Faith carried coach through final difficult days

By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports

As a couple, they went to Disney World 18 times from 2012 to 2018.

But, since Rick Gaille passed on July 1 of last year, his wife Elaine has not been back.

“Not now,” said Elaine. “Maybe someday.”

The former St. James High school football coach was 67 when God called him home.

In 1993, Gaille converted to Catholicism. Rick and Elaine soon signed up for adoration at Ascension of Our Lord Church in LaPlace. They were there, at 5 a.m., every Thursday.

Like clockwork.

Faith carried Rick through the final year of his life.

When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he knew his tumor was growing, he would hold his St. Jude prayer card to his chest. On Saturday mornings, Rick would arrive for our “Three Tailgaters” radio show, and he was chipper, no matter what.

He had an explanation as to why he was matter of fact, even for a man who was basically handed a death sentence.

“How could I tell my players to look adversity right in eye, and I not do the same?” said Gaille.

Elaine said there was a scientific diagnosis, and there was faith.

“Rick believed so much, no matter how ominous the diagnosis,” she said.

Gaille was a fighter, all the way to his final days. In late June of last year, Rick’s partners on the “Three Tailgaters” show arrived for a visit.

He was so weak he could barely speak. But, right in the middle of our conversation, he stunned Ken Trahan and me. He gathered the strength to stand up and then move his feet.

It was a remarkable moment. Elaine said Rick did the same thing the next day on a visit from former St. James player Shane Kleinert.

A few days later, he was gone.

In the last year, and in the last months of Rick’s life, he taught us all so much about courage and attitude.

In October 2017, Rick almost died. He was suffering from a very high fever.

But, days later, when Elaine and Rick sold their condo in Bucktown, Rick was at the closing.

“I could not believe he was there,” said Elaine.

The best moments of his coaching career came at St.  James High School. Before Rick arrived in 1992, the school’s once-proud football program had gone sideways.

A few years later, driving down River Road, cars were parked up and down the levee, as fans packed the stadium to watch the Wildcats play Evangel in the state playoffs.

Rick was responsible for each and every one of those cars jammed atop that levee.

“He never gave up,” said Elaine. “He never believed he was beaten by anything.”

One year after he left us, Rick Gaille is still very much, here.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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