Edna Raphael Belle

Published 12:05 am Sunday, November 22, 2015

NATCHEZ — Service for Edna Raphael Belle., 101, who died Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Mays Landing, N.J., will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mary Basilica with the Rev. David O’Connor officiating.

Burial will follow at the Natchez City Cemetery under the direction of Laird Funeral Home.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until service time Tuesday at the church.

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Edna Raphael Belle was born Jan. 4, 1914, in Natchez, the daughter of Charles and Rose Raphael.

She had an unusually colorful life as a teenager — she attended and graduated from St. Joseph High School, where she was star forward on the basketball team.

As a teenager, she once swam the Mississippi River and received second prize for the race. Also during her teen years, Edna wrote and produced a play called “Celebrities on Parade,” it was brought back twice by popular demand at the Baker Grand Theater.

Edna graduated from Elizabeth Dunbar School of Expression, was a graduate of Treeby Poole School of Dancing and a graduate of Dominican College in New Orleans, where she majored in journalism. She was also a graduate of Connecticut School of Broadcasting, excelling in copywriting and programming.

Edna was an actress and dancer, working with such stars as Johnny Carson, Edward G. Robinson, Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, and others. She was selected the most photogenic dancer on Broadway and also voted Show Girl of the Year, good looking, good dancer and good girl. The following article was taken from a New York paper, “She is exotic, a magnetic center of her world – she retains all the humor and gaiety of spirit that has made her loved by everyone who knows her – she is more beautiful than ever and seems to be the most perfectly poised dancer in New York City – her interpretation of dance is artistic in a style all her own and as limpid as a running Stream! Her charm and freshness characterize her when she dances – she reveals a soul sensitive to natural beauty. Her name – Edna Raphael.”

But the highlight of her career was in 1953, when she reigned as queen of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She was the first and only non-resident of the city to ever have this great honor.

In 1967, Edna choreographed shows for the Montreal, Canada Expo 1967 – she also worked as a disk jockey and radio broadcaster.

In 1991, Edna married Gene Belle, an engineer from Lincoln, Mass., who was famous in his own right for making patents and inventions in aircraft.

Edna lived a very happy life and had many friends. She was quoted as saying, “I traveled all over the world searching for something that I found only when I came back to Natchez.”

Online condolences may be sent to lairdfh.com.