Jailhouse dedicated to Charles "Chalou" Trepagnier

Logan Ridenour
A recreation of Chalou's office desk on display.

Charles "Chalou" Trepagnier and the old Donaldsonville Jailhouse are now and forever linked. The late Chief of Police Charles Trepagnier ran the jailhouse and even resided in it with his family. Now it continues to be a home for his legacy.

Members of the Donaldsonville community came together for a dedication ceremony in Trepagnier's honor. Among the crowd were generations of family members and locals who remembered him fondly as "Chalou."

Trepagnier was born in Churchville, Louisiana to Sicilian-born parents on March 12, 1906. During his 52 -year career with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, he earned a great number of accomplishments.

Among them was being the first person of Italian descent to become a peace officer in Ascension Parish and becoming the youngest Deputy Sheriff in Ascension Parish history at 18.

He continued to seek knowledge and understanding of the laws he was enforcing, even as he moved through the ranks. During his time as an officer his popularity continued to grow, making the name "Chalou" well known in the community.

Mayor Leroy Sullivan was present at the dedication and he spoke of a particular memory as a young child and hearing Chalou's voice over the police radio. He described a dispute between his father and an officer over the selling of newspapers.

"There used to be Muslims who would come to Donaldsonville, and they would sell their newspapers," Mayor Sullivan said. "When a police officer told them they couldn't sell their papers, his father stepped in and was arrested as well.

"Over the radio came this voice of Mr. Chalou Trepagnier, and he told the officer, 'I told them that they could sell those newspapers in the city of Donaldsonville,'" Mayor Sullivan said. "And by the time his father made it to the jail, Trepagnier had the paperwork ready for his release."

This memory is one insight into the impact and care that Trepagnier had for his community.

"And how many times people would come to the house and he was trying to take a nap, and they wouldn't see anybody else but Mr. Chalou. He never turned anybody away regardless of whether it was his time on or off. So he was always on," Rosemary Trepagnier-Simoneaux, the youngest daughter of Trepagnier, said.

There were several years where Trepagnier even lived in the jail with his family, until Rosemary was three-and-a-half years old. As a man who fully served the community, he was a key participant in several historical events in Donaldsonville.

He led a march to protest the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., to ensure a peaceful outcome. He helped round up German prisoners who had escaped during World War II, and he aided railroad detectives in locating boxcar thieves.

Rosemary attributed some of her father's success to his ability to remain firm and fair in situations. "He didn't have to say something twice. You knew he meant what he said," she said.

But naturally as his youngest daughter, she witnessed his lighter side. "I saw the inner gentleness of my dad," she said. reflecting on instances where she'd stand on his feet while dancing to the radio, or when they would play cards together.

Now, if you visit the newly renamed Charles "Chalou" Trepagnier Jailhouse you can see the jail cells and the life of Trepagnier paralleled and present within the same space.

"I feel like it's so deserving to him, because he really gave his whole life to law-enforcement," Trepagnier-Simoneaux said.

The jailhouse was built in 1867 and is the second oldest building in Donaldsonville that is still standing.