Catherine Brandt Cordilla at the age of 89 completed her life and her commitments to family and loved ones on July 26, 2018. She passed peacefully from the arms and home of loving family and into the arms of the Lord. Catherine is preceded in death by the husband she cherished, Edwin Anthony Cordilla, mother Agnes Phelan Brandt, father Edward Brandt, sister Rita Brandt Gullo, brothers, Edward Brandt, Richard Brandt and Robert Brandt. She was the last of her generation.
Our beloved Mimi was a lifelong resident of the New Orleans area and grew up in the Irish Channel. She is survived by six children: Germaine Dalo, Edwin John Cordilla, Michael Cordilla, Kathleen Barletta, Theresa Cordilla Saacks and Paulette Whitaker; 14 grandchildren; Kaitlin Saacks Trahan, Michael Saacks, Santino Cordilla, Dominic Cordilla, Tommy Cordilla, Joey Cordilla, Cole Hernandez, Penelope Whitaker, Brandt Whitaker, Anthony Pitzer, Lauren Barletta, Joe Barletta, Tony Barletta, Ryan Barletta; as well as six great-grandchildren and soon to be 7, Tommy Cordilla, Eli Cordilla, Oliver Cordilla, Aiden Trahan, Courtney Judge and Trinity Pitzer.
For those of you reading this, and are blessed to have a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister or friend that you love and hold in the highest regard, if you knew Mimi you would value her equally so.
Catherine was born on March 30, 1929, in a place and time when people really didn’t have much. Her family had less than most. Before school she would help a neighbor get her children up, fed and ready for the day. It was help given to a neighbor in need, not a job. She was 11 or 12 years old at the time. As a very young teenager she was ready and willing to fight a girl in Clay Square, as this particular girl showed too much interest in her childhood sweetheart. Five or six years later, her sweetheart and only sweetheart she would ever know, got promoted to husband and later our father. At 18 she suddenly lost her little brother, two years her junior. The event was tragic for the family. Catherine and her mom were devastated. Robert’s death took something from them that could never, ever be replaced. From 1953 through 1967 Catherine gave birth to six children. Sometime around 1985 she was renamed from Catherine to Mimi by a grandchild. Our family accepted the child’s decision.
Mimi practiced her beliefs. Above all she valued her Catholic faith and family. As long as she was able to attend Mass on a regular basis, she did that with a passion. Her faith was instilled by her mother, also an Alzheimer patient, whom she lovingly cared for in our home for 13 years.
Mimi was devoted to her husband, her family and others in need. She loved to bring the entire family together every Sunday for dinner. She typed countless term papers and reports for her school aged children on a huge, red, IBM Selectric typewriter, usually the night before they needed to be turned in. If you asked her how to spell a word or its meaning she would tell you to look it up. Our parents paid “good money” for their children’s education and as such there were no rewards for good grades or for doing what you should be doing in the first place. Mom enjoyed sewing, especially with and for her four daughters. Our dining room table was often filled with cloth expertly pinned to paper dress patterns, a red pincushion, Tailor scissors, and little jars of pearls and buttons to be hand sewn.
The years 1973 through 1975ish were extremely difficult for Mom and our family of nine, as Dad was critically injured while on Active Duty. Dad spent months in Intensive Care and then well over a year having multiple surgeries at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, where military men were treated. She made daily trips to be with him, all the while taking care of her children and her mother. Several times we thought we would lose Dad. Mom truly had the weight of the world on her shoulders. One can only imagine her fear for her family and how we could make it without him. She kept us going forward, doing what must be done, never sharing her fears or giving into self-pity and never, ever complaining. Thankfully Dad recovered; Mom managed both the finances and Dad back to health and the family moved on.
With the exception of a Great Dane that our dad brought home, she never made us return the dogs we showed up with, and that’s kind of funny as no one can remember her ever holding or petting any of them. Mom did not like to eat-out as she would say, “I have food at home”. Mom was kind, intelligent and logical, always observant of one’s actions compared to their words. She called almost weekly to say hi and make sure everyone was okay. She always, always, called you on your birthday. She showed unconditional love to all and especially children. From 1984 through 2014 most of her grandchildren, too young to attend school, spent their days with her, playing games, learning colors, numbers and the alphabet, never watching TV; it was not a job for her.
Mom was positive and non-judgmental. She put others before herself. She never asked anything of anyone. She gave while expected nothing in return. A cash reward is offered to anyone who can prove she ever used the word “hate” in reference to anyone or anything. She would not entertain rumor or gossip. She did not value material things and harbored no jealously or resentment to those who did. She believed in proudly displaying her grandchildren’s art and photographs throughout her home. Travel was to assist a loved one, but never for a vacation. From an early age she was deaf in her left ear. For years she suffered from debilitating migraines. Sometime in her late 40’s the migraines just went away. She did not like to shop or watch television. She believed in having her own thoughts and opinions and the right to keep both to herself. Mimi never raised her voice in anger. She loved all of her children equally. When challenged that there was no such thing as a six-way tie, she got serious and tried to explain that in a large family, different children need different kinds of help and attention for different reasons at different times, and when there is not enough of your dad and I to go around we expect you to help each other. “That’s why I have a big family dinner every Sunday to try to keep the family close. You know we won’t be around forever,” she said. Mom and Dad never argued in front of us, “We took drives to work it out before coming home,” she once explained. Mimi could rock a standard transmission, didn’t know how to swim, and had never been on a motorcycle.
Later in life when Alzheimer’s steadily erased her memories and the familiar, replacing them with fear and insecurity, obsessively compelling her to go to a home she had not lived in for over 70 years, to urgently care for people, long in the care of the Lord, she managed to retain the core of her being. She was kind and thoughtful of others to the end. She would offer care givers her bed because they looked tired, urged them not to lift her tiny body as they might hurt themselves. Her response to anything given or done on her behalf was either “I thank you” or “I thank you kindly”. Any request included the word “please”. Every night, after her Glaucoma eye drops and before the light went out she would say, “thank you for taking care of me”. Yes, every night. If she heard anyone speaking ill of others, she would immediately chastise you with “that’s not nice”.
Often, she could be amazingly witty and to the point. She regularly argued with a logic that would make you immediately concede and laugh at yourself for the loss, as you really didn’t see it coming. For example, one day Jay greeted her with a kiss and, “How are you today princess”? Her immediate response was, “Not well, yesterday you called me queen”. On another occasion, she was told we don’t need a “back-seat-driver”, instantly she came to her own defense saying, “then why did you put me back here”. Not long ago she surprised the hell out of everyone by speaking fluent Spanish at dinner. She compulsively folded her blanket and read written words and road signs out loud. Her daily obsessions were going to church, going to school, rain, did you see her mother today and where’s TC. She would cleverly sneak food to the dog that knew her as an easy mark. She liked to tickle people or show them her knuckles, ask them to feel how cold her hands were. From her walker, then wheelchair, she never failed to ask Theresa if she needed help bringing in the groceries, unloading the dishwasher, cleaning or folding clothes. In an odd way, Alzheimer’s was kind to Mom, as she never had to mourn the loss of her loved ones, they were somewhere just out of sight and needing her immediate care.
Forever would have been too soon to lose you Mimi.
The family would like to recognize and express their sincere appreciation to our sister Theresa Saacks Cordilla and her family; Michael, Kaitlin and Adam, Theresa’s fiancé Jay Hernandez and Jay’s son, Cole, for the years of care in their home and for the love, patience and laughter they showered on our mother daily. Theresa worked full time during the day and met Mom’s needs from when she got home till she went to bed. This was Theresa’s daily routine for over three years. Knowing how Mimi delighted in seeing her great-grandson, Aiden, Kailin and Adam made a habit of bringing him by for visits and play. Mimi’s grandson, Michael, was particularly adept at dressing her wounds, convincing and cajoling her into doing what she did not want to do but what needed to be done for her own good. Mimi and Cole had a nightly ritual of laughing over a bowl of ice cream with Hershey’s syrup on top. Jay regularly brought her flowers and included her in their outings, enriching her life. Caring for Mimi during the day was a challenge, putting her to bed took about an hour after which Theresa spent the rest of the night trying to get some sleep while listening for mom, worried she would fall, or try to leave the house. While it was not possible for everyone to be with Mom during her final days, she was never alone as Theresa and her family never left her bedside. We will never ever really know the extent of Theresa’s sacrifice or her love for our Mom.
We also express gratitude to her daytime companions; Merry Johnson, Samantha and Paulette Hall.
Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of Catherine’s life at JACOB SCHOEN & SON, 3827 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70119 on Friday, August 3, 2018. Visitation will begin at 9:00 am and continue until Mass time. Catholic Mass will be at 11:00 am. Burial at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery No. 2 will follow the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made in Catherine’s name to Order of the Alhambra, an organization dedicated helping disabled children.
Order of Alhambra, c/o Robert Stevens
3716 North Woodlawn Avenue
Metairie, Louisiana 70006.
To view and sign the family guestbook, please go to www.schoenfh.com.