New Orleans Jazz Funeral Parade Highlights Ron Fleming's Birthday Celebration



Gathering before the parade

We can’t think of many souls who would possess the creativity or wherewithal to dream up such an elaborate, fanciful escapade, but Ronald Lee Fleming has always distinguished himself as a creative and romantic thinker, constructing whimsical architectural “follies” on the lawn of his Bellevue Avenue estate and hosting musicale-themed events where his guests must “sing for their supper.”


Part of an extended 3-day 70th birthday celebration for the host, 2011’s “New Orleans Jazz Funeral Parade” down Bellevue Avenue was, in fact, a reprisal of a similar parade which Ron had hosted in Boston twenty years prior, to celebrate his 50th. Newport Seen, however, had never experienced anything like it, and we suspect that for the majority of our fellow Newporters, sauntering down Bellevue Avenue in parasols and straw hats to the music of a full jazz orchestra was a novel experience!

Lisa Goddard and Rip Irving

Ron assembled a sizable group of hearty, adventurous friends from far and near (hopefully with sensibly-clad feet) to constitute the birthday parade. Men were asked to sport “white or light suits with bow ties, straws if you have them” and black dresses for the ladies (per traditional New Orleans funeral custom). Guests included John and Jae French, Tom and Lisa Goddard, Kathy, Pierre, and Rip Irving, Peter and Eaddo Kiernan, Kimberly Jones-Skeen and sons Max and Alex, Ginny and Jim Purviance, Victoria Mele, Bing and Betsy West, Sandra OurusoffKim Herrlinger, David Ford, Bettie Pardee, and a host of others.  Ron’s three children, Severine, Sienna, and Reynolds Fleming also joined in the parade, along with many of their friends.

Guests were transported by trolley from the Bailey’s Beach Club parking lot to the courtyard of Fleming’s house, where they sipped Pimm’s Cups or water as the Boston-based “Louisiana-style” jazz band warmed up for what would be a more than two-mile walk to their final destination. Fortunately, Ron had planned many quick stops along the way at the lovely homes of several of his gracious Bellevue Avenue friends and neighbors. Miramar provided an especially stunning view of the ocean as the sun sank lower in the sky.

Trolley arrival

The host was presented with a wreath of white roses, which he wore dutifully throughout the parade. Police cars were on hand to divert traffic when the procession needed to cross the street, and the spectacle attracted a great degree of gaping, waving, laughter, and photo-taking by curious tourists, as well as several hopeful pedicab drivers eager to provide a break to weary walkers in exchange for tips. Perhaps many onlookers wondered if they had been magically transported back to  Newport's Gilded Age somehow, for such an unusual and spirited jaunt had an almost cinematic quality to it, and certainly felt like a scene from another time; it was also fortunate that the weather was clearly in cahoots with Ron and his plans.

After their long trek across town, guests were more than ready to relax with a drink and barbecue at Bailey’s Beach, where they met up with many others who had been less eager to complete the two-mile venture but who still wished to enjoy a gorgeous sunset over the water and celebrate Ron’s birthday.

                                                                                          -- Amanda M. Grosvenor



Harriet Higgins & Thom Flohr


Modeling parasols

Betsy West & friend

Alexander Skeen & Kimberly Skeen-Jones

Rip, Kathy & Pierre Irving

Franklin Brewer Conaway & Sunne Savage

Pimm's Cup

Pointing to the parade route

Getting together for a group photo

Group photo

Ron tips his hat

Group photo

Reveler & Rob Cushman

Ron Fleming & friends

Jae & John French, Bing & Betsy West

Heidi Hatry & Deborah Moncure

The parade begins!

A penny-farthing bicycle adds a whimsical touch

Strolling along Bellevue Avenue

Ginny and Jim Purviance

Birthday parade

Victoria Mele & her impressive parasol!

Siena von Tscharner Fleming accompanies her father

Enjoying the parade

Nancy Grosvenor

Terry Grosvenor, Rick Grosvenor & friends are all smiles

Birthday parade

Stopping along the way


The jazz band

Eager pedicabs congregate

Another quick stop in the parade

Ron Fleming and Sandra Ourusoff share a dance

Sharing a dance

Jazz band plays

Enjoying a brief respite

Horns playing

Enjoying the parade

Yet another stop

Gorgeous roses

Passing by the Astors' Beechwood


On the terrace of Miramar


A stunning view near Ledge Road

The parade is almost over as the sun begins to set

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