Plaquemine ‘Gorilla Lady’ passes away; future of concrete gorilla in hands of next homeowner

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:14 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A woman known as the ‘Gorilla Lady’ over in Plaquemine has died.

The home on Eden Street now sits dormant, after Gayle Schwing died peacefully on September 2.

If you’ve ever driven on LA-1 through the city, you’ve definitely seen the 2000 lb. concrete gorilla decked out in costumes for practically any occasion.

“We had good conversations about what she (Gayle) wanted, and about the end of her life, how she wanted it to look. And I was so blessed to be a part of it. And part of that, was figuring out what we’re going to do with the gorilla,” said Renee Price, daughter of Gayle Schwing, known as the ‘Gorilla Lady.’

Price says her mom just absolutely loved that concrete gorilla in her front yard.

Gayle Schwing
Gayle Schwing(Amy Scott)

“It actually got mom out of a speeding ticket one time, when the officer found out where she lived. Oh my goodness, she was excited about that,” said Price.

The gorilla has become a fixture in Plaquemine, and for residents of Iberville Parish.

But, Mrs. Gayle wasn’t so sure about the massive gorilla at first, back in 2002.

“Dad wanted to buy a gorilla, so we were just kinda jacking him around a little bit, saying he would never really do it. And then the next week, it appeared. And like I said, my mother was furious. He got on tv again, and they did an interview with mom and dad. And the last thing dad said was, ‘I just bought it for her, so she’d have something to remember me by,’” said Price.

Less than a year after Gayle’s husband Ed put the gorilla down in her front yard, he passed away. The family put flowers all around the gorilla to remember him.

That’s when things changed...

“She got $5 in the mail from a sweet lady in White Castle, who didn’t know anything about the story, but just enjoyed the costumes and wanted to contribute to the making of the costumes. So it had a just profound impact, and after dad passed and she got all of these notes about just how much it meant, she really embraced it,” said Price.

The costume closet for the gorilla is packed, with basically a new outfit for every single holiday or season. Price even found a Batman Halloween costume recently.

“I discovered it in one of the drawers upstairs. It’s going to be something new, nobody’s ever seen. Pilgrim, Santa, it’s got a carnival costume, Easter costume, and it’s got swim trunks and sunglasses for the Summer. And it was all made by a local artist, Nancy,” said Price.

With Gayle’s passing, her family plans to sell the home.

But they know the memories she made for the whole community will remain.

“It’s going to be hard when I pass, and somebody else is living in the house, somebody else is decorating the gorilla, it’s going to be very hard. But, I’m hopeful that whoever gets it can breathe life back into all 6000 square feet of this house, and bring some joy and happiness. And continue the tradition that mom and dad started, that has become so important,” said Price.

The family does have a few backup plans just in case the new owner does not want to continue with the tradition of decorating the concrete gorilla.

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