NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Surrounded by her closest family, Vondra Mack Sampson can’t find comfort.
“They always say do you need something? Do you need something? And you know what I tell them? You keep asking me if I need something, if you can bring Joe back, I’d be alright,” says Sampson.
Vondra is still grappling to comprehend the loss of her husband, Joseph Sampson. Sampson died Saturday evening, struck and killed by Endymion float number 14 near Canal Street and Galvez Street.
“To see his body under the float just laying down. I kept saying, ‘He’s not moving.’ I tell myself he’s not moving. I knew he was gone. I know. I knew he was gone.”
Sampson was the father of three adult children and two grandkids. A provider, Vondra says, who always put her and their family first.
“He loved me. He loved his children and he loved his family. And it’s hard. It’s really hard to let go.”
For Vondra, Sampson is irreplaceable, a giving, generous man who played by the rules but knew how to have a good time.
“Joes is a happy man. He enjoyed himself. Everybody loved him. Everybody.”
“My uncle Joe was the life of the party,” says niece Kyriante Henry. “Whenever Joe walked in the door, you knew it was gonna be a good time. He love to dance. I was a swing out partner. We always be second lining together.”
Sampson second lined with the Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
“He come downstairs with that suit on and showing his shoes and stuff, smiling down. Second line and that’s what he loved,” says Vondra.
Vondra says Sampson also loved Carnival, but the two hadn’t planned to attend Saturday night’s parade. When they met up, along with their daughter Melissa, Vondra remembers warning Sampson to stay close.
“He was right in front of me because I told him don’t run behind any floats. That’s what I told him and he said, ‘No I’m not gonna do that. I don’t know. I’m gonna stay right here by you.’”
His family suspects the allure of a toy for one of his grandkids spurred Sampson to make a move.
“He reached for it and was going along with the float reaching for whatever he had. When he reached, by the time he got a little further down from where I was standing he was under the float,” says Sampson’s daughter Melissa Mack. “He lost his balance.”
“It’s really devastating the way he left,” says Henry. “We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
While Vondra puts trust in her faith she and her family admit there’s now and emptiness that can never be filled.
“Ain’t nobody can take the place of him. Nobody. Can’t be another Joe.”
Vondra says Joseph was working to get life insurance through his employer when he was killed before completing the process.
Joseph’s family has set up a GoFundMe to help give him a proper burial.