Homer Bass Dyess

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    - Alicia Vidaurreta
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    - Scott Harris, LFLTA
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    - David Marcantel
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Homer Bass Dyess was born November 4, 1933 in Whitehaven, Arkansas, and passed away July 1, 2013 at his home in Baton Rouge after a brief battle with multiple myeloma. Homer was raised in Turrell, Arkansas, by his mother, Gladys Miller Dyess. In 1941 she was remarried to Herbert Matthews and they relocated first to California, then to Belle Chasse. He graduated from Belle Chasse High School in 1952 with honors and a full scholarship to study Education. In 1955 he graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. He returned home to Belle Chasse to teach French and English at Belle Chasse High School. He also sponsored the school's newspaper, yearbook, annual Senior Play and Mardi Gras Ball. In 1967, following further immersion study in French in Angers, France, he received a Master's Degree in French Education. In 2002, Homer was named the Distinguished Alumnus in the College of Education & Human Development at Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2005, he was named a "Golden Grad" on the 50th anniversary of his graduation from SLU. In 1969, Homer and his family relocated to Baton Rouge where he helped launched and was a founding member of the Board of Directors of CODOFIL (Council on the Development of French in Louisiana) within the Louisiana Department of Education. He was named Supervisor of Foreign Languages and Bilingual Education and later moved into the role of Director of Academic Support which involved not only foreign languages but also ESL, music, art, and instructional television. He is best known for his work with foreign and second language programs. His signature effort, CODOFIL, has been singled out for reintroducing the long-abandoned study of the French language in the state's secondary schools and has been credited with ushering in the renaissance of French culture and language in Louisiana. Fluent in French, Homer, over the years, successfully negotiated with the French government to hire hundreds of native French teachers to come to Louisiana and serve as CODOFIL instructors. He received numerous international awards from the governments of France, Belgium and Quebec for his involvement with the French movement in the state. He was made a member of the prestigious French Order of the Academic Palms (Odre des Palmes Academiques). Following the CODOFIL model, Homer, also fluent in Spanish, opened second language programs for adults in Spanish, Italian and even Hungarian, customized in the 1970s to meet the unique needs of isolated adult groups in the state who spoke those languages but had no access to instruction in English. In 1985 he was named a distinguished member of the Foreign Language Teachers Association; in 1994 he was cited for the Revival of the French Language in Louisiana on the 25th anniversary of CODOFIL. He was also instrumental in establishing ALCFES, the Louisiana Association of High School French clubs, which annually hosts a statewide convention and awards multiple scholarships for students to study in France, Belgium, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In 1985 he was named a Friend of French in Louisiana on Behalf of Youth for his work with ALCFES. In 1989, he moved from the Department of Education to Louisiana Public Broadcasting where he and his staff coordinated daytime educational programing for LPB. Before the advent of the internet, Homer helped establish the Satellite Educational Resource Center (SERC), a satellite-assisted long distance learning medium which connected Louisiana's secondary school students and their teachers with LPB's vast national data base of educational materials. He directed a grant writing team that was awarded competitive national grants resulting in Dr. Dad's PH3; a middle school science series and Environmental Tackle Box; and a multi-disciplinary series for teachers and students engaged in environmental science instruction. Because of Homer's career work with the French government, LPB had a special relationship with the French consulate in New Orleans which enabled LPB to host French interns and broadcast a locally produced series, En Francais. His flair for theatrical production enabled him to serve as mentor for many creative disciplines at LPB. In 1991, he received the Suncoast Regional Emmy Award as project director of LPB's "The ABC's of Spanish – El Alfabeto." In 1994, he received the Suncoast Regional Emmy Award as director of educational services for LPB's "Dr. Dad's PH3: Gas Laws" in the Children's Program Series. In 2000 he was named Chair Emeritus by the National Educational Telecommunications Association's Long-Distance Learning Program. Also in 2000 he received the Outstanding Leadership award for the National and Louisiana Development of the Long-Distance Learning Program. In addition to his devotion to family, his professional careers in foreign languages, at Louisiana Public Broadcasting and as a grants' consultant, Homer was a consummate movie buff and a stage actor, director and choreographer of considerable acclaim, winning numerous awards across the years. He was on the Baton Rouge Little Theater's Board of Governors, editor of BRLT's playbill and in 1974 received special recognition for service above and beyond for his work at the BRLT. In 1986 he was named Best Actor for the lead, Scottie, in Tribute by the BRLT. In addition to Tribute with BRLT, he also was in The Star- Spangled Girl, Forty Carats, Play it Again Sam, Hello Dolly, Murder Among Friends and 6 Rms Riv Vu. He began performing on stage in 1953 while at Southeastern Louisiana University as "George" in a production of Our Town. In the 1960s, his children fondly remember sessions in the family's living room as he recited dialogue, memorizing lines for his numerous performances. During this period he appeared with every community theater group in the New Orleans area. Among his plays were performances in: Good News, Laura, The Silver Whistle, Carousel, The Boyfriend, My Sister Eileen, A Street Car Named Desire, Bells are Ringing and Showboat. With Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre he appeared in Bye, Bye Birdie, Enter Laughing, Kiss Me Kate, and as Andy in The Star-Spangled Girl. Off stage, he served for three seasons as director of the Algiers' Little Theater, producing, among others, Summer and Smoke, The Time of the Cuckoo, Picnic, The Moon Is Blue and The Tender Trap. An accomplished choreographer, he choreographed productions of Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, Once Upon a Mattress and The Thurber Carnival. He was also seen as an extra in a number of movies and TV commercials filmed in the New Orleans area for the Motion Picture Association of New Orleans. One of the highlights of his commercial acting was a two-day stint in Jackson Square working with General Andrew Fabacher in one of the many Jax beer commercials. Following Homer's retirement from state service he formed a consultant company and, with two others, with a combined 65 years of experience, wrote and garnered funding for state, federal and foundation grants on behalf of educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Homer is survived by his wife of 60 years, Marion Bayhi Dyess, sister Dora Harberson and her husband, William Harberson, of Pensacola, Florida. He leaves behind four children: Norma Michaud, and her husband, Larry; Victoria Lewis and her husband, Rod ; Scott Dyess and his wife, Debbie; and Debra Masichuk and her husband, Greg; all of Baton Rouge. He is also survived by eleven grandchildren: Lauren and Armand Michaud and his wife Katy Ryan Michaud; Ben Lewis; Jennifer, Andrew, Mattie and Lacey Dyess ; Genna Schmidt and her husband, Ethan; Lindsay Southwick and Michael and Emily Fertitta -and one great-grandson, Koen Dyess. He is also mourned by many friends, neighbors, colleagues and former students. He is preceded in death by his parents, Gladys Matthews; his father, Homer Dyess, Sr.; his stepfather Herbert Matthews; his son, Jason Dyess and his sister, Norma Ann Dyess. Visitation is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, at Resthaven Funeral Home on Jefferson Highway, and will resume on Thursday, July 4 from 9:30 am until funeral services at 10 am. Donations may be made to Friends of LPB, St. John's United Methodist Church, Covenant House in New Orleans or Hospice Associates of Baton Rouge. Please visit www.resthavenbatonrouge.com to sign the online guestbook.
Published in TheAdvocate.com from July 2 to July 4, 2013
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