HOUMA — Gabrielle Hebert’s friends lined either side of the altar at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral Thursday, boys on the right, girls on the left.
The teens surrounded Hebert’s parents, Rachel and Todd Hebert, standing as groomsmen and bridesmaids for the wedding 17-year-old Gabrielle would never have.
Gabrielle and fellow Vandebilt Catholic High School students James Cantrelle III, Ian Haydel and Megan Hitt were killed early Sunday morning when the pickup they were riding in crashed into St. Louis Canal.
The Courier and Daily Comet offered each family the option of having a photographer and reporter attend the funerals because of the outpouring of sympathy from the community. Haydel’s funeral was held Wednesday at the cathedral, though a relative told a reporter the family did not desire media at the service. Cantrelle’s funeral was Thursday in Raceland and Hitt’s was scheduled for today, also at St. Francis.
Gabrielle was loved by her friends, family said.
“She was a beautiful little girl, full of life, and we were blessed to have her as a daughter,” said Rachel Hebert. “She touched everyone, her family, cousins and friends. God, she loved her friends.”
Hundreds filled St. Francis de Sales Cathedral to say goodbye to Gabrielle. The church was decorated with pictures of her life, poster boards and photo albums that portrayed a brightly smiling girl full of joy and enthusiasm.
It was that “joie de vivre” that the Very Rev. Vicente DeLa Cruz said family and friends of Gabrielle should take with them, a love of God and life that would help her to live on.
“Gabrielle would not want to be remembered as someone whose life ended in a bayou,” DeLa Cruz said. “She would want to be remembered as someone who lived on in each of us.”
Gabrielle was a senior at Vandebilt and a member of the school’s cheerleading squad. She loved music, dancing and fashion. She knew the words to every song, said friend and fellow cheerleader Emma Whitney, a sophomore at Vandebilt.
Vandebilt cheerleaders helped DeLa Cruz cover the casket with a piece of cloth that symbolized unity of Vandebilt Catholic High School and the Christian faith.
“She was always happy. She had the prettiest smile,” said Vandebilt High cheerleader Kristen Walker. “She’s the kind of person who would always make you laugh if you were having a bad day. We feel like Gabby’s trying to keep us strong.”
The girls said that the atmosphere at Vandebilt has been quiet since the accident.
“Our hearts are kind of frozen right now,” said Ben Robichaux, a close friend and pallbearer at Gabrielle’s funeral.
Pallbearers Robichaux, Michael Thompson, Michael Safley, Jordan Breaux, Mason Barker, Jacob Ourso, McCall Walker, Charles Babin and Dean Babin were some of Gabrielle’s closest friends, family said. The boys described Gabrielle as “the life of the party.”
“She’ll be missed by all,” Walker said, describing her as a “little sister.”
“She was easy to talk to,” Thompson said. “She was the kind of girl you’d marry.”