31. Constance and I joyfully journeyed to New Orleans July 31, 2004 to celebrate with a long-time-dear-friend and her family, Mrs. Arta Ault’s 80th birthday!! We sang a ‘Cajun Medley’ and ended with ‘The Benediction Song’ while all present hummed along! She reminisces in a thank you letter…Dear Bernadette and Constance, “I have been trying to write to you for ages since you gave me that beautiful birthday card (all 54 Monlezun Family names listed!) and the ‘Sayings and Remembrances of Mom and Dad!’ I feel so privileged that you gave this wonderful document to me and I shall cherish it forever. I have for a long time felt part of your family and now you really make me feel that further. I have so many wonderful memories of you all and shed a few tears while reading your words which I could remember so fondly. It’s hard to believe that we live so far away and still feel so very much connected. Even Hurricane Ivan brought back memories of your calling to say, ‘You must come to Lake Arthur!’ Of course who could refuse that offer?” Mrs. Ault writes +…
+ “I remember the first time I met your parents. We were at a final concert of ‘The Dameans’ and Gary introduced them to me. What a large family! I invited one and all to come to Hickory Street to spend the night; probably from Charles down to Dominique. We had a ball! I remember bringing beach chairs from outside to use as beds and I remember that someone slept on the window seat! That was the very first time I got to know the Monlezuns after hearing Gary speak so fondly of your wonderful family from Lake Arthur. I guess the rest is history!”
+ Mom and Daddy went to the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1984 and invited Mrs. Ault to accompany them. She writes, “We had a really good time and as we were walking through one area, we suddenly missed your Dad. I can still see him lying in the bed trying it out. Your Mom and I laughed so hard … she asked him what was he doing in that bed and he said, ‘Gert, I want to buy this bed’ and off he went to see the salesman. Well, she and I sat down beside them as they discussed the price and I think she almost fainted when she heard it. She suggested that they wait and shop around but he was determined to buy that one, especially when the salesman said he would come and set it up. He was some happy guy and then your Mom joined him in the bed! I surely wish I had a picture of that other than in my mind! I just rocked away in a very comfortable rocker nearby as they got what your Dad wanted.”
+ “It would take volumes to tell you how much your friendship and love has meant to me and all of the family. The many years of being with you all to start the New Year, especially the one to welcome 2000 where we all had such a great time and were so happy that your Mom felt well enough to attend. I will cherish that time forever. But I’ll always remember the first time I was there for New Year’s Eve and I was in bed before midnight – for the first time in my life, I believe!”
+ “But before I close, I do want to relate the last wonderful visit from your parents as they went to visit you, Bernadette, in Washington, D.C. I think this was the second time this happened, that they stayed overnight with me because the train didn’t go directly to D.C., they stayed one night going there and one night on their return on the way to Lake Charles. We were sitting on the sofa in my living room talking about their wonderful trip and their side trip to Hershey, PA and the Amish country in PA. Your Dad just couldn’t make himself say the name of the place they visited and liked so much until I said ‘Intercourse, PA?” Well, I thought he would fall of the sofa but I told him that I had been there and thought it was a beautiful place! Needless to say that your Mom got quite a kick out of that! Then it was time to take them to the train station for their return trip to Lake Charles. Your Dad asked me to take him to a place to get some Hershey candy because he hadn’t wanted to carry candy all the way from Hershey, PA but wanted to bring souvenirs from there. Then I brought them to the station and watched as he got the suitcases out of the car in his grey jumpsuit (which my husband also liked to wear, they were so comfortable). Their final words to me ‘come and see us soon’ and sure enough, I was in Lake Arthur several days later for your Dad’s funeral. I do have so many beautiful memories of your folks, some happy, some sad. Thank you again for including me in ‘The Greater Monlezun Family.”
+P.S. “And to top it all off and really put me in the family, we might be related! My grandfather came from the Tarbes region of France also! Who knows? His name was Victor Adema and lived in LA in Pointe-a-la-Hache down river from New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish. Small world, isn’t it?! Love you all very much.” Love, Mrs. Ault
32. Was there anything better than raking leaves on Saturday evening in the fall of the year, burning the leaves in the gravel driveway in from the street with Mom standing with one arm across the rake handle and staring into the big bright flames? It smelled so good! When driving and I spot a pile of leaves burning, I quickly roll down the window, slow down and take a deep, deep breath and remember. Then we would go inside after dark as the embers were the best part especially if pecans starting popping and our clothes were permeated with the fire smell. Daddy would parch pecans on cookie sheets, throw a little salt on ‘um and watch them disappear!
33. “Sometimes, in the early days, I (Mom) never knew what was going to be at the back door with the knock…a large fresh pork roast, chickens ready for the pot, fresh beef, eggs, shrimp whatever Lee’s customer could barter. And then one day, he bought the large ‘Rich Plan’ & freezer and we put it behind the door in the pantry and it stayed full! I ordered what I needed and it came to my door and that was heaven! When Lee went to the store, he brought home cases of canned goods. He had shelves built high up in the pantry and one of the children would stand on the washing machine and stack those cans! We peeled ten pounds of potatoes daily; I bought big pots and filled them up! We had a Narris milk machine with two 5-gallon cans of cold cold milk and one 5-gallon can of cold water; a five-gallon can of milk was changed every three days!! I sent children to Adam’s Store when I needed something. I fixed three main big meals a day to fill them up. I never served sandwiches, they would have been starving two hours later and I didn’t buy snacks, cold drinks and all that! That cleaned their plates! We started lunch at 10:00 am to have it on the table for 12-noon. That’s when Lee walked in for lunch. We started supper at 3:30 pm after the children woke from their naps and played outside; supper was served at 5:00 pm. At nine o’clock lights out in the kitchen after the floors were swept and many times mopped due to the spilled milk! We all knelt in the back room and said a decade of the rosary then they got ready for bed! The boys were upstairs and the girls had their room downstairs. Once a month, I attended the Catholic Daughters meeting and Lee went to his Knights of Columbus meeting. I knew what I had to do every morning I got out of bed! Lee ran the office and I ran the home. I stayed home and raised my children and at night when we went to bed and everything was done, well, that was the best feeling in the world!” (Mom shared these words with the ladies during lunch at my Silent Retreats in Virginia and on Spring Street for they would inevitably ask, how did you do it?!!! Many young mothers consider her their ‘Patron Saint’ now, for I have ‘given her' to many!)
34. It was time for a road trip! Mom would oversee the packing of the clothes suitcases, bottles, diapers, food, straighten the house and then shut her down, clothes all windows, check yard hoses (!), get all of the children in the car parceled out by the windows with babies & little ones in laps (no seat belts back then!) ordering all eyes forward and all hands in ones lap so as to begin the safe-trip- prayer! Daddy would get behind the wheel, lead us in prayer once all were settled down, and then say, “Mom, do you have the baby’s bottles and diapers’ and the reply was, ‘Yes Hon!’ Two miles from the house, “Mom, did you pack water and turn off the stove?!’ ‘Yes Hon!’ “About ten miles from home, Daddy would settled down and begin the songfest! All was well. (He would travel with cash and one credit card which he extracted from the safe in his office! Upon returning from a trip, he would put it back!!)
35. If we laid down after dinner in the back room and napped while Mom ironed standing in the kitchen by the milk machine, we could go to the office at 3:00! At that time sharp, we flew out the back door by the hutch and down the alley into the store where Daddy was full-throttle at work. My three brothers were on deliveries with the men or doing whatever they were told to do! I was very young and would climb up the pile of large tractor tires to ‘my office’ right above Daddy’s desk on top of his office! It would get very hot/cold up there but I loved it! He would give me paper clips, a pad (from an insurance company!) that was my to do list, pencils and pens, tape to hang pictures of horses, a place for my ‘keys’, a box for a trashcan set back so that I could pitch in from afar like Daddy and an apparatus with a point that could hold my notes and whatever else made my desk look exactly like his desk. (He wouldn’t let me have a pipe or ashtray to tap the pipe into before he filled it up again!) What I didn’t have I would make the sounds for like the adding machine or opening the safe! I didn’t need the telephone sound for when it rang, it was amplified so that everyone in the store and around the bulk plant heard the phone, for it brought orders! I would listen for he had cut a round hole in the glass for customers to speak through, and mimic him talking to customers…’Bud, I don’t need anymore bales of twine this trip!’ I would wait for him to call, ‘Bette, let’s go make a deposit at the bank!’ Daddy had one of the men gather two sawhorses with a board on top, a ‘high’ chair and there, at my ‘desk’, I would organize, write the orders (slowly moving my entire arm!), add up and checkmark the receipts from the butane or fuel deliveries in pencil which I would toss back on the desk just like he did. I had stamps (which I would cut from envelopes from the trashcan!), liquid messy glue, uncut but wrinkled envelopes (yes, also from the trashcan; that was recycling!) and ‘mail out’ the statements at the end of the month! I was alone, thinking, organizing and doing business and that was the early 1950’s which put me about 5 years of age!! Now, that was heaven! I have had a desk ever since and well, you know the rest of the story!!! I came by it all honestly and oh- so- naturally. Then Daddy bought Dolly, our Shetland paint pony, whose one white side looked like the United States! And I was never seen or heard from again except from the saddle!!!
36. Daddy wrote a letter to Lee Joseph and Robert Joseph, Immaculata Seminary, Lafayette, LA postmarked September 7, 1959 and it reads,
Dear Boy, Sunday PM 4:45
We have just returned from having spent the day with Aunt Beulah and Grandma – had a real good dinner, Don’t you wish you could have had some of that good ham Aunt Beulah cooks-however I don’t suppose her cooking could exceed the Sisters cooking uh? Robert have you learned to eat the skin on meats? Want to say that this past week Daddy has had the best year in business since Daddy entered business-an excess of twenty eight thousand gallons of light oils and butane. Store sales were very good, to show you the amount of hours, Daddy had over $50 in overtime to pay the boys.
The three boys have become accustomed to sleeping upstairs. Malcolm gave Daddy a little trouble the first night, but same was straightened out in about ten minutes. Mom is very well – the girls are doing very well in school, Charles is the man of the house now. Today he had to go sell gear oil and pump gas. Daddy feels sorry for him because he still is unable to drive-he must ride his bicycle.
Daddy has been having a large number of inquires about you two boys. We are all praying for you and know that you all will not let us down because don’t ever forget what Daddy has been trying to teach you. You must remember you are still children and your future depends on what you will accept from your teachers. This is the concrete foundation from which you will mold your lives and don’t forget when the host is raised at the consecration of the Mass each morning, ask Jesus if he will accept you to carry on his work because the whole world is in need of great guidance, and of course you know Jesus footsteps are the greatest guidance of all. At night when you say your prayers, be sure to thank Jesus for the great teachers you are so fortunate to have. When you have questions, do not be afraid to ask them, if they don’t know the answer they will get the answer for you. Don’t forget to work and study hard when you are suppose to work and study, and when its time to play, don’t forget to play hard.
Lee J. you had several misspelled words in your letter and in Roberts he only had one misspelled word. Robert your P.S. was not quite understood. Daddy counted seven dollar signs. Does that mean you need seven dollars? Lee J. your signature was almost perfect, such as mine.
Daddy’s fingers are getting tired and its time to quit for this time; Eras and Grandpa are going to Lafayette Tuesday to pick up the new wrench truck. Will let you boys play with it at Christmas time. Veronica woke up this A.M. and starting saying Da-Da. What you know about that! Only seven months. Reckon it’s about time Daddy starts asking Jesus for that tenth one.
Love to both of you from all of us,
Daddy (Then signed LeeJMonlezun with the curly-cue line through it!)
37. Sunday 7:30 AM 7-11-80 (Written on the back of another card!!)…
Happy Mother’s Day!
I love you, – (I am sure Ursula and Malcolm and Anna won’t mind my using their beautiful card to get my message across.) Your Mother’s Day gift will be a nice canopy, from the garage to the back door, plus, a light so that you can switch on or off at the garage & for the house. With much love. Dad
At age 19, I worked the 6:00 am to 10:00 am shift as a KPLC FM announcer while enrolled at McNeese State University. Daddy would call the station when he heard my voice and it was usually within hours of Valentine’s Day, Mom’s birthday or Christmas and say, “Bette, get the biggest card in Lake Charles that you can find and bring it on in when you come home!!!” But, as you can see, he sometimes did not make the deadline and had to improvise! During every shift, he would listen for the song “I’ll Be Seeing You” which I would play just for him! It was one of his favorite songs.
38-1. September 7, 1999, and I drove from Lake Charles to Jonesboro, AR and the convent of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, the nuns of Goretti School in Lake Arthur! Sr. Yvonne Lerner, OSB (who taught us the Mass in Latin) was scheduled to facilitate a retreat in Eureka Springs, AR two days later and we were her ride! After vespers was dinner where the sisters enjoyed our 5 different breads that had been baked for them, 4 from Mom and 1 from me! After dinner Sr. Eileen Schneider, OSB, Prioress invited to the library all the Sisters that had served at St. Maria Goretti School. We were so thrilled to all be together again, Mom was quietly beaming! The visiting commenced with fervor and out came our pictures in that we had relieved our refrigerators of our photos and, the family picture of all ten and the ‘now’ picture of the eight siblings with Mom at Kade and Jaime’s wedding. These were enjoyed by all! The Sisters were recalling our names- in- the- ten- of- us photo, where we lived and, when they got to Alvin and Veronica all was hushed. It was our benediction time for a Sister quietly spoke of how they had departed Lake Arthur the day of the drowning and so regretted not attending the funeral. They inquired and I asked Mom’s permission to tell of May 27th for they had heard many different versions. She paused lowered her head then gently nodded consent. It was the only time that I spoke of May 27, 1965 in Mom’s presence from the time when we, along with Robert, had heard the lady at the nursing home tell us to go home, there had been an accident with the children, through to the diaspora of many of us that summer of 1965! (Daddy along with Mom sitting at the table had shared with me what had happened on May 27, 1965 after my return from six weeks summer school at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio, TX having left the day after we buried the children. I too had not known the happenings that unfolded during that surreal and awful day until Daddy told me.) Afterwards there was respectful silence as we women went into our hearts and were one. I felt so very close to Mom and the Sisters who knew us in that time; I also know that I couldn’t have loved and respected all of them more and yet, I did, I fervently did. They then began to express their deep sorrow and stories of the children to Mom for they had taught all of us who attended Goretti except Veronica and Dominique. Mom listened with a kind and serene expression of contentment, understanding and gratefulness. Then, in a very low voice, she expressed how she was sorry that Veronica had never made it to the classroom for she had so looked forward to the experience of going to school like the others. One of the Sisters said, “Mrs. Monlezun, Veronica came into the classroom with Alvin the last day of school when the report cards were issued. He and she were seated in his desk and I remember how excited she was to be there. So, she did make it to school!” Mom was so pleased… her wish had been granted, in time. That week in Arkansas with Mom and Sr. Yvonne were indeed special for within six months all three of us were diagnosed with cancer and within one year they joined the two children of May 27, 1965. I’m here and choose to document this story and, a certain incredible procession of happenings, 38-1 through 38-7…read on noting month, day and year…
38-2. February 2004 - Many of Constances’ Lake Arthur patients remember the children drowning …”we prayed for you all, just prayed and prayed for all of the family; we wept, a town wept, a townspeople prayed, hearts were one.” She thanks them for praying, for caring, for loving and supporting Mom and Dad and we all these years. They are grateful we are giving back in so many ways; “Lee and Gertrude have such good children, all of you are good people!” On that Friday commute from Lake Arthur to Lake Charles, Constance and I discussed this story hence the day the children drowned and where we were, what we were doing and what do we remember for everyone was in a different place! It was extremely cathartic. Aunt To-To, as I told her of this conversation, was now able to share with me who called her with the news, of telling her children, of traveling to Lake Arthur in a total daze and how Mom had each of the Godparents take their Godchildren from the casket after our final goodbye, to their vehicles, on to church, the cemetery and home. I told her I did not remember that but thanked her and Uncle Guy for that kindness and all their kindnesses to us over the years. It is always amazing but not surprising how talking about certain pivotal times in life can be so helpful for perspective and, what can be healed and what cannot, on this side anyway. Aunt To-To remembered the diaspora of we children after the funeral and couldn’t remember where exactly all of us went! I filled her in… Read on…
38-3. The Jennings Daily News, Friday, May 28, 1965. This article was found on Arthur Avenue March 2004! (I have a framed Lake Arthur Sun Times newspaper article which includes the children’s obituary and sermon given by Father Jude Speyrer at the services of the children. It has hung next to my bed for 39 years and 27 moves and is entitled ‘SERVICES ARE HELD FOR TWO MONLEZUN CHILDREN; HEROISM BY ALVIN CITED IN LAKE ARTHUR TRAGEDY.’)
Constance and I do not remember ever reading the following Jennings Daily News newspaper article. It now is in the light of day, encapsulating its time.
2 CHILDREN DROWN IN LAKE ARTHUR THURSDAY
Lake Arthur, La. – Funeral services will be held today for two young members of a prominent family who drowned in Lake Arthur yesterday. The victims were Veronica Gertrude Monlezun, 6 and Alvin Monlezun, 10 children of Mr. and Mrs. Lee J. Monlezun, Sr. Services will be conducted at 4 p.m. from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church with Rev. Jude Speyrer officiating. Burial will follow in St. Anthony’s Cemetery under the direction of Segura Funeral Home.
Authorities said the children apparently were fishing from a city wharf just across the street from their father’s bulk plant when the tragedy happened. Sheriff Louis DeLaunay said the little girl apparently fell into the water and her brother drowned in an attempt to save her. Another Monlezun girl, Ione, 8, was with them, the sheriff said, and ran screaming from the scene. A nearby resident heard the cries and rushed to the lake in time to see the children go under, the sheriff said. The Lake Arthur Civil Defense unit recovered the body of the boy after 20 minutes, it was reported. The girl’s body was pulled from the lake after it had been under water about 40 minutes, it was reported. Attempts to revive the victims were in vain. Sheriff DeLaunay said the water was about 14 feet deep at the spot where the children drowned. The parish coroner Dr. H.L. Sabatier ruled the deaths accidental.
Survivors, in addition to Ione and the parents, include the paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Antoine Monlezun of Lake Arthur; maternal grandmother Mrs. Joseph Hensgens of Lake Arthur. Also, five brothers, Lee J. Jr., Robert J., Charles J., Malcolm J., and Dominique Monlezun, all of Lake Arthur, and two sisters, Bernadette and Constance both of Lake Arthur. The family has requested that any remembrances be given to Goretti High School of Lake Arthur. …Read on…
38-4. ‘No Greater Love’ is a chapter from the book God’s Gifts: A Collection of Short Stories from the Heart of Cajun Country by Steve Marceaux of Lake Arthur, LA. (Research for Steve’s story was conducted with the Monlezun siblings between 22 April 2004 and 22 September 2004. May 27, 2005 will be the 40th Anniversary of Alvin Joseph and Veronica Gertrude Monlezun’s entrance into Eternal Life!) No Greater Love
My parents are devout Catholics who attend mass daily, and have done so, for as long as I can remember. If you were to ask them why they attend mass daily, they would answer that it is a source of guidance and strength, and they are indeed strong. My parents had a large family; I am one of seven children.
Approximately three thousand people live in Lake Arthur, the town where I grew up. Mr. and Mrs. Monlezun lived in this same small town here in Southwestern Louisiana. Mr. Lee and Mrs. Gertrude were my parents’ good friends and possessed many of their same virtues. They, too, had been blessed with many children — ten of them — and they were as strong, and as Catholic, as my parents. Fifteen of the seventeen Monlezun and Marceaux children attended the same small, Catholic school in town. The only reason the three oldest Monlezun children did not attend Catholic school was because it had not yet opened. If it had been, I am sure seventeen of seventeen would have attended. After the first Monlezun child entered the school, there was probably a Monlezun and/or a Marceaux child in every first grade class for the next fourteen or fifteen years. We knew them well, and they us.
This story is about two of the younger Monlezun children, Alvin and Veronica. In their family, the boy nearest to me in age was the seventh child, Alvin. The ninth of the Monlezun children was a beautiful little girl named Veronica.
Alvin was an avid outdoorsman, and he loved to fish and hunt. For as long as I can remember, Alvin always wore glasses. Being the outdoorsman that he was, he must have been rough on them, because the ones I remember him wearing had industrial strength frames, and even these were often held together with masking tape. Alvin’s older brother, Robert, was a Boy Scout, and when he made the rank of “Eagle Scout,” he received a knife in acknowledgment of his achievement. Naturally, Alvin admired his big brother’s knife, and one day Robert gave it to him. Alvin loved his new knife and always carried it on him, as true outdoorsmen will.
Veronica was a happy, contented child who possessed a sunny personality. She and her older sister, Ione, spent countless hours playing “dress up.” Veronica especially loved to be dressed in can-can skirts to ready her for “the stage.” All of the Monlezun children had been gifted with the wonderful ability to sing, make music, and perform. As far as I know, not one of them missed out on this gift. Like the others, Veronica loved to sing and dance and took every opportunity to entertain anyone who would watch or listen. She was often seen dancing around, twirling her baton, which was most likely handed down by an older sister. I have been told that she, especially, was blessed with “stage presence.”
On this particular summer day, their Mother, their older sister, Bernadette, and Robert left for Jennings to visit their grandmother, who lived in a healthcare facility. Their Father was at work. Alvin and some of his siblings were home with the “Ironing Lady.” The school year had just ended that very day at noon. For little boys and girls, especially those who love the great outdoors, the first day of summer is like none other. Ah, freedom — what a gift!
Alvin and his older brother, Malcolm, were at the age when boys love to ride their bikes, and that’s exactly what they had planned on that first afternoon of summer vacation. Although Veronica and Ione loved to sing, dance, and play dress up, they were, nonetheless, tomboys. They decided to spend their first summer afternoon going fishing. So, Alvin, Malcolm, Veronica, and Ione, each struck out on their separate journeys. As Veronica and Ione were making the trek to their fishing hole, they crossed paths with Alvin, who noticed they were carrying fishing gear. He asked if he could go with them; they were more than happy to have their older brother join them.
That day, they chose to fish in the canal which was not far from home and happened to be very near their father’s business. They had fished this canal many, many times before. A new boat launch and dock had been recently constructed at this canal, and it was here that they decided to set up. Ione threw her line in and went about making preparations for the catch that she knew was sure to come. Little Veronica wanted to help, so she kept a close eye on the line for her big sister, just in case she got a bite. More than once, Ione and Alvin had to remind Veronica to step back from the edge of the dock, and she would obey. But without intending to, Veronica would find herself too near the edge of the dock again, as she concentrated on her sister’s line. Her intent gaze on the cork, bobbing upon the small waves, soon made her dizzy. Suddenly, Veronica lost her balance and fell off the dock into the muddy water.
Instantly, Alvin knew Veronica needed him — she was in trouble. He did not hesitate. He leapt off his bike and dove into the water after her, fully clothed, boots and all. He was a good swimmer, and because Veronica was not far from the dock, he quickly reached his sister who was thrashing in panic. Grabbing hold of her, he headed for the dock. But the weight of his panicked sister, his soaked clothes and boots were just too much for him, and they went under for the first time. After struggling back up to the surface, Alvin reached out to Ione who could not swim, her arm outstretched to grab hold of him. Though Ione stretched as far as she could, their fingers only brushed before the children sank for the second time. A third time Alvin managed to fight his way back up, but this time he was just a bit farther away. Once again, Ione experienced the agony of brushing fingertips with her brother. That afternoon Alvin never stopped trying to save his sister and himself. He fought his way to the surface again and again and as long as Alvin’s heart contained life, he never let go of his sister. In the end, Alvin and Veronica did not re-emerge — they were already home.
Once Ione realized she could not help them, she ran for help, screaming all the way to her Father’s office. She was so distraught when she got there that he could not understand her, but he could tell something terrible had happened. He told his nephew, Anthony, who worked for him at that time, to run as fast as he could to the water, while he called the fire department. By the time Anthony, or “Angel,” as they called him, arrived at the canal, the water had become still and calm, veiling the precious bodies enveloped beneath.
Sirens were now wailing, growing ever louder. Word quickly spread throughout our small community that a tragedy had occurred at “Monlezun Canal.” Malcolm, too, had the heard the terrible news and was speeding on his bike to the canal, cutting through alleys, taking every short cut he knew to reach his brother and sister. When Mr. Lee, frantic with fear and worry, saw Malcolm, he said with a measure of relief, “Malcolm, you’re here?” Wanting to reassure his father, Malcolm responded, “Yes, Dad, I’m okay.” His father then groaned, “Oh, my God, it must be Alvin.” So now Mr. Lee knew with certainty that it was his dear Alvin and Veronica beneath the water.
Townspeople began gathering at the canal to see if they could help. Soon, there was a large crowd as far as the eye could see. Some of the men began jumping in the water to search for the children while the firemen dragged the canal. Everyone was desperate to find the Monlezun children.
The rescuers found Alvin’s body first. As they attempted to breathe life back into him, Mr. Lee crumbled to his knees, all the while rubbing his chest, as if trying to soothe his breaking heart. He implored all those present to join him in praying the rosary for his children. That day denomination was irrelevant; the multitude was made up of many faiths, including the unchurched. They all joined Mr. Lee on their knees, on the gravel, praying for the Monlezun children. That afternoon Father Fernand Gouaux was home in the rectory, which is very near the canal. Alerted by the sirens, he too soon arrived, joining those in prayer and doing what he could to comfort his friend, Mr. Lee.
By that time, their Mother had received word that some of her children had been involved in an accident. Unbeknownst to her, Mrs. Gertrude joined those at Monlezun Canal in prayer, as she, Bernadette and Robert prayed the rosary in the car all the way home.
It took another agonizing forty minutes before they found Veronica. Although rescuers tried repeatedly to revive the stilled, earthbound hearts, it was too late. The small, muddy bodies were laid on clean white sheets — sheets, that to their oldest sister, Bernadette, resembled shrouds. Alvin was only ten, and Veronica only six.
Mr. and Mrs. Monlezun decided to bury Alvin and Veronica together, hand-in-hand, in the same coffin, because they had perished together. Alvin and Veronica left this world on May 27, 1965, which was Ascension Thursday. Because Easter Sunday had only been a few short weeks earlier, their parents dressed them in their Easter clothes. Bishop Speyrer chose “Mass of the Angels” as their funeral rite. In Bishop Speyrer’s sermon, he stated so beautifully, “Hardly articulate, these young children became loud witnesses to love, honor, justice, purity, innocence and bravery.” Oh, so true!
It rained on the day of the funeral. Nevertheless, the church was filled to overflowing. After the service, as everyone exited the church to bury the children, the sky suddenly turned black, the winds howled, lightning flashed and thunder roared. It was as if the whole universe was shouting, “Look! Look! Can you see? These children, such tender ages, and yet, their gift and Mine are one!” After the burial, many relatives and friends gathered at the Monlezun home. No one could bear to leave. Their home was filled with people still in disbelief about what had happened. The remaining brothers and sisters who were scattered throughout the house wept in mourning as their cousins and friends tried to comfort them. Sitting at the head of the dining table, which he had specially built to accommodate all ten of his children, their father summoned his children to him. As patriarch, he rose and proclaimed, “I want all my children here around this table.” He told his eldest son, Lee J., “remove two chairs and close in the gap, as two of ours are no longer here.” He then addressed the rest of his family. “We have suffered a great tragedy. We now have to choose. We can use this tragedy as an excuse to become less than we were created to be, or we can use it to become closer to God’s image and likeness, as we were created to be. We can use it to draw closer to each other and take care of one another, to do good and to love one another, as Alvin loved his sister. There will be times when you will want to despair, but strive to be free from despair, for we now have two angels in heaven, just for us — our Guardian Angels — who will always watch over us.”
Alvin was just a child and yet his love had already been brought to perfection; his love was complete. He gave all he had to give in his sacrifice to save his sister.
It is true: For those Veronica and Alvin left behind, it was a horrible time. Those who loved them the most have suffered the most, just as those our Savior left behind suffered when He sacrificed his life for us. On the day Alvin and Veronica were laid to rest, the sky turned black, the winds howled, lightning flashed and thunder roared, just as it had on the day Jesus was laid to rest, commanding our attention. I believe Alvin’s sacrifice for his sister was as close to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us as you will find in this world. Yes, the Angels in heaven wept all that day, for they could not help but cry — Alvin’s gift of love was that beautiful, just as was the Son of God’s.
Author, Steve Marceaux
The Monlezun family listed in order of birth:
Father: Mr. Lee Joseph Monlezun, Sr. (deceased)
Mother: Mrs. Anna Gertrude Hensgens-Monlezun (deceased)
Children listed in order of birth:
Lee Joseph Monlezun, Jr.
Robert Joseph Monlezun
Charles Joseph Monlezun
Anna Bernadette Monlezun-Ponton
Constance Victoria Monlezun-Darbonne
Malcolm Joseph Monlezun
Alvin Joseph Monlezun (deceased)
Ione Marie Monlezun-Broussard
Veronica Gertrude Monlezun (deceased)
Dominique Joseph Monlezun
This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than this; to lay down his life for his sister or brother. You are my beloved, if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know what his master is doing; I call you beloved, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, no, but I have chosen you, and I have ordained you that you should go forth and bear fruit, fruit that will last. John 15:12-17
They are the ones He chose long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory. Romans 8:29-3