John Earl DeVillier

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020

John Earl DeVillier peacefully passed away Sunday morning at the desk of his Capitol Blvd. home in Groves.

A month short of his 91st birthday, John spent most of his life under the same pecan trees that also shaded his first home, built on Jefferson  by his dad and granddad in 1926.

John loved sports.

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He ran some on the Port Neches track team (prior to it becoming PN-G) and even had a short fling at boxing.

When asthma blocked his progress, John took to a notepad and typewriter to become a sports writer.

While attending Lamar  Junior College he began his newspaper career at the  Beaumont Enterprise at the age of 18.

Two years later in 1956 he was lured to the Port Arthur News by sports editor Dick Oliver.

Most of his chronicling of area high school and college sports over the next  33 years was done on moonlighting hours while  simultaneously  working at Huntsman Chemical.

He started at the Highway 366 facility, then known as Jeff Chem, as a labor hand.

He served a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, including an assignment to a Signal Corps company in Germany.

Upon returning to the plant, John worked as a lab technician before being promoted to shift

John’s final 20 years at Huntsman was as Employee Benefits Supervisor in Human Resources.

He was appointed to the supervisory committee of the Neches Federal Credit Union in 1970.

In typical John DeVillier fashion, he took the assignment to heart.

Decision-making with colleagues was vital, but he always sprinkled business with cheer and good will for 50 years.

John will be remembered by players, coaches and fans for his Mid-County Scoreboard column in the Port Arthur News and countless game stories of the Indians, Bulldogs and Lamar Cardinals.

Fellow retirees of Huntsman will remember him for his wise counsel on insurance and investment issues, which continued long after his early retirement in 1988.

John’s family will cherish memories  of his encouraging smile, strong faith convictions and tales of days gone by.

Many of his musings were compiled by niece  Amanda McLauchlin in a booklet entitled Walking the Sidelines……and Beyond with Poppa John.

He will be missed by many at Magnolia Manor, where he faithfully made daily visits  for over three years with the love of his life, Barbara Travis Echels DeVillier.

In addition to Barbara, many residents of the Manor were cheered by John’s presence as he joined the lunch crowd, passing out newspapers and wheeling  folks around.

Poppa John collapsed three weeks ago while shopping at the Groves Walmart, only to be revived by an alert and determined Jeanine Louviere, who had just entered the store.

Jeanine brought him back to life with 15-20 chest compressions.

After a week in the hospital, John continued recovery at home under the watchful eyes of daughters Eileen, Terry  and Donna and granddaughter Amy.

Progress, however, was hampered by a long-standing struggle with COPD and lung damage from asbestos.

With the knowledge of John’s continued concern for his loved ones and many friends, a private family service will be held Friday under the direction of Levingston Funeral Home in Groves.

Father Dan Malain will officiate.

Like John, the semi-retired priest shared in a love of sports and the young folks we cheered as fans.

A public memorial service may be held at a later date.

John is survived by Barbara, his wife of 48 years; son Louis of Nashville, Tn., daughters Donna (Bruce) Garrett, Coppell, Tx., Sue (Hector) Autry, Norborne, Mo., Terry  (Crow)  Thibodeaux, Groves, and Eileen (Gordy) Schell, Columbia, S.C.; grandchildren Sherry Crowson, Jarret Milford, Kelly Lassiter, Matthew Garrett, Regan Eilhauer, Jim Thibodeaux, Alex Autry, Amy Thibodeaux and Michael Thibodeaux; great-grandchildren Corey and Ashlee Milford, Brielle and Julia Thibodeaux, Jackson and Keller Garrett, Regan and Crindon Thibodeaux, and Spencer and Sidney Eilhauer; brothers Charles (Rosi) DeVillier of El Paso, and Russ (Beth) DeVillier, Nederland, and many nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents, John C. and Aline Saucier  DeVillier, son Andy DeVillier, daughter Brenda Milford, and sister Mary Louise Wells John was an ambassador for the Groves Chamber of Commerce.

Memorial gift suggestions are to the donor’s charity of choice or the city’s beautification committee.