Thibodaux police are investigating a Monday morning suicide at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center that claimed the life of a local TV personality and businessman.
According to Chief Bryan Zeringue, Tony Fontenot, 59, of Schriever shot himself to death shortly before 7:30 a.m. with a small-caliber weapon in one of the hospital’s public bathrooms.
“Basically he went to the hospital and walked into the restroom near the emergency room area and shot himself,” Zeringue said. “It’s unfortunate, but people commit suicide around this time of the year for a number of reasons.”
Fontenot was the host of the fishing show “Castin’ Cajun” and was the owner of Cajun Home Improvements in Schriever.
Born March 18, 1958, in Ville Platte, Fontenot co-hosted “Sportsman’s Paradise” on HTV-10 for more than 20 years and later found success with his own show, which featured 26 episodes per year on various channels throughout the region.
Each show featured a fishing segment — normally freshwater, saltwater or offshore — a cooking segment and a Cajun joke segment when the credits rolled.
In a 2014 interview, Fontenot said the goal of the show was to help promote the area, give back to the community and have fun in the process.
“We mix in fishing, food and entertainment, and we try and get people down here so they can spend money and experience our lifestyle,” Fontenot said. “The show is really growing. Our Facebook page has almost 19,000 fans, and we have people from all over the United States who comment. We are also considering expanding to Canada and Europe.”
News of Fontenot’s death sent shockwaves and disbelief through the local angler community. Dr. Lee Grafton co-hosted multiple fishing shows with Fontenot, whom he considered a close friend.
“It was a blast working with him,” Grafton said. “Tony was always upbeat and had a joke to tell at the drop of a hat. He never met a stranger. Everybody seemed to know who he was and everyone liked him. He was a great guy.”
Grafton said the last time he spoke to Fontenot was through a text message last week.
“He wanted me and my little boy to go fishing over Thanksgiving break, but we were going deer hunting in Kansas,” Grafton said. “When I killed a deer and my little boy killed a buffalo I sent him the pictures and he said, ‘Great memories. Great father-and-son trip.’ That’s the last time I talked to him.”
News of Fontenot’s suicide caused Grafton to reflect on his friend’s demeanor over the past several weeks.
“My first thought was did I miss something?” Grafton said. “Should I have tried harder to find out what was bothering him? Could I have made a difference? I noticed he kind of seemed a little down and off-kilter during the last two or three months. But he would get that way every now and then and come out of it. I know he recently sold all of his guns, but I figured he just needed some extra money. He did the same thing five or six years ago, so I didn’t think much of it.”
Thibodaux police declined to comment on whether Fontenot left a suicide note. The incident remains under investigation.
Fontenot leaves behind a wife, daughter, son and three granddaughters.
According to the latest data collected, there were 42,773 reported suicides in the U.S. in 2014. For more information about suicide or to seek immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.