Melanie Hebert & Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – This year’s Rex and the Queen of Carnival will share the honor of a lifetime when they reign over the celebration on Fat Tuesday. Rex 2012 is New Orleans native Hardy Fowler. His queen is Ella Monsted Bright.
“I am honored and thrilled, I really am. This is an honor unlike any other that I have received,” Fowler.
Although Fowler grew up in New Orleans, he moved away during his high school years, but he made it back to Louisiana to attend LSU and then graduate school at Tulane University.
“I love LSU,” he said. “If you were to express it in the financial vernacular, you would say I'm over-invested in LSU.”
The financial vernacular comes from Fowler's accounting background. He is a CPA and was the former Office Managing Partner of KPMG New Orleans, where he worked for 35 years.
He has kept the financial statements and budgets for the Rex organization for several years. That's why it wasn't much of a surprise when the captain asked him to meet about forming an audit committee, although Fowler didn't think that was necessary.
“I'm wondering how I’m going tell him this without hurting his feelings,” Fowler joked. “I've served on audit committees. I know when you need one and when you don't.”
The meeting was really to surprise Fowler with an invitation to reign as King of Carnival.
“There's this table full of people and my reaction is 'Oh my gosh, we've got some terrible accounting problem, some Enron-type problem.' Fortunately it was a ruse.”
Fowler’s civic involvement includes serving as a board member, treasurer and executive committee member of the Bureau of Governmental Research. He has also been a board member of Lambeth House, Junior Achievement, Trinity Episcopal School and the LSU Athletic Foundation, among other causes.
He and his wife Ellie live in New Orleans. In his free time, Fowler is an avid hunter and fisherman.
He has been a member of Rex for 25 years. Both his children served on Rex courts, including his daughter, Annie, who was a maid in 2001; and son, Hardy III, who was a Duke in 2005. But Fowler himself is a first generation king.
“My dad was from a small town in Texas and he was not a member of the Rex organization,” said Fowler.
That's unlike this year’s queen, who comes from a long line of Rex royalty. Continuing her family tradition, Ella Bright will reign as queen this year.
Her great-great aunt, Elinor Bright Richardson, was Queen in 1920, the first Carnival held after World War I canceled the celebration. She viewed the 1920 parade at the Boston Club with a special guest – Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. For many years until her death in 1998, Richardson held the distinction of being the longest-surviving Queen of Carnival and an important link to the celebration’s past.
Ella Bright’s second cousin, Jane Yvonne White, was last year’s Queen of Carnival. Other family members have served as Dukes, Pages and Maids in the Rex court. A great-great-great uncle, William Mehle, was King in 1879. Her great-grandfather, Edgar A.G. Bright, served as Rex 1956, and a great-uncle, Robert Mogens Monsted, served as Rex 2004.
Bright is a junior at Southern Methodist University and a graduate of Metairie Park Country Day, where she attended school for 13 years.
“I grew up in the Garden District so I took the bus to school every day and then in seventh grade we moved out to Metairie and we started walking to school,” she said.
Bright played volleyball at Country Day and was an avid horseback rider.
She has something in common with Rex - she's studying accounting at SMU in Dallas.
“It's so funny. His wife said ‘Oh, you have something in common, you will have something to talk about all night since you spend a lot of time together.”
The crowned jewels Bright will wear are passed down every year, but the dress is her own.
“We started meeting with the dressmaker, Suzanne Perron in May,” Bright said. “We did some estimation and we think there's about 25,000 beads on the dress.”
Following her reign, Bright hopes to land an internship in New York where she also hopes to work after graduation. But then she plans to come back home.
“I don't think there's a better place that you could grow up. There's so many different things that you get to experience at all different ages and making my debut this year and doing all the Rex stuff is so much fun and it's a totally different way of seeing everything,” she said.