The members/men of the DeLuca Group have a lot in common. They are all alumni of Archbishop Shaw High School, all revered their late teacher, Gretna native Dr. Gerald F. DeLuca, and all are “movers and shakers” who are successful at getting whatever job they choose done! 

The DeLuca Group was founded to recognize and remember Dr. DeLuca, who died in 2018. The group strives to maintain his memory and legacy of love and academic excellence at Shaw through fellowship and giving. Founders of the group include Gretna Councilman Jackie Berthelot ‘72, former La. St. Representative Joseph F. Toomy ’66 and retired Federal Magistrate Judge Jay Wilkinson ‘73.

Other members include Mike Paternostro ‘73, Dr. Mike Adams ‘73, John Randazzo ‘73, Audie Hymel ‘74, Jason Brown ‘92, Gus Crammond ‘73, Willie Marque ‘72, Terry Talamo ‘73, Rene Faucheux ’73 and Pat Pereira ’73.

“The DeLuca Group, while sharing wonderful fellowship, is making a difference in our community. Shaw is so blessed and appreciative to have some of the finest men in our community as alumni and supporters,” Principal M. Mark Williams ’85 said.

All Shaw alumni and other friends of Dr. DeLuca who want to preserve his memory are welcome to become a part of this energetic and resourceful group, simply by contacting Jackie Berthelot at jberthelot1028@aol.com or Jay Wilkinson at jayw4918@icloud.com.

Born in 1938, Gerald F. DeLuca was a native of McDonoghville, a neighborhood of Gretna. He was a member of the last graduating class of Gretna High School and a lifelong resident of Gretna and Terrytown whose academic achievements included earning a doctorate degree in education at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers.

“He was an academic prodigy who excelled in all things scholastic, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, English, Spanish, writing and school administration and became a Westbank educational icon,” Jay Wilkinson ‘73 said. 

Dr. DeLuca, who was inducted into the Shaw Hall of Fame in 2019, was a mentor, counselor, friend and role model who paid individualized attention to his students’ lives and contributed to their development into men. He was a beloved member of Shaw’s 1962 founding faculty who later became Shaw’s Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs. He served as Co-Principal in 1973-74 and later Provost of Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers.

“Those of us in Shaw’s first graduating class in 1966 were the first to use the then “new” Chemistry Lab in our last semester. Just as he had with other subjects, Dr. DeLuca demonstrated an extensive knowledge of chemistry and as always he commanded every student’s full attention,” Joe Toomy ’66 said.

Even beyond his time at Shaw and retirement from Holy Cross College, especially after a serious heart attack and stroke in 1999 left him physically disabled but as intellectually strong as ever, some of his students remained DeLuca’s friends. The group played small stakes poker games and shared dinner in DeLuca’s home at least once a month.

They took him out of his house, in his wheelchair accompanied by his oxygen tanks, to enjoy outings and social events, like meetings of the Gretna Historical Society, Pelicans games and the annual Christmas luncheon. At the end of his life, with his wife in a nursing home and no close surviving family, group members became his caretakers, seeing to his needs during his final hospital and hospice stay and planning his funeral Mass at St. Anthony Church in Gretna.  

“The DeLuca Group is near and dear to me because I loved DeLuca and he tied us all to Shaw. We want to see DeLuca’s memory and our alma mater advance in excellence for a long time to come,” Jackie Berthelot ’72 said.

A big endeavor of the DeLuca group early on was a donation totaling about $30,000 to fund the first scholarship and to update Shaw’s chemistry lab with state-of-the-art infrastructure, supplies and equipment. The star of the lab is the donated $1,000 (PCR) Polymerase Chain Reaction machine, also known as a thermocycler or DNA amplifier. The funding also allowed the establishment of an added curriculum, the Forensic Chemistry Course. The lab was appropriately named the Gerald F. DeLuca Chemistry Lab. 

The Forensic Science Course at Shaw has proven to be a highly successful elective, especially for students who might be interested in a law enforcement career, offered in both the fall and spring semesters. Students analyze gathered evidence and follow lab-based forensic science protocol to a scientific conclusion.

From crime scenes to analyzing shell casings, to blood splatter and correct legal chain of evidence procedure, students gain unlimited experience while using chemistry and math in a new and innovative way not seen in regular classes.

Students actually get to run tests on their own DNA. How cool is that?  

The DNA analysis is possible due to the high tech PCR machine. The students focus on proteins in the later part of the study that intensify the development of advanced chemistry and biochemistry skills. They build cases with or without DNA evidence to place a suspect at a crime scene. The study of proteins is also used to authenticate the source of origin of material gathered at a crime scene.  

Shaw students in the forensics course take a whole semester to obtain results, debunking the very idea that forensic science can be proven in a one hour television show. They learn to recognize the time and devotion it takes in law enforcement and other disciplines to correctly document every single bit of research.

The DeLuca Academic Advancement Fund was created in December 2019 with donations from a few members, including the Class of 1974, through Doug Calderera and Jerry Simoneaux, which donated $200 from its 45th class reunion for the new fund. With other donations received at the Christmas luncheon, the new fund had a start-up balance of $2,660 as of January 2020, which has now grown to about $6,000.

The fund is the group’s vehicle to raise, receive and direct donations to Archbishop Shaw High School to fund various programs such as,

1) The Dr. Gerald F. DeLuca Scholarship, awarded annually in amounts totaling at least $5,000 to one or more incoming eighth-graders whose elementary school grades and standardize tests scores show potential for academic excellence in math and science.

2) To continue to meet the infrastructure and equipment needs of Shaw’s Gerald F. DeLuca Chemistry Lab, including the Forensic Chemistry Program.

3) An endowment to generate future proceeds to sustain and increase the DeLuca scholarships and chemistry lab, its equipment and instructional programs.

The first DeLuca Scholarship winner in 2019 was Braden Cortez from St. Cletus School in Gretna who said, “Investing in the education of a young person is truly important. The person receiving the investment may be the one to find a cure for a disease or make other significant societal contributions.” 

In 2020, the fund grew to include three students, Carson Jeansonne from St. Cletus School and two students from Christ the King School in Terrytown, Stephen Houin and Patrick Strahan.

“Tuition costs have grown in Catholic schools as we have employed some of the most talented and mission driven individuals in our area.  The DeLuca group provides scholarship funds to deserving students who have shown evidence of academic tenacity and an aspiration to acquire a Catholic education.  The work of the DeLuca Group makes a private, Catholic education possible for some deserving students,” Principal Williams said.

“Moreover, the group has firmly influenced many of the students in the School. For example, when the DeLuca Group visited the School to deliver on their promise of building a new, modern chemistry laboratory, the students in AP Chemistry were delighted to see and meet the alumni.  One student remarked, “I hope to do those very same things when I am older,” Williams said.   

“The group’s current effort is to raise funds to buy a state-of-the-art Promethean Titanium Board and Chromebox, the latest technology in computerized instruction for use in the DeLuca Chemistry Lab. Total cost of the equipment is about $7,200, of which about $5,000 has already been collected or pledged, leaving another $2,200 for the group to reach its goal,” Jay Wilkinson said.  

The DeLuca Group accepts donations, either directly to the school in his name or to the Archbishop Shaw High School Alumni Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, for deposit in the Dr. Gerald F. DeLuca Academic Advancement Fund. The DeLuca Fund is a separate component of the Alumni Association’s various fund-raising efforts.

The annual DeLuca Group Christmas Luncheon held in December 2019 at Tony Mandina’s Restaurant in Gretna was a pleasant experience of camaraderie for all of the 40 or so Shaw men who attended.

Organized by Tony Baez ’73, the luncheon included special guests Coach Joe Zimmerman, former Shaw Assistant Principal/Guidance Counselor Dennis Coulon; Rev. Frank Carabello, 1973-74 co-principal with Dr. DeLuca, current Shaw Principal Dr. Mark Williams ’84 and the 2019 DeLuca Scholarship winner, Braden Cortez ‘24.

Sixty impoverished boys and girls received 2019 Christmas “boxes of joy” purchased with $2,040 in cash donations through its “Brother Dave’s Den” effort from attendees at the annual DeLuca Christmas luncheon. The gift packages included toiletries and toys for children who might otherwise receive no gifts for Christmas. Rene Faucheux ‘73 coordinated the gift purchases and delivery through Catholic Outreach Ministries.

To join the annual DeLuca Christmas Luncheon in December 2020, contact Tony Baez ‘73 at anthonybaez@bellsouth.net.

For more information about joining the DeLuca Group or to donate, including for the current Promethean equipment drive, go to http://www.archbishopshawalumni.com/deluca-group.html or contact Jackie Berthelot ‘72 at jberthelot1028@aol.com or Jay Wilkinson ’73 at jayw4918@icloud.com.

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