Hall C of the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner was decked out with a funeral display befitting royalty on Friday morning. Which, in a way, Ed Muniz was. The self-made music radio business mogul served as Kenner mayor and Jefferson Parish Council president at the height of New Orleans’ suburban expansion.

But the bespectacled man lying in the coffin, surrounded by dozens of bouquets, tall Corinthian columns, flags and magnolia leaf bunting, may be best remembered as the founder of the spectacular Endymion parade, arguably the brightest, most modern of all of the city’s Carnival processions.

Muniz died last week at 83, after suffering declining health and dementia in recent years.

Friends, family and acquaintances filed somberly before Muniz one last time on Friday, exchanging greetings as they bid farewell.

His wife, Peggy, sat beside the coffin, with other family members standing nearby.

By 11 a.m., an hour after the visitation had begun, hundreds of mourners were present, forming a line that wrapped around the hall. Current Kenner Mayor Michael Glaser paid his respects, as did former Parish President Tim Coulon, former Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway, Jefferson Parish businessman and philanthropist Henry Shane, WGNO broadcaster Ed Daniels, Krewe of Endymion president Dan Kelly, former Rex James Reiss III and others.

In his customary cowboy hat, cowboy shoes and shades, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. stood out among those bidding farewell to Muniz. The zydeco star said that years ago he’d been introduced to Muniz by float builder Blaine Kern, who told the Endymion captain “you gotta meet this kid.”

Dopsie said that Muniz subsequently hired him to play at Endymion events and other gigs thereafter. The musician said they'd "hit it off."

Many of the mourners were gray-haired representatives of an earlier era, when the Edymion parade was not a well-established institution. Like Bacchus and Tucks, Endymion arose in the 1960s as an alternative to the old-line krewes, where membership was sometimes confined to the social elite.

In his day, Muniz was an upstart who helped make a neighborhood parade into a phenomenon. In tribute to his triumph, several krewes, including Iris, Proteus and Morpheus, sent elaborate bouquets.

The Kenner police officers who stood sentry on each side of Muniz’s remains periodically performed a ceremonial changing of the guard.

At the back of the hall stood an array of photographs from Muniz’s life, including the celebrities he’d met, among them Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and singer Dolly Parton.

As the four-hour visitation came to an end, the crowd found seats for a liturgy and tributes.

Muniz’s four grandchildren took turns at the microphone to reminisce. They explained that according to family lore, their grandfather was devoted to Carnival from childhood — so much so that he lined up his toy trucks to form his own miniature parade long before the enormous Endymion procession ever rolled through the streets.

The grandkids noted his devotion to Destin, Florida; his proclivity for playing music loudly and singing along, and the benefits of having been born into the Endymion family. As one of the young women put it, “What other grandfather could make you a queen?”

Muniz’s son-in-law Jim Hanzo, a radio producer, affectionately recalled Muniz’s whirlwind, hands-on business style. Hanzo called Muniz the “ringmaster of a three-ring circus.”

Float builder Barry Kern recalled Muniz’s restless quest for whatever was bigger and better in parading, including the mammoth, nine-section “Pontchartrain Beach” float that features a sculpture of Peggy.

Former Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni recalled the Orleans Parish police strike in 1979 that forced the Endymion parade to temporarily relocate to Kenner and introduced Muniz to Kenner politics.

Endymion president Kelly, who’d known Muniz for 53 years, joked that the rest of us might live in the Central time zone. But during Carnival time, those in Endymion circles lived in the Muniz time zone.

Voice quavering with emotion, Kelly recalled that as the floats of the Endymion parade lurched into motion each year, he and Muniz would exchange a salute. With that, Kelly saluted his old friend one last time.

The service ended with tears, prayers, Sinatra singing "My Way," and, finally, a brass band blaring “I’ll Fly Away,” as Muniz’s coffin rolled from the hall to a waiting hearse, as men in Endymion costumes danced and a crowd followed. 

Interment was private.


Email Doug MacCash at dmaccash@theadvocate.com. Follow him on Instagram at dougmaccash, on Twitter at Doug MacCash and on Facebook at Douglas James MacCash