Ruth Bowman Suthon Boudreaux thumbnail

Ruth Bowman Suthon Boudreaux

Died: June 2, 2019

Ruth Bowman Suthon Boudreaux, who performed a strategic wartime task at the Standard Oil refinery in Baton Rouge in the 1940s and later raised four sons while working as the agent behind the city’s premier Big Band orchestra, died peacefully in her sleep at home on June 2 after a brief illness. She was 94. Ruth was the…read more

Ruth Bowman Suthon Boudreaux, who performed a strategic wartime task at the Standard Oil refinery in Baton Rouge in the 1940s and later raised four sons while working as the agent behind the city’s premier Big Band orchestra, died peacefully in her sleep at home on June 2 after a brief illness. She was 94. Ruth was the founder and sole employee of the Tone Booking Agency, which arranged the contracts, wrote the checks and managed the dozens musicians who performed for decades under the direction of her husband, John Landry “Buddy” Boudreaux. The couple met at Standard Oil after Buddy returned from service in the Army Air Corps in North Africa and Italy during World War II. Both were employed in the Yield & Cost division, a product-accounting arm of what was then North America’s largest oil refinery. Ruth had been hired at the plant, now part of Exxon-Mobil’s Baton Rouge Refinery, after graduating from Louisiana State University in 1944 at age 19. One of many women filling jobs vacated by men who went off to fight, she soon found herself thrust into the war effort as the gatekeeper of a military secret. The plant produced butadiene, a gas used in the production of synthetic rubber. When the war disrupted imports of natural rubber from plantations abroad, the U.S. armed forces turned to synthetic rubber to make tank treads and Jeep tires. That made butadiene a strategic material; details of its production became top secret. Federal inspectors arrived daily at the plant to record the volume of its butadiene production. The numbers, known only to a few managers, were entered into a ledger and locked in a vault. Ruth was entrusted with the combination; it was she who let the inspectors into the vault. Ruth was born on January 27, 1925, in New Orleans, the second of 10 children of Bessie Imogene Keen Suthon and Archibald Magill Suthon. Her father was a lawyer and Tulane University law professor who served as Louisiana’s deputy attorney general under Governor Sam Jones. As a student, Ruth often hung out in his office at the State Capitol doing her homework. The family lived at various times in New Orleans, Covington and Baton Rouge. Ruth graduated from Baton Rouge High School in 1941 and breezed through college in three years. She attended All Saints’ Episcopal College in Vicksburg, Mississippi, practiced ballet, and graduated from L.S.U., earning a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in French. In 1947 she gave up her job at Standard Oil, married Buddy and devoted her life to his music business and their family. They lived for two years in San Francisco while Buddy finished his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent the rest of their lives in Baton Rouge. They were married for 67 years. Buddy’s contribution as a jazz and Big Band leader to the Baton Rouge music scene is inseparable from Ruth’s. While he worked a day job at the refinery, she worked the phones, lining up musicians to play for Mardi Gras balls, dances, wedding receptions, riverboat parties, restaurant brunch crowds and debutant balls. Buddy’s bands provided high-quality backup that drew nationally known performers to the city. Depending on the occasion, Ruth could assemble a seven-piece Buddy Boudreaux Dance Band, a six-piece Buddy Boudreaux Jazz Ensemble, a four-piece XL-Accoustic Jazz Combo or a 16-piece Buddy Lee Orchestra. The largest of these, founded in 1973 with Lee Fortier, became the city’s best known Big Band. Buddy performed with his bands until the year before his death in 2015. Ruth was Buddy’s sounding board for musical arrangements and served as his assistant when Buddy led the Baton Rouge chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. They kept hundreds of songs in their heads and sang them for hours during summer road trips with their sons to the musicians union’s national conventions. Her favorite: the 1940s hit “Begin the Beguine.” She was the quintessential soccer mom, decades before anyone used that term, supporting her sons’ scholastic, athletic and musical pursuits. All four earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Two became professional drummers, one a journalist, one a career Air Force and commercial pilot who played trumpet on the side. Ruth worshiped at St. James Episcopal Church and, after her conversion to Roman Catholicism, at Our Lady of Mercy. She is survived by sisters Jane Lovegrove, Marcia Pottle, Carolyn Crochet and Katherine Suthon; sons Richard Lee Boudreaux, Ronald Charles Boudreaux and Jeffrey Lynn Boudreaux; daughters-in-law Jan Will Boudreaux, Candice Hughes and Isabelle Begue; grandchildren Allison Walden, Josephine Boudreaux and Jeremy John Boudreaux; grandchildren-in-law Chris Walden, Evan Weinberg and Jessie Seahorn Boudreaux; and great-grandchildren Luke Walden, Lillian Walden and Eleanora Weinberg. She is preceded in death by her husband, three sisters, both brothers and a son, John Landry Boudreaux Jr. Visitation will be at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd., on Saturday, June 8, starting at 12 noon until services at the funeral home at 1:30 p.m., led by Deacon Richard Grant. Interment, next to Buddy, will follow on the grounds of Greenoaks Memorial Park.

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Service Information

Visitation Information

Date: Saturday, June 8, 2019

Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Rabenhorst Funeral Home East

Address:

11000 Florida Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70815

Service Information

Date: Saturday, June 8, 2019

Time: 1:30 pm -

Rabenhorst Funeral Home East

Address:

11000 Florida Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70815

Cemetery Information

Date: Saturday, June 8, 2019

Greenoaks Memorial Park

Address:

9595 Florida Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70815

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