In Memoriam: Randy “Possum” Ledet

By former Parole Project Reentry Specialist Ardic Fields

One thing that I quickly learned in prison was that many people aren’t known by their given names. Some acquire nicknames based on where they work, a physical description, who they hang around with, or what they do. But more often and more importantly, many people’s identities are based on who they have become while in prison.

Randy Ledet, known as “Possum,” was incarcerated at Angola for 50 years. He wasn’t a mountain of a man – standing at 5’4″ and weighing about 150 pounds soaking wet. But as a member of the Angola Rodeo Rough Riders group for 35 years, he was best identified as an Angola Cowboy.

Randy had the demeanor of an old cowboy – ornery, cantankerous, and stubborn. He broke many horses and branded many cattle. Some would say he was the best at his craft.

He walked into the Parole Project office after his release bowlegged, like he had just got off a horse, sporting an Angola Rodeo belt buckle nearly bigger than him. “They should have let me know that I was going to be released today,” he said as if he was upset. I asked him if he wanted to go back and wait until tomorrow. He grew a joyful grin on his face and said, “Nope, I neva wanna see that place again!”

This was the beginning of a friendship that I will never forget.

Possum never wanted to go anywhere. But I insisted that he experience things like going to the mall and going out to eat. I brought him to try new foods that neither of us got to enjoy before or during our incarceration. He was always a good sport but was content with simple comforts like red beans and rice, gumbo, or cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches.

I took Possum to the hospital when he was diagnosed with leukemia. The emergency room staff could not believe he was walking. They told him that most people with results like his would be on a stretcher. It seemed that he had mentally normalized being short of breath and thought he was just getting old.

In true cowboy fashion, Possum vowed to fight. He was a man that touched everyone he met. The nurses loved him, and his dry, quick wit humor could brighten the darkest days. His prison stories of the old days touched hearts and made many laugh. When asked to provide emergency or family contacts, he quickly replied, “Anyone from Parole Project is my family.”

One thing he told me when he talked openly about his condition was that he didn’t want to die in prison – he got his wish!

Through him, I realized that being a case manager was more than a job. Sometimes you’re a person’s lifeline and a bridge between the past and the present. Randy Ledet never quite learned how to use modern technology, but there is no doubt that he built a social network and will be missed by many.

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