THOMAS P. “TOMMY” GODCHAUX, the former president of Godchaux’s Department Store on Canal Street, passed away on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at the age of 93.
Godchaux was an astute businessman and immersed himself in promoting commerce for New Orleans in general and his family’s store in particular. He was active in community affairs both in and out of the Jewish community of New Orleans.
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans, Godchaux graduated from Isidore Newman High School in 1942, briefly attending Lehigh University before volunteering to serve his country in the Army during World War II. He left active service in 1946.
Following his discharge, Godchaux attended Virginia Tech for several semesters, but returned to New Orleans in 1947 to begin what became a 41-year career at Godchaux’s. He worked his way up the family clothing store business, retiring as president of the company.
Godchaux enjoyed merchandising and was often on business trips, traveling across the globe to determine the latest in fashions.
During his tenure at Godchaux’s he also served on the boards and was president of the New Orleans Retail Merchants Association and the Specialty Stores Association of New York. He was also a member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
His Jewish community service involved him serving as a volunteer on both the boards of the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Welfare Fund.
Godchaux was an active board member of the Friends of Music, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the United Way, the National Association of Mental Health, the Louisiana Association of Mental Health, the Social Welfare Planning Council, the Mayor’s Human Relations Commission and the Xavier University Presidential Advisory Board. He was the first president of Total Community Action, which was the vehicle for the “War on Poverty” in the city during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Following his retirement and the erection of what at first was billed as the D-Day Museum, Godchaux began volunteering at the National World War II museum in 2000. He was passionate about his work there and believed strongly in educating younger generations about World War II. Some of his most valued friendships late in life came from those he made during his years associated with the museum.
He was predeceased by his wife of 55 years, Carolyn Kartus Godchaux, and by a son, Paul Nathan Godchaux. Survivors include his daughter, Beryl Dandridge (Ernie) of Herndon, Virginia; his son, Alan Godchaux (Kathleen Grady); three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A lay-led private service was held on Sunday morning , May 21 at Hebrew Rest Cemetery No. 3.
Donations in his honor to the National World War II Museum are preferred. Condolences may be expressed online at www.tharpsontheimerfh.com. Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home of Metairie is in charge of arrangements.