Montegut, LA- World renowned, South Louisiana duck carver Jon Claude “Bill” Dufrene was found dead in his Montegut, La. work shop early Saturday morning. No foul play is expected but oddly noted was his prize carvings strategically displayed in order by the years in which he achieved his premiere successes.
His wife of 51 years, Madeleine, said, “He had been feeling under the weather but when he got up Saturday, everything seemed okay. I mean, he first was his ornery self but then I served him his Captain Crunch. Oh, he loved Captain Crunch, being a Navy man for all them years. I went check on him ‘bout 11:30 in the shed, for his lunch, and that’s when I found him dead. I called the 911 but I think he was gone because he always quickly turned off the TV when I came in. That and he had a sly, wicked smile on his face.”
Jon Claude first received recognition as a duck caller in West Monroe, Louisiana. He was a young friend with the now famous Phillip Robertson of the Duck Commander Duck Calls and reality television show Duck Dynasty. Rumor has it that at the state duck calling competition as boys, Jon Claude was a clear winner, but Phillip got the first prize. When the two young men were on stage to receive the blue and red ribbons a fight ensued, Jon Claude taking an extreme shot to the mouth. Jon Claude’s lip was split and required stitches. After removing those stitches, Jon Claude had a massive scar and because of that injury he couldn’t achieve the sound he needed to call ducks. Jon Claude bitterly quit the sport. Some say he would never be the same.
But, the love of water fowl hunting consumed him. He picked up a knife and paint brush and started to carve while watching the PBS painter Bob Ross on TV, learning the strokes needed to be “happy, happy, happy.” Something he coined on the microphone that night at that fateful competition as a boy.
He started winning numerous local, state, and national duck carving contests and in 1995 voted top five in the world, his forte being the bill, thus, the nickname. His peers would say that he always achieved the perfect duck bill. He was quoted after a long night of drinking at BJ’s Lounge, “Man, it’s the part the duck talks with, damn it. The curves, the seamless line into the face, you gotta get that right. Let’s say the duck wanted to call people. He’d use a people call, right? But if his bill ain't right, if he can't communicate, he can't speak to his people friends, his buddies as a boy. Look, I love making all my special little birds but I can’t talk to them, not the right way. Damn it, you don’t understand. I can’t use that telepathy.”
The locals loved him, too, always going to shows and giving pointers, never too tired to speak to the young people to inspire and keep the art of duck carving alive, and never too afraid to take his prize carvings out in the field.
Jon Claude once said, “At dawn, with the sun coming up, I like to look at my art work out on the pond. I imagine they could fly, take off with the others that came in. Well, the one’s that didn’t get shot. They would fly, high and away, and come back next year, my friends that I created, with their perfect little bills. They’ll speak to me, tell me of their adventures, and I’ll understand. Sometimes I cry at night because I can’t answer their questions.”
Services will be Tuesday.