Phyllis Landrieu, a businesswoman and activist whose causes included health care, education and the rights of children — along with a healthy dose of politics — died Saturday at Touro Infirmary. She was 86.
The cause of death has not been determined, her daughter Judy Landrieu Klein said.
Landrieu was “a woman of steel,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement, describing Landrieu as “a passionate champion for our children and for early childhood education.”
The mother of 10 children, Landrieu was an unstinting advocate of early childhood education and children’s health. She also founded her own public-relations agency and was active in politics, serving as the first woman leader of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She was a friend of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
“She was just an amazing bundle of joy and had a special force about her, but it was a joyful force,” former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a niece, said. “She approached everything with passion and vigor and energy.”
Landrieu became a passionate advocate for children’s well-being after the deaths of her sons Stephen and Scott, Klein said, explaining that her mother took on that cause as a way to work through her grief. Her work resulted in the creation of the Health and Education Alliance of Louisiana; she was its founding president.
Calling her work with that organization “an opportunity out of the darkness,” Landrieu wrote: “If I could relieve some child’s suffering, I could relieve some … of mine. Little by little, it worked. Every day, I keep moving in the direction of the children. There are so many children suffering, as I am, with pain and disappointment. In helping them, I am helping myself.”
“She was not exempt