John Oswald Colson, age 84, was called home on October 5, 2022 in Natchitoches, LA. In his. early years he traveled between Natchitoches, Chicago and Los Angeles, eventually marrying. the love of his life, his late wife Janet Ravare Colson. Together, they made enormous strides in. the promotion and preservation of the Creole culture.
The epitome of a community gatekeeper, Oswald was responsible for bringing national. attention to the Cane River culture which he so cherished. Oswald, in his many special ways,. reached hundreds of students, scholars, and working people of Natchitoches Parish and. beyond. His life’s work has been a significant influence on the heritage tourism economy. His. mentorship has nurtured research and inspired careers. Numerous reports and studies on local. cultural resources and folk traditions bear contributions in his name, and the internet is strewn with pictures, videos, and articles dedicated to John Oswald Colson AKA the Filé Man.
Oswald’s sincerity to preservation and revitalization was contagious and anyone who was fortunate to spend time with him could soon find themselves inside a historic structure, on a. cultural landscape, or at the stool of any given riverside establishment. Known for his rides “down the river,” Os had a way of sharing his knowledge with you while he “made his rounds” which we’ll never forget.
Any given day hanging out with Os, you might accidentally learn an antique Creole language. term or stumble upon the ruins of a long lost bousillage Maison. And yes, you may have heard. that story two or three times before, but you better bet this time there will be some new part that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.
Those of us blessed to spend any time with Oswald Colson are better people because of it. One thing that separated Oswald’s friendship from others is the sincerity in which he invested in the relationship. He had a way of finding something in common with absolutely anyone. Rarely did he not “know someone you know,” and he could find a relative anywhere, with his patented way of explaining degrees of separation and how y’all are related! Oswald was tenacious in the maintenance of friendships and the way he valued people above all is a model we should all. consider.
John Oswald Colson was a renowned filé maker, tour guide, and oral historian and every day wore the Cane River Creole moniker like an ambassador’s badge of honor. His mother and. generations before carried the tradition through the years to provide filé for the Cane River community, and he followed to make filé for over 60 years. He was a returning participant of the Natchitoches-NSU Folklife Festival for years, demonstrating aspects of filé making for. festival patrons.
Much of the legacy of John Oswald Colson is thankfully preserved and his contributions are. well-documented. Colson’s namesake filé work is featured at the LA Sports Hall of Fame NW History Museum in Natchitoches; his recollections of Cane River life in the early 20th century, landmark structures like the Badin-Roque House, and happenings at legendary juke joints and dance halls have been documented in videos available via the National Park Service; he was featured in 64 Parishes Magazine, the Bitter Southerner, Gastro Obscura; and was highlighted. by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich.
Colson also contributed to projects and events for the Cane River Creole National Historical. Park, Cane River National Heritage Area, Creole Heritage Center, National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Smithsonian Institution, St. Augustine Historical Society, Louisiana State Parks, the Experience Louisiana Festival in Eunice, Creole Culture Day at Vermilionville, Kent House Sugar Day in Alexandria, the Sassafras Festival in Texas, and summer workshops for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of LA in Marksville. Colson was named a Louisiana Tradition Bearer in October of 2018. He is survived by his daughters; Teresa Colson Burns and husband Cody, Tracey Colson Antee and husband, Richie; his protégé and honorary son Dustin Fuqua; 6 grandchildren, Hope Kelly, Colson Fontenot, Madison Burns, Bailey Burns, Landon Fontenot, and Reese Burns. He was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first great-granddaughter Kennedy Kelly.
He is preceded in death by his wife of nearly 50 years, Janet Ravare Colson; parents, Milton Colson and Veronica Metoyer Colson; his sister, Mary Veronica Aaron and beloved cousins and friends.
A memorial mass will be held Monday, October 10th at 10am at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Natchitoches, LA. A reception will follow the service. Flowers are appreciated and donations will be accepted to establish the Oswald and Janet Colson Creole Scholarship Fund.