A blog by Lori Lyons

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Here Comes the Bride


Wearing a black dress and mom's veil. 

My little girl was in love.

There was this boy she got to hang out with just about every day, and she would come home to tell me all about the special things they did together. Usually, it involved watching The Wiggles, sharing snacks, and playing house at Ms. Sue's.

She was 3. I think he was 4. His name was Little Zac -- not to be confused with Big Zac.

One day, she told me all about the wedding she would have complete with her sisters and her best friend Carolyn as bridesmaids. When I asked her what color it would be, she rolled her eyes at me in the universal language of "Duh" and said, "Mom. Pink!"

Now my little girl is 22 and there really is a wedding on the horizon, but it definitely will not be pink. 

My grown-up girl is in love with a grown-up boy named Gavin, who proposed to her Saturday night at the annual Christmas lights display in New Orleans' City Park. It's the same place where her dad proposed to me 30 years ago this week, the day before our engagement party, which we scheduled to take place one year before our scheduled wedding date. It was a countdown. And rather than get down on one knee, he put me up on a carousel horse and stood beside it. 

Gavin did not duplicate his future father-in-law's clever feat, however, perhaps because he has seen my rather large collection of carousel horses to commemorate the event. For a moment, he considered doing it at the huge walk-in whale at the park's Storyland exhibit. But perhaps the image of a future collection of whales all over his house dissuaded him. 

Instead, he chose a lovely spot with a large collection of lit-up dandelions, which he may or may not have known is a special symbol for my girl and me. I bought both of us dandelion necklaces when she went off to college four years ago. Mine was the dandelion puff (Google says it's called a seedball); hers is the seeds flying away. It's a metaphor.

Anyways, before dropping to one knee and popping the question -- to which my beautiful girl replied, "What the fuck?" he knocked on our door to carry out the traditional act of asking her dad for her hand in marriage.

Of course, Dad wasn't home. The baseball coach was off doing baseball coach-y things at a local festival with a bunch of his team parents. There was loud music involved and much talking, so he did not hear his phone when I called him to try and make sure he did not miss out on such a momentous occasion.  Nor did he hear the second time. Nor the third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth, or seventh. There may have been more.

In desperation, I texted a few people I thought might be with him. One was not. Another did not answer. A third did answer with the reply, "He just left."

Also typical of my husband, he somehow switched off his Life 360, so I had no idea where he was or how far out he might be from home. Meanwhile, the groom-to-be was getting antsy. 

I tried to make conversation to kill some time.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

Oh, it was a joke! I mean, he knows how messy she is and how cranky she can be and how stressed she gets over work and money, and how much she spends on beauty products. They've been together for five years, since the summer she finished high school and swore she did not want a boyfriend right before she went away to college but, you know, stuff happens. And they made it through four years of her being a four-hour drive away and living in the dorms and the lockdown that came with Covid. 

But he wasn't there for her first days with us as we prayed that the woman who let us have her would let us keep her. She did, but I guess we always knew that it wouldn't be forever -- not really.  But back then we didn't want to think about the fact that one day some young man would come and sweep her off her feet and take her away to live with him instead of us. And we surely didn't think that he would move her into his house but that she would be leaving most of her stuff in her old bedroom for me to figure out what to do with it all.

And he wasn't there that day my little precocious 3-year-old told me all about the pink wedding she wanted to have.

 I can only wonder if he ever imagined the dark-haired beauty someday walking towards him in a white dress while her mom sobbed on the front row. 

And when he came to my door Saturday night, I don't think he imagined that his future mother-in-law would nearly blow the big surprise.

After her father and I gave our blessings, Gavin went off to pick up Lora and they headed off to City Park. I knew when they arrived because, unlike her dad, Lora does not disable her Life 360. So, with a sappy Hallmark Christmas movie on in the background, I waited for my daughter to make The Call to tell me "Ohmygodmomimengaged!!!"

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I stalked her on Life 360 as she -- they -- made their way around City Park, through Storyland, and the amusement park and, finally, the gardens.

And I waited.

Finally, I got a text with a lovely photo of them kissing near the dandelion lights. OK. It wasn't a phone call, but it was still the moment I was waiting for!

Or so I thought.

Oh Crap... What? Doesn't that look like THE MOMENT! But it wasn't. So now I have to cover! 

Then, holding my breath, I had to wait again.

And Gavin was sure taking his sweet time about it.


Whew! I didn't blow it! Gavin didn't mess it up. She said yes -- actually, I think she said "Duh!" after the "WTF."

And all is good!

So now my baby is getting married -- for real. The next day she went out and bought a wedding planner. And her dad and I are wondering if it's tacky to start a wedding GoFundMe. 

Just kidding. 


The happy ENGAGED couple!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

After The Game


Over my long career as a sports writer, I've been on more football fields than I can count in more tiny towns than I can remember.

Sometimes I would make my way onto the field before the game to say hello to the coaches and let them know I was there. Being 5-foot-2 1/2, I rarely watched the game from a sideline because it did me no good, but I did have to take a photo or two over the years. Most of my field time came after the final horn (or buzzer), in the minutes right after the clock ticked to 0:00 and the final score was in the books.

But what most people don't realize is, after the game is when the real action begins. I have known this all along, of course, I just never had much time to absorb it all. 

Being a reporter on a tight deadline, I usually had to run from one end of the field to the other to find a coach and a player or two to get quotes, then dash back up to row Z and the press box to type my story and fend off the mass of mosquitoes. It was many years before technology evolved to where it was more efficient to run to my car instead, where I had an air conditioner/heater, a car plug for my laptop and a cellphone that doubled as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

But now that I'm "just" a teacher and a just a fan with no post-game duties to worry about, I can take it all in.

Friday night I did just that.

I watched as our football coach gathered his sweaty, smelly players around him to praise their good work while, at the same time, reminding them that they still have much work to do. Around this inner circle was a bigger circle of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and girlfriends, waiting to give hugs to the smelly boys and smile for pictures that will be shared on Facebook.

Off to the side, the younger boys and girls who have been playing probably the more competitive game of two-hand touch in the end zone throughout the game have finally moved their contest onto the big field, with a lot more room to throw bombs to one another.

Over there is the guy who babies the field and probably spends more time on it than his own grass at home. He's cursing under his breath as he scoops up all the divots the two teams made with their cleats over the last two hours.

Somewhere is our principal, thankful that the game is over, that we won and no one got hurt while secretly hoping all these people start to make their way home soon so she can too.

Back in the "old days" there likely was a reporter -- or several -- chasing down the coaches and the stars of the game to get a quote or two for the newspaper or a soundbite for the Friday night football TV show. 

And over in the clearing is a dad following his toddler who is practicing their steps and trying to make a run for it. 

There have been times when I've been serenaded by bands. When I've had to wait for TV people to get out of my way. For brothers, biological or otherwise, to dry their tears after a big loss. For husbands to kiss their wives and children.

And not every school allows its fans to join its players on the field like we do. It's one of the things that is unique to our area and to our school. It's one of the things I've always loved about covering these games.

But on this night, I stood on the far sideline for quite some time watching all this post-game action, marveling at all the little scenes playing themselves out, wondering how many times I had been on a field just like this and missed it all because I had a job to do.

There is nothing quite like the rush of writing a story on deadline, adding up the stats and putting it all together into something people will read and maybe want to keep to show their kids and grandkids. There's nothing like coming up with the perfect lede (yes that is spelled correctly). 

But, then again, there's nothing like taking a step back and just taking it all in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

My Cousin, Beyonce

 Originally published on LouisianaGumbeaux

It's really hard to impress high school students.

Tell them you spent 30-plus years as a sportswriter for a major metro daily newspaper -- meh. You interviewed the likes of Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ed Reed, Justin Jefferson and Jarvis Landry -- eh. Tell them you were just inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame -- crickets.

But tell them you're related to Beyonce and they sit up and take notice!

"Really? Nuh-uh. Have you been to her house? Can you call her?"

Ha! Now I've got their attention!

I really am (probably) related to Beyonce Knowles, but I don't think we'll be doing any line dances at family weddings together or going to any family reunions anytime soon. There are a lot of degrees of separation between her and me and one of them is kind of iffy, but hey! A thread is a thread.

Follow along.

Beyonce is the sixth great-granddaughter of Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil, the legendary leader of the Acadian people who fought against the British in King George's War and the Seven Years War. The Acadians eventually lost, the British took over and began what came to be called Le Grand Derangement, during which many of our ancestors and their families were cast out of their lands and set adrift. Families were separated and sent on different ships to different shores, never to be reunited. Remember the story of Evangeline and Gabriel? 

Joseph Broussard eventually led a group of displaced Acadians to Louisiana, which was Spanish-owned at the time but French-friendly, and needed all the settlers it could get. The Acadians quickly acclimated to the bayou country and made it their new home. Then they had lots of baby Broussards. One of those, Armand Broussard,  eventually led to Beyonce. 

I am not a direct descendant of the legendary Beausoleil but probably of his brother, the lesser-known but just as ornery Alexandre Broussard dit Beausoleil. who hid in the Acadia woods for three years in resistance to the British with Joseph. He had 11 children before leaving Acadia with his wife, Marguerite Thibodeau, but did eventually make his way, first to Haiti, then to New Orleans, then to Pointe Coupee, and on to St. Martinville. Sadly, he and his wife died of the Plague shortly after their arrival in Louisiana in 1765. (It is believed they were exposed in Haiti.) 

My sixth great-grandmother was Marguerite Broussard, who was born in 1727 in Acadia. Some sources show her to be the daughter of Alexandre and Marguerite. The WikiTree, which is an open-source family tree, does not show her to be their daughter but has no parents listed. She definitely was a Broussard, though, and connected to Beausoleil's parents somehow. She married Helio (or Julien) Viaud around 1747. They both eventually made their way to Louisiana and are listed on the Wall of Names in St. Martinville, which lists more than 3,000 Acadian refugees.

They had one known child, Catherine, on Jan 1, 1752 in Acadia. Catherine somehow ended up in France, where she married Jean Cecile Bourg in 1784. She and her husband arrived in Louisiana in 1785 and they both are on the list of names in St. Martinville.

Catherine and Jean Bourg had six children, including my fourth great-grandfather, Jean Similen Bourg, born Feb. 28, 1792, in Plattenville, Louisiana. He married Rosalie Eleonore Lirette on October 1, 1809, in Plattenville. The Terrebonne Parish census of 1850 lists Jean Bourg, 68, and his wife, Rosalie, 55, living in the Bayou Terrebonne area. Neither of them could read or write. Living with them was an 11-year-old boy named Zenon Rodrigues. All said their parents were born in Louisiana. They lived one door away from their daughter Eulalie and her family.

Eulalie Clementine Bourg was married to Francois Naquin. Her brother Jean Similien Bourg Jr., my great-great-great-grandfather, was married to Marie Celeste Naquin. 

Their daughter Melina Bourg, my great-great-great-grandmother, was born in 1840 in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She married Simeon Theodule Dupre in 1864. 

Their son Germain Dupre, was my great-grandfather, who married Marie Louise Thibodeaux.

Their daughter, Pauline Dupre, was my father's mother. 

Am I absolutely certain about all of this? No. But a lot of people with a lot more time than I have did a lot of research and put this all out there for the rest of us to find. Genealogy is a big, giant jigsaw puzzle like that except you have to FIND the pieces before you can put them together. Either way, Beyonce and I are (perhaps) cousins many, many, many times removed. So are Prince Charles and I. And Elvis. 

They could do a lot worse than me, a semi-retired Hall of Fame sportswriter-turned-teacher. And I'll happily do the Electric Slide with any of them.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Teacher In the Hall

This is going to be another long one... Grab a snack... 

My whole life I've been pretty good with words.

I've used them to document my own life's ups and downs, as well as the accomplishments of some great athletes, friendly politicians and, for a short time, criminals. I even used them to tell the story of a little miracle baby.

My words have been my strength -- my superpower, if you will.

But over the past few weeks, my words have failed me. Just when I needed them the most, it seems.

How can I put into words -- the proper words -- what it means to have your life's work acknowledged by your peers? What it means to have your longtime friends vote for you to receive the highest honor in your profession? What it means to see your name on a wall with some of the greatest athletes and sports figures the state of Louisiana has produced? I can't. I tried -- several times. I failed often.

There are no words descriptive enough to say what it means to be selected for the Distinguished Service Award, to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. If there are, I have not found them yet.

And I don't know if I have the words to describe what the past few months of my life have been like, since the November night I received The Phone Call from my friends Doug Ireland and Raymond Partsch III. 

As a Hall of Fame committee member, I was there the day we elected Alana Beard, Bruce Brown, Paul Byrd, Walter Davis, Wendell Davis, Matt Forte, Walter Imahara, Paul Mainieri, Eli Manning Ron Washington and M.L. Woodruff. But the DSA's are done by email vote a few months later.

I had tears the day I received the ballot and saw my name and my long list of accomplishments as a sports journalist in Louisiana. But there are many names with lists as long or longer than mine. You have to be pretty special to get enough votes. 

Apparently, I was. 

Honestly, I can't remember exactly what Doug and Ramond said to me that night on the phone because, already the tears were forming. So, I asked them if they thought there was enough Kleenex in Natchitoches to get me through it. Then I tried to thank them. I wished I could call my mama to tell her, and my brother and my sister.

And I tried to tell my husband but he didn't answer the damn phone! I tried to call my daughter. She didn't answer either. So I sat and cried with my two little poodles who seemed to be very happy for me. 

Marty did finally return my call, only to listen to me cry hysterically and ask if it was good news or bad.

As sometimes happens in our journalism business, I had to hold on to the news for a little while until all the proper ducks were in rows. I could tell a few family members -- and I did. Only one or two understood the enormity of it, though. 

But the world knew soon enough and thus began my feeble attempts to explain how it felt and what it meant to friends, family, reporters and, especially, to a bunch of middle and high school kids who have no knowledge of my former life as a sports reporter for just about every publication and website in southeast Louisiana. It definitely was a strange experience being on the other side of the interview.

I have been going to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony since the early 1990s. I have sat in the audience every year and listened as grown men and women stood on the stage and thanked their parents, their siblings, their friends and family, their coaches and their players and, sometimes, every person they've ever met, for helping them get up there. Grown men have cried. And they made me cry.

It was incredibly hard for me to fathom that this time, I would be up on that stage. I also had an incredibly hard time trying to figure out what I was going to wear. It became a bit of an obsession. 

It also began a long trip down memory lane. I'm a little bit of a hoarder, so I have all of my first bylines and many of my middle and last ones as well. Many days and nights I sifted through them, remembering some of the athletes I covered, marveling at certain turns of phrases I managed to come up with on deadline, and wondering if some were the parents of my current students. Some were.

And it all came to a climax over a few blistering hot days in July in the tiny town of Natchitoches with my little entourage: my husband, Marty, cousin Larry from Chicago, cousins Bob and Kate from Florida, my kids Daniel, Courtney and Lora, my daughter-in-law Cori, my nephew Lee and his wife Regina, my nephew Beau, my grand-niece Ava, and my best friend since eighth grade, Janine and her husband Bob. I also invited my high school journalism teacher, Mrs. LaRose and she planned to come until she was diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks ago.

After the long drive up to the middle of the state, I walked into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame -- a place I have been so many times I can't even count them all. I was one of the people with a shiny shovel when we broke ground a long time ago. My name is on some of the paperwork as president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. And when it opened in 2013 I was one of the short people out front with the giant scissors and Shaquille O'Neal as our marquee inductee. 

But what I remember are the countless times I've watched grown men and women beam and cry as they found their exhibit and showed it to their wives and children and grandchildren. They all posed for photos next to the wonderful painting by artist Chris Brown and asked him how he managed to do that. Then they went to the computer kiosk and typed in their name.

But this time, it was my name on the wall and my picture along with a long list of my accomplishments. This is one of the moments that will live with me forever.  The joy, the thrill, the disbelief. The pride.

A few minutes later, I spotted fellow inductee Walter Davis looking a little lost and out of place. I went over and grabbed him.

"Have you seen your name yet?" I asked him.


"Come on! You have to do it! It's so cool."

So I kind of dragged him over to one of the computers and told him to punch in his name. And there it was. And he had the same look of wonder and disbelief that I had. And I was so happy.

"Give me your phone! I'll take your picture."

A little while later I did the same thing to Wendell Davis. He got the same look in his eye. Pride. Joy. A little disbelief. 

That afternoon there was the first press conference with 11 of the 12 inductees. Eli Manning didn't arrive until the next day. I was certainly out of my comfort zone, being on the other side of the interview. My friend Doug asked me about my career, about my husband (although I never said his name!). I talked about my children. I was asked about what difficulties I had to overcome as a female sports writer before being a female in sports was cool. Then we drank.

Over the next two days there was a crazy celebrity bowling event at which I was considered one of the celebrities. I finished last. 

There was a big party by the Cane River where I was united with all of my entourage for the first time. It was very hot and very crowded, but we got to hobnob and mingle with lots of people, including Eli, who I wrote about a few times when he was in high school. The highlight of the event was when all of the inductees were brought up on stage to be introduced to the crowd. Then there were fireworks.

There was a junior training camp with basketball and football drills for all the kids. I asked if anyone wanted to do some sentence diagramming, but no one did so I went back to the hotel. Then there was a lunch and roundtable interview with fellow Hall of Famer Tim Brando. He asked me about being married to a coach.

When that was over, I went back to the hotel to chill for a while until it was time to get ready for the induction. As I've already confessed, I obsessed over what I was going to wear for this thing -- a dress, pants, a suit? I also have an issue with shoes. Because I wore heels in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, I can't wear them in the 2020s at all. 

But after finding the perfect dress and shoes, I learned on Monday morning that I was supposed to have been fitted for a blue plaid sportscoat that I was to wear during the induction. This was the first I heard about it. I was fitted. It was ordered, but it did not make it to the ceremony in time. I can't say I'm sad about it.

I wore the dress and the sparkly flat sandals.

There was a pre-party at the Hall of Fame where I was finally able to show everybody my name in the computer and on the wall. I had to walk the Purple Carpet and get interviewed again, this time by another old friend Victor Howell. We talked about how strange it felt to be on the other side of the rope. He also asked me about teaching. Then it was time to go inside and I was ushered backstage.

My favorite part of every induction is The Walk of Legends, where the past and present inductees are introduced and walk across the stage to the theme music from The Natural. It's stirring and gives me goosebumps every time.

This time, I was backstage with the legends. I was lined up alphabetically as one of the legends. I was about to walk across the stage as a legend. And as each one walked across the stage before me, I watched through the backstage curtain with goosebumps and tears in my eyes. 

The induction itself was a whirlwind. They kept telling me it would go by fast, and it certainly did. The DSA winners are introduced first, so I was second after Bruce Brown. My friend Teddy Allen introduced my introduction video, which just blew me away.

With tears in my eyes, I stood next to Doug in the dark and watched as my friends and colleagues and my husband said all kinds of nice things about me as a montage of photos of my life flashed before me. I  didn't want to cry because I didn't want to miss a minute of it. It was so heart-warming. So humbling. So surreal.

Then it was my turn to go on stage to be interviewed by Lyn. We joked about my tendency to cry at these things. I gave a shout-out to my peeps in Houma and the River Parishes who might be watching. He asked me about the story I've told about having a crush on the high school quarterback and how that lead to my interest in sports. I talked about the success of my kids and my journalism students at Riverside. And I corrected one mistake.

All along people have called me a "trailblazer." Maybe I was as one of the first women to do what I did. But I wasn't the one who went first. That was Robin Fambrough and I gave her the credit. As I said, she was the one with the chainsaw, I just followed along with the machete. I owed her that. I would not have lasted one year on the job without her guiding hand and support. 

But, again, I forgot to talk about my husband. Marty Luquet. The Coach, the man who supported me from day one, who never belittled what I did or tried to stop me, who drove me to Louisiana towns no one has even heard of, who drove while I typed, who found me phones to send my stories, who sat on top of the pressbox with me in the snow, who defended those who tried to tear me down. I would not have been on that stage if it were not for him either.

And then it was over. I spent the next few hours trying to pay attention to the other inductees' interviews, staring at my plexiglass State of Louisiana, having a few drinks and eating the Chex Mix we snuck in to tide us over until dinner, which was another marathon in itself.

Then I got to reflect on it all.

It was one of the most extraordinary moments of my life with the people who mean the most to me -- my husband, my children, my nephews, my bestie since the eighth grade, my cousins. Growing up in Houma, where there were a bunch of mean girls who liked to make my life miserable, I was determined to leave, to get out and to make something of myself. I didn't necessarily want to be famous, I just wanted to be somebody, do something. I think I succeeded in that.

As a person who has traced her family tree for decades trying to find missing pieces of a gigantic puzzle, I've always said I didn't care where my body ended up, I just wanted my name to be somewhere. And now, it is. Forever. In the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

And even if no one remembers who I was or what I did, they'll be able to punch it into a computer and find out who I was. 

Links to some stories


LSWA Bio Story

NOLA story

Hall of Fame Recap Story

Herald Guide Story

Rebel Express Story

Video: Hall of Fame Induction

Video: Bowling

Video: Welcome Reception

Video: Press Conference

Video: Interview

Behind the Glory -- mini documentary

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Home Again


 It wasn't that long ago that I sat at my computer to write a very sappy blog post about my baby girl going off to college. It was one of the hardest things I've ever tried to write -- not because I couldn't find the right words, but because I could not see very well with the tears pouring down my face and the blubber blocking up my sinuses. 

I get like that sometimes.

At the time, I poured my heart out about how proud I was, but also how sad that my baby girl was leaving me to go off and become her own person, to become even more independent than she already was and pretty much always has been. I marveled at how quickly the time had passed from that moment her first mother placed her in my empty arms to then. How hard it was to let her go.

It was so full of emotions that even she was moved to a tear. (Just one. My girl does not cry like her mama.)

But almost just as quickly, four years flew by and my baby girl is home -- sort of.

Just a few short weeks ago, she donned a purple gown and mortar board, moved her tassel from one side to the other, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. She was on the Dean's List all four years (or the President's List) and was the editor of her school newspaper, The Current Sauce.  Best of all, in four years I never got a call from campus security or a local sheriff's deputy and we made it through with no major traumas, dramas, illnesses or catastrophes. 


I may have been up in the rafters on graduation day, but I could still see her proud smile as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma. I did not cheer. I did not hoot or holler. I did not even caw. I just watched and cried and recorded it so I could watch it again... and again. And so could she. 

And she did not have to see me to know that I was bursting with pride and crying -- again.

Shortly after the ceremony (and the monsoon that hit during it), we posed for a slew of family photos to mark the occasion. We then drove back to her dorm to pack it up and move her out one last time. I got to play car Tetris once more (I am the Master!), stowing her belongings in my car, hers and her boyfriend's. Before we hit the road, we stopped for a quick bite to eat at her favorite spot in Natty -- a little gas station cafe called The French Market. Then we all settled in for the very long drive home.

But this time, she didn't bring all her stuff back to my house to sort through. No, this time it all went to her boyfriend's place just up the street! (Score one for Mom!) Her now tidy bedroom is still tidy! The only thing she gave me was the cap and gown to store safely in one of her many boxes and trunks of keepsakes. 

And I was fine with all of it. After four years, I'm just happy to have her less than four hours away. She is literally one mile away now, in a tidy little trailer she is working hard to decorate and keep clean. We've gone there to see where she put all her stuff and to visit with our grand cat, Flea, and dog, Buddy. She's come home to raid the fridge and the pantry and to swim. It's nice.

So now she begins her post-graduate degree in adulting. She's looking for a job (she's a damn good writer), filling out applications, taking care of their pets, figuring out how to pay the bills, and calling for advice here and there. 

These four years have taught both of us a lot about independence. She has been on her own and survived. And so did I.

So, now that she is home again, I have not become a helicopter mom, opting to let her do it her way. I'm here if she needs me, and if I do happen to spot an interesting job opening on Twitter or Facebook, I do send it her way. The rest is up to her.

A lot of my co-workers and Facebook pals are now where I was four years ago, crying over their soon to be empty nests and lamenting how hard it will be to drive their child miles away and drop them in their new temporary homes. I feel for them. My heart aches for them. But at least now I can tell, them -- they do come home again. Well, sort of. She may not be back in her childhood bedroom, which she never cleaned, but at least she's in the same zip code. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling


When I first started dating The Coach a thousand baseball games ago, we spent time getting to know each other.

We talked about our jobs, baseball, our interests, baseball, our astrological signs and, of course, our families. I was just getting started in my own family genealogy back then, so I'm sure we talked about that. And I'm sure there was a point early on when he mentioned that his family was "just a little bit Irish."

He lied. 

The Coach's last name is Luquet, which is totally French, but this man is totally Irish through and through. His family isn't a "little bit" Irish, it's a whole helluva lot of Irish -- well, his mom's side is  anyway. 

Marty's mom, Jane, was a Rafferty, a classic Irish name said to have originated in County Donegal in Ireland. It means "prosperity" or "one who will prosper" in the old tongue, and a couple of the cousins have lived up to that promise more than others.

Jane's mother's name was Martina Daly, yet another fine Irish name, which means "assembly." (That one they have taken to heart.) Her line also includes a Kelley, a Culligan, a Ryan, and a Dwyer. Then, one of Martina's sisters married a Foley. 

All are fine Irish names which make it pretty difficult to trace. Do you have any idea how many John Raffertys there were or how many of them came to America? Lemme tell ya, there were plenty! Finding the right ones in Jane's ancestry is like trying to find that proverbial needle in a haystack. 


But they don't care about those Raffertys that much, only the ones they know. So, sometime in the early 1970s, someone decided that all the cousins and friends needed to get together to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Everyone wore green and brought a dish, and someone cooked up some corn beef and cabbage. And of course, there was plenty of beer and an off-tune rendition of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. The party was held in the garage of George and Martina Rafferty's home on Wilton Street in Gentilly .  

Martina (Daly) Rafferty, the Second Bonnie Colleen and her husband George. 

They decided it was so much fun, they did it again the next year. But, in typical New Orleans fashion, this time they elected a king and a queen -- actually, a Grand Marshall and a Bonnie Colleen. The first Grand Marshall was, of course, George Rafferty, who had lent everybody his garage. The first Bonnie Colleen was Jen Ortis, Martina's niece. Martina was the second.

Of course, Irish families grow. Some more than others. It didn't take long to outgrow the little garage. After a few years the party was moved to a rental hall down the street. By the time The Coach and I got together in the early 1990s, the family had grown so large that it had to rent one of the New Orleans area's largest wedding reception venues to hold them all. When that got too expensive, it moved to a small Lions Club hall in Old Metairie.
I'll never forget my first time my then-boyfriend invited me to this party his family was having for St. Patrick's Day. "Wear green," he said. I did. Then I met every single member of his family in one evening. A year or two later, I was sending out wedding invitations to all of them. Then, 25 years later they somehow elected me their Bonnie Colleen.

Me, the 46th Bonnie Colleen.

Among the highlights of the annual event are the communal dancing of the Y.M.C.A. and We Are Family. After six years of trying for a baby and a huge baby shower the same week a soon-to-be-mother decided she was going to keep her baby, it was a glorious moment when I finally was able to boogie into the family circle with a little baby named Lora Leigh, all dressed in green. 

Another highlight of the party is a "skit" of sorts, which is supposed to alternate between the younger generation and the older. Often a commentary on current events, there is some sort of theme and an assortment of costumes in which the participants parade through the hall, led by the Grand Marshall and the Bonnie Colleen. One year the elder ladies dressed up as the "Spice Girls," complete with paprika, parsley and garlic. We've also roasted politicians and celebrated the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl victory.

 I've always thought of the St. Pat's Party as my annual test to see if I can remember which kids belong to which parents and which spouse belongs with whom. I don't always pass. Kids grow up. Faces and hair color change. People move away, get married, have their own kids, get divorced. And go to the great St. Patrick's Garage Party in the sky.

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, two St. Patrick's Days passed without a party at the Lions Club. And when we finally got the clan back together last month, I couldn't help but notice how many were missing, how few were in attendance. 

Jane. Pappy. Alice. Bob. Kate. Sweetie. Vera. Dottie. Snaps. Stevie. Sister Mary Brian. L.J. Michael. 

Those are the names of the faces I will remember doing the silly Y.M.C.A. dance and putting on goofy costumes to dance through the crowd of their brothers, sisters and cousins, beer in hand. There always seems to be a moment in the midst of the merriment when it hits me that they're not here anymore. There were many more my husband and his cousins remember from before I came along. All are fondly remembered and dearly missed. 

 Jane Rafferty Luquet with her brother Steve Rafferty and sister Alice Rafferty Brechtel

I can't help but wonder what George and Martina would think of the legacy they've left behind. I think they'd be pretty amazed that their little garage party has been carried on for so many years by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And I think they would see that there are enough little wains running around to keep the party going for a few more generations as well.  

I think they would raise a beer then break into an off-key version of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.



Sunday, January 8, 2023


She had more names than most members of the royal family, starting with two first names and accumulating the rest from a Catholic baptism, two dads, and five husbands. Born in the last year of the 40s, she grew up in the 50s, was a teenager in the 60s (who got to see the Beatles live in New Orleans), a mom in the 70s, a divorcee in the 80s (a couple of times) and finally settled down in the 90s and 2000s as a hot shot real estate agent. 

Nothing came easy for her and certainly nothing stayed easy. She had chips on her shoulders a lot of times and not much of a filter. A Scorpio through and through, she sometimes had a harsh sting. She wasn't cuddly. She wasn't always easy to love. But she was my big sister until I lost her in early December. It was way too soon for us but put an end to a long time of pain and suffering for her. 

She got a brief little obituary on a funeral home website, but no funeral -- yet. One day this summer her husband Nick and I and whatever family chooses to gather will send her off the same way we said goodbye to Mama, on the banks of the Mississippi River. But since I have this little space and a knack for words, I figure I owe it to her to remind the world that she was here for 73 years and 44 days.

Officially, she was Jo Lee Ann Delanuville Lyons Saunier Miller Catton Bonura LeBlanc. But, to me, she was just Sissy -- my much older, wiser, grumpier, hell-hath-no-fury sister.  She was born to a teenage mother who didn't have a clue what she was doing, but, thankfully, there was a set of grandparents there to pick up the slack and make sure she survived. Mama named her after her own grandmother, Lena Josephine, but reversed -- Jo Lee. Back then, you had to have a saint's name to be baptized, so Mama added the Ann.

Her father, a Navy man, came and went in a flash. Then my dad came along and she started using his name because no one could spell the other one (Still can't. It's even wrong in her obituary.) Then she got married. And again. And again. And again. And again. But she kept the name of her third husband because it was the one she used to establish herself as a hot shot real estate agent in Baton Rouge. She also refused to be called Jo Lee LeBlanc. It was too much like the Cajun song Jolie Blanc.

She became a big sister to our brother, Rhett, when she was 7 years old and spent the next several years trying to keep him alive. You see, Rhett was a bit of a daredevil who lived his life on the edge, even as a toddler. It was Sissy who interrupted mom's card game to inform her that Rhett was on the roof. "Tell him to get down," mom replied calmly, knowing if she went out there she would scream, scare the bejeezus out of him and probably make him fall. He got down safely on his own.

She had six more years before I came along and I'm certain she was not thrilled when mom and my dad announced my impending arrival. I was kind of an oops baby, conceived shortly after my mother recovered from a serious bout of rheumatic fever that nearly killed her and left her with a profound heart murmur. 

Two weeks after I was born, Mom and Dad packed the family up in the station wagon and moved us all to Houston for Dad's new job. I, of course, have no memory of this time. I have heard stories of bike rides to Blueberry Hill and the daily adventures of my brother. There are a few photos of Sissy and me, in which she is acting like the Mother Hen, fussing over me or dressing me up in some silly costume. All I know is, when we moved back to Houma two years later, my parents were no longer married.

We moved in with Grannie and Grandpa for a time until my Gramps bought us a nice new trailer to put on the lot next door. Mom, Rhett and I moved in, but Sissy stayed in the added on back room at Grannie's. I have so many memories of that room, all filled with 1960s nostalgia. She had the little white record case filled with 45s of the Beatles, Elvis, The Monkees and other hit makers. She also had a stack of albums. She had cat-eyeglasses for the longest time and big, poofy hair. She had a best friend named Twig, who sort of looked like and was nicknamed for the super skinny model, Twiggy.

One of the main things everyone remembers about my sister was that she was double-jointed in her knees. When she stood up a certain way they would bend backwards unnaturally. She also could Hula Hoop like a mad woman. 

When she got a boyfriend in high school, they used to sit in our tete-a-tete swing and I would go bother them in little sister ways. I remember being heart-broken when she left for college, not knowing it was just a short ways away in Hammond. I remember her calling to tell us that it was snowing there and I wished it was snowing on me too. She lasted only a semester or two as a Home Economics major -- back when there still was such a thing. Like a good 60s girl, she was a master at cooking.  

I was only 6 years old when she married her first husband, in a hurry-up post-Christmas event after he joined the Marines but before he was stationed in San Clemente, California. They married at our local Catholic church, which we attended very infrequently, and they had always told me there was no bathroom there so it really wasn't my fault that I peed on my mom's new boyfriend's lap. I was the flower girl, and Sissy and I were dressed in identical white crepe miniskirt dresses. She really did look lovely. I was cute. (I can't find the photos though.)

Rhett, Grannie and I went to visit her and Lou the next summer, even though I was terrified of getting hijacked. (Y'all don't believe me when I say I watched the news my whole life!) My brother, in his wisdom, told me not to worry because, if we got hijacked, it would be on the trip home. So I refused to fly home. I spent the whole summer with Sissy and Louie, going to the beach and eating Jack-in-the-Box burgers. They made me stay up to watch the Lunar landing. But they also took me to see The Blob and I was afraid to turn on any faucets for days. 

When it was time to come home, we drove -- from California to Louisiana in a Chevy Nova with no air conditioning. I didn't know she was pregnant at the time. 

When I was two days shy of my eighth birthday, my sister gave me the best birthday gift ever -- a real live baby doll in my nephew, Lee. I was in love at first sight and he and I grew up much like a brother and a sister. My nephew Beau came along a few years later, but he attached to my Grannie. Lee and I were almost inseparable for most of our lives.

Life got hard after that as her first marriage broke up. She went up and down in weight, causing a myriad of issues for her. Then she went up and down in love, through husbands and stepchildren that came and went through our lives like butterflies.

She ran an apartment complex for a while and hired me to be the pool sitter to make sure only residents were there. I got a great tan out of it.

Eventually she moved to Baton Rouge and started talking with a "southern" accent.

We were not really close like some sisters are. Our relationship with each other, and with our mother, was very complicated. There were some jealousy issues when I was young and single and she was not. There were issues over the care and feeding of our grandparents, her children, and then our mother. But the death of our brother rocked us both to our core. That night, after we both got the horrifying phone calls, we sat on the phone together for an hour, not talking, just sobbing. Together. There were flashbacks to that night after I had to call her at 2 a.m. to tell her that Mama was gone.

 She was a tough, don't-take-no-shit kind of woman, and that may have cost her dearly in some areas. But she also was smart as a whip, the only person who could challenge me in Scrabble without cheating. She loved to cook and was really good at it. Her task every Thanksgiving and Christmas was to bring the pies -- pecan for Grandpa, mincemeat for Mama and Grannie, cherry for Rhett and me. When we started to fight over them, she made two.

She also was a damn good bowler. I can't give any stats for her, but her name was on the walls at the Houma Bowl and one in Baton Rouge for high scores. She ran the Saturday morning and Monday night bowling leagues I used to belong to in my teen years. I never was as good as her. When she couldn't bowl any more, she played pool and darts and was good at both of those.

She also loved LSU sports with a passion. I was the sports writer, but her knowledge of LSU players and personnel rivaled that of the best beat writers I know. Many of our weekly phone calls were spent listening to her question the coaching decisions and lineup changes. I called it "Jo-splaining."

The only thing my sister wasn't really good at is cleaning. She was a bona fide slob. One time I went to her apartment and I asked if it had been ransacked. I was ready to call the police! Housework was not her thing. 

She also was early for everything -- sometimes too early. If our party started at 2, she was there by noon. And she had to leave early because she never liked to drive at night. 

But she was the first to insist that our family had to get together for some type of Christmas. She saw herself as our matriarch and did her best to try to keep us together. We did good for a while, getting together annually a few days after Christmas for a Pot Luck/White Elephant party with our clan. But then came Covid... then her health went. The last time we all got together was 2019. 

We spoke infrequently, usually only to commiserate over the latest quirk of our quirky mother. Both of us had difficult, complicated relationships with our mom, who was as head-strong as they come. She would fight with one of us then call the other to complain, then we would call each other. Both of us would begin those conversations with, "Your mother is nuts!"

After Mama died, we made a pact to call each other once a week. We would exchange mundane details of our lives as well as the exciting ones. The last year was hard. She couldn't walk, couldn't get out of the bed, fought with doctors and insurance. She had EMS on speed dial. Mostly I tried to cheer her up and give her a reason to get up and fight, to get moving again. 

She would call more often if there was a hurricane headed our way to remind me that I was going to drown in my attic if I didn't evacuate to her house in Baton Rouge. In 2021, we finally had to take her up on that offer after Hurricane Ida hit our town and knocked out power for a month. We spent a week in her guest bedroom, listening to her and Nick "fight" just like my grandparents used to. I'm so thankful for that week now.

We were shocked to find her pretty much confined to a hospital bed in her living room, surrounded by my grandparents' antique furniture and dishes. She had never fully recovered from a hip replacement and, largely thanks to Covid, services she normally would have received were not available to her. Both she and her husband, Nick, had been in and out of the ER and hospitals over the past two years. She spent all of November and December of 2021 in the hospital with no visitors allowed. 

Ultimately, an infection set into her incision in November and she couldn't fight it this time. She died on Dec. 11, 2022. She was the daughter of the late Lettie Lee French and the late Louis Delanuville Jr. She had two half-sisters -- me, Lori Lyons and, oddly enough, Lori Delanuville Graff of Texas; three sons -- Lee Saunier, Beau Saunier and Casey Catton; three grandchildren, Mallory, Aubrey and Ava; seven step grandchildren and three step great-grandchildren. (I do not know all of their names); nieces Lena Lyons Brunet (Clayton), Marti Lyons and Lora Leigh Luquet; step niece Courtney Luquet; a nephew Kevin Lyons (Samantha); step nephew Daniel Luquet (Cori); grand niece Madison Brunet; grand nephews Job and Isaac Lyons, Carson and Lincoln Brunet and Sage Hebert; step grand nieces Robi and Laken Luquet. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Rhett, and her grand parents Evelyn Himel Cross French and Martin Behrman French.

On her Facebook page, many friends expressed their sadness and sorrow over her death. They talked about how nice and caring she was, how much fun she was to be around. She definitely loved to give advice. I am rather lost without our weekly phone calls. Sometimes I go to push the button, forgetting she isn't there. I'll probably miss her the most the next time there is a hurricane in the Gulf headed our way or the next time LSU wins a National Championship in baseball or football. She won't be their angel in the outfield, though. She'll be the little devil on the coach's shoulder, telling him to bunt.

Fly high, Sissy. I miss you.