My thoughts for ‘Remembrances of Mom and Dad’ began while spending one day a week, after Mom’s death on 28 November 2000, at our home of origin in Lake Arthur, LA… a weekly sojourn I treasure to this very day! As I began to order the contents and paper, forty-seven years of life in one place, I found myself remembering their words, actions and exhortations that lead to vignettes of stories which I have compiled for you!! Just keep clicking on this Web of Gratefulness! These ‘Remembrances’ just keep on coming!
~ There is no particular order; I write when I remember, due to a familial encounter or just about anything in life can trigger ‘Remembrances!’ It is very comforting to me in remembering but wonderful-wonderful to be able to share them in one place with you!
My memories are bright and fulfilling for I loved my parents on earth as I do in heaven and will miss them all the days of my life from this side!
Lead, Kindly Light!
Anna ‘Bernadette’ Monlezun-Pontón, fourth child, eldest daughter of ten children. Notations for this compilation:
~Unless otherwise connoted, these are my remembrances hence the “I" in the stories! They are written, after discerning the intent of the memories or writings of Mom and Dad, as to the profound message of their heart through the pen; does it instruct, inform, encourage or edify by connoting love and concern toward their beloved family.
~ Bette or Babette are my nicknames.
~Permission for publication was granted for certain letters.
1. Mom from Arthur Avenue said to me in Washington, D.C., “This morning Daddy died. I closed his eyes knowing I didn’t have to call any child to hurry and make peace with. That was a good feeling. Then I walked to the window and looked out on the same scene I’ve looked at for 42 years and said, ‘It’s my turn!’” Eighteen and a half hours later, we arrived on Arthur Avenue. The night of the day Daddy died, Mom and I were going to sleep and she said, “You sleep on his side, I have the rest of my life here!” Mom saved the little coffee in Daddy’s last cup of coffee the morning he died. She put it in back of the spice rack turn next to the stove. Three weeks later just before returning home to D.C., we pitched it and washed the little cup in silence.
2. Five of my children left home that summer of 1965, Lee J. graduated from college on a Monday night and was preparing to pack for Ft. Sill, Bernadette graduated from high school the next night, Tuesday and was to leave and did for summer school at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, TX…the children drowned a day later, Ascension Thursday. Charles was home for the summer and returned to Notre Dame in New Orleans, LA in August…Constance, Malcolm and Ione returned to St. Maria Goretti School in Lake Arthur, Dominique was 4 years of age; Robert and Wanda married November 6, 1965. (Mom)
3. I was in Bandera, TX one Mother’s Day morning circa 1971 and after realizing that I needed to be seated at the table on Arthur Avenue at high noon, I asked two friends to fly me in their private plane to L.A. assuring them that I would know where to land! I did and we landed in the field next to the rice dryer on Hwy 14 after circling to herd the cattle away! I grabbed by ‘grip’, walked to the road & was picked up immediately, as one tends to stop after watching our landing and, at 12:30 pm was at the table! When I told Mom how I had arrived for ‘her’ day, she who had been frowning said, “If I hadn’t had children, I would have been doing the same thing” breaking into a smile!!! I still had to wash the dishes!
4. Lee J. delivered the most touching homily of his life in telling Mom that she had cancer on that fateful day in September 1999; he was so gentle, so loving. She listened intently, looked upward, paused and said, “Well, I have family on both sides!”
5. Mom asked her former pastor on 8th street one day who had come to anoint her with the Oil of the Sick, “What do I do, I’ve never died before and how can I help my children help me?”
6. Daddy would converse in French with Old-Mom Monlezun and Mom would converse in German with her mother, both their mothers’ tongue. The Spanish word for tongue is ‘la lenqua’ which is the feminine thus the child learns the language of the mother!
7. Daddy and Mom knelt next to their beds together every night and said their prayers and that was after they led us in a decade of the rosary on our knees after the ‘Bishop Fulton J. Sheen Show’ on black and white television in the late 1950’s!
8. As a young adult, Daddy was quite the dapper wearer of excellent threads and had a wonderful eye for color, Mom would say! He wore her favorite, a white linen suit with white shoes to church on Sundays. He wore starched shirts of color, the first she had ever seen! But when he married and Lee J. was born, he donned khaki shirts and pants, put his hand to the plow as is said and lived the tenet of putting his family first. ‘He didn’t care about all that anymore.’
9. They lived upstairs when they first married and rented the bottom floor as they could collect more for rent! When Mom was carrying Lee J., she would have to go up and down the stairs as the renters had the refrigerator/box! That’s when Daddy switched the situation around! He selected for the upstairs, blue and red wide blinds for the windows and the one door in Dominique’s former bedroom (where the remaining original blind still hangs although the color has faded)! That door led to the outside stairs which was their entrance to the upstairs. Constance said that Daddy and one of their first upstairs renters, Lloyd Lassere, would have their bathroom windows open and would sing at the top of their voices while shaving in the morning!!
10. The cedar chest, which was one of their first purchases after they married and was in the original kitchen upstairs, has been moved into the ‘Girl’s Bedroom’ downstairs where it looks beautiful and right at home for a full appreciation of these treasures of memory. It along with the large bureau will hold ‘paper’ which is being gone through and divided into categories-to-date: Correspondence, Events Attended, the Eight siblings/spouses/families, Travel Brochures, Condolences, All-Things-German/French, Newspaper Articles for all to peruse for years to come! Pure treasures!
11. Constance had a patient that asked if she was Lee Monlezun’s daughter because she commented how well he could sing…the lady said, paraphrasing, ‘when my brother-in-law Leo Carruth married, Lee sang the Ave Maria for that wedding and it was the most beautiful voice. Your Mom and Dad sang in the church choir when they first married and that’s how he came to sing for the wedding!!!’
12. When Lee J. told Mom and Daddy that he was going to be a doctor… “later that night I heard Dad tell Mom, ‘Hon, that’s a hard and long row to hoe, but when he succeeds, just think of the good things he will do. He will live his life on a higher plane than you and I. I hope every one of our children will be better than we are. Our roll is to support them as long as we are on this earth.’ ” (Robert Joseph)
13. When we’d get to be to-o much, Mom would put some of us on our knees in the pantry in order to be right there so Daddy could ‘handle it’ when he walked in from the office at five o’clock! He would be handed the strap and would proceed to tell us to holler r-e-a-l loud when he made a popping sound with the strap. We readily complied! He would hand the strap back to Mom and say that he handled it! He knew she knew and she knew he knew but more importantly, we knew! It’s the same strap hanging in the old bathroom, unused, but with the word ‘Behave’ written on it!!! (Its r-e-a-l use is to sharpen a razor for shaving!)
14. All of my life when visiting Mom and Daddy, at night just before bed, I would go into their bedroom and find them on their knees at their bedside, praying. That was a ritual throughout their lifetime; Daddy was swayed and his bad knee creaked but kneel he did with his head in both hands! Then I would get into bed with them and ‘discuss’ things until Daddy would say, “Bette it’s night-night, go to own bed!”
15. She had 14 children and now that she is old and ill, the 7 sons stay at night and the 7 daughters during the day and that takes care of the week! (…An elderly cousin of Mom’s with whom we visited on one of our many ‘birthday trips’ to Roberts Cove, LA!’)
16. Constance found Lee J’s baby book for all to marvel with in that our mumps, measles and chicken pox episodes were recorded by Mom as well as his first words recorded by Daddy which were ’Night Night!’ The book is by their hand as well as Aunt To-To, who was residing on Arthur Avenue during the week, working for Daddy as bookkeeper and return to her home across from the entrance to Morgan Shores for the weekends, the big white house on the north side, set back from the road with the majestic oak and wonderfully aged barn! This is where Grandpa/Ma Hensgens lived and where Mom and Daddy’s wedding reception was held on August 13, 1941. It was a large sit-down meal prepared in the wee early hours of the morning as they were married at 9:00 am in Our Lady of the Lake Church in Lake Arthur, LA!!! Include the travel time in those days and marvel anew!
17. Mrs. Sally Chapman, mother of Peggy Chapman-Oustalet, my childhood friend, visited with me on Arthur Avenue a while back, after seeing a car in the garage which she hadn’t seen for awhile and missed! She hesitantly requested to see the upstairs for old time sake as she had not been up there since the early 40’s! I offered her the yellow chair to sit on, which was part of Mom & Daddy’s first kitchen set and is placed by the window looking onto the boulevard for thinking which is exactly what she did! She recalled this incredible story…. “Antoine Monlezun had befriended my father who was working in L.A. but we were living in Beaumont, TX as times were hard. Your Grandpa offered to move my family in his truck into the Chapman home on the lake, they rented out part of it…they had the flower shop. We were so very grateful. It was a short time afterward that I was walking by this home the day Lee was carrying Gertrude into their home bedecked in her wedding dress – it was their wedding day! It was quite a sight! Now, my friend and I walk daily and this home is on our route so the early morning of 31 July 1985, there was too much activity and worried faces entering. At about that time, Dominique and Tina were hurriedly arriving so we stood on the street and just prayed and then they told us he was gone!” I told her that she was there the day they entered their home, that she was there the day Daddy’s soul departed their home 44 years later, and that her prayers accompanied Daddy’s soul to heaven and into Mom’s broken heart! This is friendship that lasts a lifetime and into eternity!
18. Circa 1998, Celestine Kavanaugh, CCVI (a St. Pat’s nun!) invited me to tour CHRISTUS Healths’ newest hospital, St. Michael’s, in Texarkana, AR. We ‘pended’ the night at the convent where the ninety-one year old bookkeeper was Marquerite Gaithe, CCVI, Daddy’s first cousin who grew up in the home with the porch next to our home on Arthur Avenue! Her father was the second owner and operator of what came to be called, ‘Adam’s Store!’ That night we dined, laughed, sang Irish tunes and visited into the night till about 9:30 pm! The next morning prior to our departure, Sr. Marguerite met me in the chapel after Mass and gave me three gifts that meant a lot to her; I gave two of the gifts to Constance Victoria and Ione Marie and the third to Mom. It was a 15 decade rosary which was given to Sr. Marguerite by her Godmother, ‘Old Mom’ Victoria Monlezun. Fr. Peters, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Arthur had given the rosary to Grandma Monlezun; it had been his Irish mother’s rosary. He was very fond of grandma and gave her his precious treasure the day she received the news that her son, your Uncle Alvin Joseph had been killed in the war. That day she had become what was called a ‘Gold Mother!’ Mom returned this treasured rosary to me in 2000 and I have placed it on the Monlezun-Broussard family wall in the living room on Arthur Avenue. Incredible links in life!
19. Mom and Daddy traveled to eastern Canada one year with Fr. Donald Pelous, a dear friend and their guest passenger. He recalls how …“your Mother would sit in the back sit and I up front with Lee as he pointed out to me all the big trucks and have me count the tires! He would explain all the workings and gears a trucker would perform, noticeable by the sound of the shifting! I had never noticed trucks before but I do now and still count the tires and think of your Dad! Your mother, at one point in the trip, leans forward and excitedly says, ‘Look Lee, there are buffalo!! Daddy said, ‘Hon, that’s not buffalo, those are bales of hay!’” Father giggled as he recalled this precious story! When Mom and Daddy visited us in Colorado and we were driving with them to a ski resort for the day, Hector slowed down and she did finally see her buffalo in a field close to the highway! At the resort, they rode the chair lift up and down, up and down with Hector because Daddy thought it was the most interesting way to make a living, so beautiful and clever but cold!!! I skied down the slope under their chair lift; Oh, the look on their faces!!!
20. Dirt from The Ridge…Grandma Monlezun was born on the Chenier Ridge in Cameron Parish and when moving to Lake Arthur brought dirt from there to sprinkle among her flower and vegetable gardens and fruit trees and on subsequent visits to The Ridge, she would replenish her supply for harvest. We ate, as children, from that harvest year after year and I continue eating foodstuffs of that same dirt as we receive throughout the year turnips, lemons, limes, satsumas, kumquarts, oranges and foodstuffs from Ms. Renee’s generous parents, J.C. and Madge Reina of Grand Chenier! Mom enjoyed eating fruit if Daddy peeled it and that was 100% of the time! Hector peeled grapefruit from The Ridge recently giving me the succulent part and he ate the ‘bagazo’, the bitter part! He said, “All the bitter is in the peel, the sweet is on the inside!” Sounds like a country western song title!!
21. On our 26th Wedding Anniversary 2004, Hector found an anniversary card from Mom from the year 2000 inside his anniversary card; I had forgotten I had tucked it in the envelope sometime in the past…like things with like things! You see, we exchange the same cards every year by saving them in their envelopes and keeping them in our bedside tables in the order of events: Anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Birthday and Christmas. Daddy did that with Mom and only wrote the current year on the same envelope year after year! Hector thought that was the smartest idea of all times and one which we were quick to adopt …for years now! The words are always new! The anniversary card from Mom was so very touching because in 2000 when Mom was reaching the point when she could not write, I didn’t want my family to not have a final birthday card from Mom. So, I gathered birthday cards for the rest of the year and while at breakfast over time when she was at her best to write, I put them in front of her one by one for each family member. She knew what I was doing and never said a word about it. It was true communion. She would write their name on the envelope and a short message ending with Love, Mom! I didn’t put my card in the batch. When the unexpected anniversary card signed by Mom unfolded out of Hector’s envelope this year, it was so very complete and right! He Indeed, Leads Kindly!
22. Many times since Mom’s death, I have mailed occasion cards due to special circumstances that have occurred in the lives of family and friends of old, such as, Sympathy, Birthday,Congratulations and As You Recover. I write a few words on the front of the card ending with Lead, Kindly Light, Love, Lee Joseph and Anne, Robert Joseph and Wanda, Charles Joseph and Sharon, Anna Bernadette and Hector, Constance Victoria and Vic, Malcolm Joseph and Ursula, (Alvin Joseph), Ione Marie, (Veronica Gertrude), Dominique Joseph and Tina and on the back of the card…our children…Lee lll, Renee and Morgan Olivia; Lawrence, Jolene and Cody Lee; JD, Rhonda, Madison Claire, John David, Jr., Luke Perry and Brady Joseph; Don, Chase Dwight, Jon ‘Dylan’ and Gabriel Pierce; Robbie, Lisa, Parris Ann and Makenzie Lynn; Kade, Jamie, Kameron LaRae, Hannah June and Kade Joel, ll.; Veronica ‘Cherie’; Antoine Adolfo; Sarah Elizabeth, Steven and Madeline Claire, Katherine Ann and David and Joseph Wayne; Anna Clare and Jason, Benjamin Lee; Whitney Pierre, lll, Branton Heath and Sye Joseph; Dominique Joseph Jr., Christian Joseph and Suzanne Louise, The Queen! And comment they do, mostly… the uniqueness of all the names and the message on the card, or how good Lee and Gertrude’s children are to remember them and take the time to send a card with everybody on it!!
23. Mom received a beautiful poem prior to the birth of her first child, Lee J. on
20 January 1943 from Daddy’s godmother Mary Monlezun-Broussard;
All the Christmas candles beams, will serve to guide,
Small, tiny feet, all wrapped into your pride.
Finding all wonders easy to believe,
You walk with Mary toward that Blessed Eve.
24. J.T. (Junior) Monlezun, my Godfather, died peacefully in the early morning Friday, 29 January 2004 in his Lake Arthur home. Six Knights of Columbus were pallbearers and Uncle Dominique was one of them; I was humbled to be asked to read, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’ scripture passage for the service. Aunt Constance and I visited with Margaret (83 years of age) and her daughter, Yvonne Monlezun-Guillory (56 years of age) the night of the morning he died. Yvonne’s husband Carol died of cancer two years ago. We had the best visit catching up on family, children, grandchildren and memories and ate sandwiches which Cousin Anne Fautt had brought earlier in the day after visiting on Arthur Avenue. Margaret told of how she and Parran would drink coffee at 2:30 am every morning, she would bring it to the bedroom, and would talk, laugh and then, go back to sleep!! And, how Mom picked her up in a jeep once, leaving Lee J., Robert, Charles and Bernadette with Daddy and Yvonne with Parran, and they headed for the new Lakeshore Club to play Bingo. However, they had to stop at some service station to put a dollar’s worth of petro in to get there and home… ‘We had a good time together; your Mama loved to go!!!’ ’ Yvonne has been doing Monlezun genealogy for years and found that there were four Monlezun brothers from France; she was most helpful for Constance as she discussed she and Vics' imminent trip to France and the Tarbes region, March 2004! They will have more for us later!! Margaret showed us around their home of which the original center was Bill Dupruis’ home!! I rocked in TaTa-Ments chair and we were given napkins made by Grandma Monlezun which she wanted us all to have – there were exactly eight in the pile! While departing through the back door, the clothes had been washed and Parran’s dark blue pajamas were neatly folded…years of washing and folding and making memories in the daily and now, like Mom on July 31, 1985 in the early morning hours, it’s her turn. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!
25. As most of us did, I would spend the night at Grandpa/ma Monlezuns when we were being grown up!! She and I made a lap quilt and scarf. I still use both treasures. We would watch the ‘Lawrence Welch (!)’ show as Grandma would call it and the phone would sometimes actually ring and ring and ring, the old black phone with the short curly cord attached to it!! I asked Grandpa if he was going to answer the telephone and he replied, “Nope, I put the phone there for my convenience!!
26. Margaret Monlezun, wife of Junior, spoke fondly of… “I visited Mrs. (Antoine) Monlezun just about every day until they took her away at 104 or whenever!! She was such a good conversationalist! She would eat late… always meat, vegetables, a little eggplant, 2 or 3 figs cooked in a little syrup for her bread!! ‘You know, Marguerite, Grandma said, if I find a little plant, I always nurse it especially if in the winter, I water it and give it dirt and whatever it grows, I eat it!!’ ”
27. ‘Your Aunt Gloria had more energy than any woman I have ever met! We would walk every morning and one day we spotted a 5 dollar bill on the sidewalk we both went for it but she got to it first! She offered me half and I said no, it is yours! The next day walking she gave me $2.50! Later, I found a penny while on our walk but I didn’t tell her a thing. I went home and had Junior cut it in half and I gave it to her while on our walk!!” (Margaret Monlezun)
28. “MOTHER” Like the song ‘the word that means the world to me’, like my mother of whom I have so many thoughts I remember while taking care of my children. To give details would require many book volumes. I have been asked so many times, ‘how do you do it?’ Remember they come one at a time, everyday you know what you are going to do, that makes life easy. Staying home and taking care of your children can be joy. When you think about it, it is for a short time they are with you and if God calls some back to Him, at least you had some time to enjoy them. Our children are only loaned to us, now we know where they are and that is a goal every mother hopes to achieve. Don’t worry about the parties or miss vacations you cannot take. There is always time for those things. When God calls your children back to Him, at least you had time to enjoy them, so our children are only on loan to us. Written by Gertrude Monlezun, Mother of the Year 1984, Catholic Daughters of America.
29. Mom, the white tornado, would appear on Spring Street many a Saturday morning ready to clean! She would get the broom and I would turn on Gregorian Chant to work by! She said, “I can’t clean to those moaning men so turn on the Hackberry Ramblers and let’s get with the program!!”
30. Inez Monlezun-Marx, age 87, is the daughter of Joachim Joseph Monlezun brother of Antoine Joseph Monlezun, my paternal grandfather and she resides in Crowley, LA. She shared the cutest of stories about Daddy, her first cousin, in that they were together for the first day in the first grade and their teacher Mrs. Miller asked their names. Inez reported hers and Daddy was weeping so much that he couldn’t say his! Some time during the day Mrs. Miller, knowing they were cousins, asked Inez to take Daddy to her desk and let him sit with her for he cried the whole day long! She put her arms around him. She also shared that Daddy would sing on the street corner near Adam’s Store! He put out a tin can and would collect coins because he could sing! When Inez walked by Daddy would reach into the can and give her a nickel to buy herself some candy!!!