MADISONVILLE, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds, including many sporting black and gold T-shirts, showed up at St. Anselm Catholic Church on Friday to pay their final respects to former New Orleans Saints player Hokie Gajan, who lost his battle with cancer this week.
And for many who showed up, it was not a somber occasion – they say Gajan wanted it that way. It was a day when many of the formalities were intentionally kicked aside, as the Who Dat Nation paused to remember Gajan, who lived life to the fullest.
"This is what he required us to wear. When he and was on his deathbed he asked us to wear this. Of course, my mother decided to wear a dress, and it's going to rain I think. The rest of us are how he asked us to be," said Gajan's daughter, Jennifer Mier, who had on a black "Hokie Tough" T-shirt.
"We walked in with our ties on and they told us take us, 'take your ties off, Hokie said no ties.' So it's a celebration of a great man," said Greg Bensel, Sr. Vice of Communications and Broadcasting for the New Orleans Saints.
People came from all over to the north shore church, including Saints head coach Sean Payton and former Saints player Deuce McAllister.
Gajan's funeral was on the same day a visitation was held for former Saints player Will Smith, who was shot and killed in New Orleans April 9.
"It's been a tough week for the Saints family, you know with Will and with Hokie. If you string all the years that Hokie was with the Saints, he's with over 32, 33 years as a scout, player and now the color analyst, you know," Bensel said.
Gajan played five seasons with the Saints, but a serious knee injury sidelined his football career. He went on to become a spirited color analyst for the Saints radio broadcasts and was known for telling like it is.
"It's a very sad day, but it's also a great day to celebrate his life. I've worked with him on his radio broadcast for 15 years, and we've become great friends," said Robert Carroll, a co-worker of Gajan at WWL Radio.
Saints play-by-play announcer and FOX 8 sports commentator Jim Henderson said Gajan would have given a thumbs-up to the fashion in which he was remembered.
"Hokie would never be described as a clothes horse. In fact, I think to Hokie formal wear was a black fishing shirt, so this is in tribute to him. He never wanted to wear a tie, he protested against wearing hard shoes," said Henderson.
And while Gajan lost his battle with a rare form of cancer, family members said his legacy lives on.
"He was a pretty big role model to me, and he taught me a lot of things about hunting and fishing and just life itself, because he was such a great man and such a sports player," said his nephew, Jeremy Gajan.
Gajan is survived by his wife and four daughters.