Chance a photo of his Louisiana duck camp and Chance used it to create a mural. Hurricane Ike has since destroyed the duck camp but Judice now has the mural as a permanent reminder of those good times.

Chance was considered a fun loving person who played a small prank on a person who came to the French Market to watch his progress on a scene from Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Bay. The person remarked to Chance on a daily basis that was placing too many reptiles in the painting so Chance told him he placed a raccoon in the painting and would give him $100 if he found it.

“The guy came by every day for a week to look,” he said with a laugh. “Later, when Don came in I asked him where the ‘coon was and he was it wasn’t there.”

But it is the man behind the paint brush that influenced others.

Chance was a music fan as well and became friends with Jo-El Sonnier, Hunter Hayes and his family.

Leo Hayes, Hunter Hayes’ father, said there aren’t many people who could bring joy like Don Chance.

“Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn’t like, well Don never met a person who didn’t like him,” Hayes said. “My encounters with him have left a lasting impression and when I have a tough day or a bad day I think of Don.”

The Hayes family met Chance during the Gueydon Duck Festival one year when Hunter Hayes was performing and the families struck a fast friendship.

Chance did a pencil sketch of Hunter and later a painting of the Louisiana born Country music artist; Hayes said the artwork is hanging in the family home.

The Hayes family and Chances’ spent several weekends together fishing on Toledo Bend; precious memories for Hayes.

“You don’t get to meet very many people like that in your life,” he said. “He gives whatever you need in life and not ask for anything in return. He was just that type of fellow. When you encountered him you knew he was going to be your friend.”

Chance’s old friend John Devillier of Groves found “The Neches Express” newsletter at Texaco Chemical dated October 1985 that featured Chance. The newsletter tells that actors Burt Reynolds and Glenn Ford owned painting by Chance as well as country and western singers George Jones and Mel Tillis. Chance’s work has been on display in galleries across the U.S.

On the front cover of the newsletter was a pencil sketch done by Chance of a tree and barn. Through the years Chance’s work just became better, he said.

Donna Chance, one of Chance’s children, said her father was the type of person who never met a stranger and always had a smile on his face.

“We could travel on vacation to any part of the U.S. and he would find someone he knew. He had a charismatic way about him,” Donna Chance said.

Chance didn’t care to talk politics or listen to gossip and loved to live in the moment.

“He loved to tell Cajun jokes and was always looking for fun,” she said. “His artwork was his passion and he used his talent to meet people. His talent flourished because of his people skills. He could talk his way through anything, he had a gift of gab.”

The family has already put together two full scrapbooks of articles and photos of Chance which are now helping the family cope with their loss. Donna Chance harkened back to something she came across in one of the scrapbooks.

“He did a portrait of George Jones and gave it to him in 1983,” she said. “He (George Jones) had a place up in Colmesneil and they sent daddy tickets to visit there. We have a personal letter from George Jones’ secretary asking him to “come up and be our guest.”

Levingston Funeral Home in Groves is handling the services for Chance.

Chance is survived by three daughters, Donna Chance and husband Ricky Weaver of Smith Point, Jamie Floyd and husband Kevin of Port Arthur,  Catherine Renea Chance of Port Arthur; one son, James “Jay” Chance, Jr. and wife Patty of Bridge City; two brothers, Eugene Chance and Randy Chance both of Groves; and nine grandchildren.

Funeral services for Don Chance will be at noon Wednesday at Levingston Funeral Home in Groves with burial will follow at Greenlawn Memorial Park.

A visitation for family and friends will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the funeral home.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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