The Lee Joseph and Anna Gertrude Hensgens-Monlezun Special Collection!”
‘The Living Room!’
This central room is original to the home which was built in 1904! The floor is wide plank heart of pine and behind the sofa was a fireplace which is covered by paneling; in vintage photos one can see the brick chimney jutting up from the roof. The door surrounds are cypress, solid and beautifully crafted. The crucifix was a wedding gift and has hung above the door since the beginning of time! Mom selected the light fixture which she loved and thought was special. The sofa and two arm chairs are very old, only the second of the original set in this room, and are especially crowded in on for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas!
The heritage artifacts, memorabilia, furniture, photographs, clothing and letters are of the Dominique Monlezun Three, Generation Four of Nine (to date!) lineages. He was born in the Basque region of The Pyrénées called ‘Gers’ in southern France and is my paternal great-grandfather who immigrated to New Orleans, LA. His original passport is on the left while on the right is the ‘Monlezun Family Tree Maker’ ~ Generation One, Pierre (b. ca. 1749) and Jeanne Abadie-Monlezun.
A map of the Basque region of origin has its place along with a postcard of this region and the earliest acquired photo of “Grandpa Dominique.” This is the best nail in the house for it holds my Basque ‘costume’ which is donned for the children on their ‘Placed Based Heritage Education’ Day! I always know where it is!
The high chair was made by the grandfathers for my father and his siblings! Tis one of my favorite pieces as one of its little arms is missing but in spite of its missing ‘appendage’ serves as a wonderful end table, proudly!
The large gold framed mirror was a wedding present from my maternal grandparents Joseph and Anna ‘Gertrude’ Reiners-Hensgens. This is the grandfather that was invited to view Arthur Avenue just after Daddy bought her and grandpa said, “Yep! Lee, this home is big enough to raise ten children!” The rest is history! (Mom and Dad gave large mirrors to their children as wedding gifts; they never uttered those words that I can remember!!)
A unique and generous Christmas Gift 2004 from my sister Constance Victoria Monlezun Darbonne that was later framed and I handed on to my son. It was given in commemoration of the ‘First Monlezun Reunion 23 April 2005!’
…on the back is a brass plate which reads…
This painting is a gift to Antoine Adolfo Pontón, Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandson of Dominique Joseph and Louisa Thomasine Peterson-Monlezun.
This is their original home place at Cypress Point, LA 1876-1923.
This wonderful portrait of ‘Dominique Monlezun Three as a Young Man’ (April 8, 1845 ~ June 29, 1923) was acquired by his namesake Dominique Joseph Monlezun Four co-owner of this ancestral home of origin. ‘Great-Grandpa’ was refurbished on archival paper February 2008. His original frame was reworked, straightened and sealed with the original and the current portrait back-to-back. Attached to the frame-back in a sleeve is an archival CD for descendants to always have the opportunity and capability to fire-grandpa-up to hang on the walls of his beloved descendants! Wouldn’t he be amazed, proud and pleased that he had been sought, found and reverenced to the best of his great-grandsons’ ability?! (I think there is a definite handsome resemblance between the two ‘Dominiques’, wouldn’t you agree?!)
“He was a calm man tending his orchards of oranges on this site along the Mermentau River. Theodore, his son, eventually bought the property and filled the side drawer of the side board with oranges every year. Grandpa Dominique eventually moved to town and built a bakery delivering the goods in his wagon.”
Inez Monlezun-Marx, granddaughter ~ Notations 2009!
On the left is the only photos known of great- grandmother Louisa Thomasine Peterson-Monlezun and of her brother, John Auguste Peterson, dapper gent I think! Also here is the gravesite pic where my sister Constance Victoria, nephew Christian Joseph, cousin Renee and I, following the oral history of this high ground burial spot, slogged through Cypress Point woods with the landowner, a neighbor and friend of old of my father to visit this grave where we dug six bricks down still not reaching the base. There are tall and profuse gardenia bushes surrounding the grave, a cutting which I secured and is blossoming on Arthur Avenue!! We are invited to visit at any time.
We returned in 2015 with a cross and flowers for the grave of Louisa and her unborn child and a whispered prayer. Cousin Renee dug down 12 layers of brick, 3 feet! Silt has lovingly encased this holy site…dust to dust. Christian Joseph brought along a powerful GPS tracker and dropped a ‘mark’ right down on the gravesite. He then printed a map of this exact location for descendants for generations to come…tis right on this wall! Thank you Christian Joseph and Renee!!
The framed photo beneath the light switch is one taken of 230 descendants on the sacred ground of this home for the first ‘Dominique Monlezun Three Grand Family’ Reunion 2005. Also the photo of Antoine, my son and Dominique, my brother at graveside holding the flag of their namesakes!
Their six children and spouses are lined up in birth order beneath their parents!
Anna ‘Josephine’ Monlezun & John Edward Murray, Joachim Ezador Monlezun & Adele Boutte,
Paul Emile Monlezun &Adeline Boutte, Theodore Joseph Monlezun & Blanche Blanchard, Antoine Monlezun & Victoria Broussard and a notation of Baby Monlezun/Peterson, b.d. 1886.
This wonderful little black desk was crafted about 150 plus years ago by great-grandfather Dominique and has been in this home for centuries! Now it sits under his wonderful portrait and seems totally at home at last! It holds the five flags which flew over the graves of five of the six ‘children’ on the big family reunion day!
Four Binders of the Monlezun/Broussard children are labeled by year, month and date as correspondence to my parents were gathered, are preserved, sustained and made relevant in this great location among their own people.
Crossing the room on this main wall of my paternal grandparents Antoine and Victoria Broussard-Monlezun are wonderful moments in time of their four children. Grandpa’s crucifix that hung over his bed and under which he died and vintage photos are placed here for all to see and know. The children/spouses are: Mary ‘Beulah’ Monlezun & Alvis Pitts, Clyde Joseph Monlezun, & Nadine Moss, Lee Joseph Monlezun & Anna ‘Gertrude’ Hensgens, and Alvin Joseph Monlezun. The wonderful bench is at least 150 years old built by a Monlezun brother and has at last found a resting place as its been moved from pillar to post!
1st Lt. Alvin Joseph Monlezun was killed in action, WW 11 October 10, 1944 ‘Battle of the Budge.’ He is far right along with his framed high school and college diplomas as he was the first college graduate in the family with a double major in Business and Finance…his last letter home written “some place in Europe” as well as photos of his gravesite in Henri Chapelle cemetery and that of his headstone in St. Anthony Cemetery, Lake Arthur, LA.
His section of this wall is so special and treasures continue to be discovered. In his green trunk under the bench which I found in the attic (A.M. initials penned!) proudly holds two ‘Logs’ from LSU/1936-1938, papers and textbooks, letters from Europe, cancelled checks to his father, newspaper articles; one in 1998 and the caption reads…“Fléron residents who attended a memorial service on the Fourth of July in Belgium stand at attention during the national anthem in honor of Eddie Kratzer, Alvin Monlezun and Ernest Newman, who died during World War ll and are buried in Henri Chapelle Cemetery near Fléron, Belgium.” Again on August 9, 2007 I received a letter with poignant photographs from our friend of old, David Marcantel of Jennings, LA… “As you can see, each year the city of Fléron and my friend Léon Jacqmin in Belgium continue to have elaborate ceremonies to honor the soldiers from Jeff Davis Parish who died to rescue Belgium.” … unbelievable and heroic gratefulness and greatness!
I honor Uncle Alvin Joseph, as I am married to a retired Army officer who served 36 years in uniform; my respect and love are theirs and I can’t wait to meet my paternal uncle in heaven whom I will recognize as I am growing closer to him over time! I will tell him of our tending his memory by his treasures found which now reside next to his siblings and parents who longed for this youngest child, third son, all their years on this side!
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.” Laurence Binyon
Isn’t this a great piece of history!! Quilts and lap quilts hang from the railings of our baby beds! They are handmade by Aspazie Miller-Broussard 1860-1953 and her daughter Victoria Broussard-Monlezun 1884-1989; 175 years of sewing in two generations! They threaded many a needle and stitched many a thread! How wonderful to honor their handwork here in ‘their’ room! Grandma Monlezun’s hand work is spattered throughout this heritage room and gets more precious as the years go by.
And, the long, long broom; a little boy on a Heritage Tour mumbled, “that must have been a very, very tall person to use THAT broom!” It was used to clean cobwebs from the corners of the 12 ft. ceilings in Grandpa’s home.
The display cabinet holds many treasures collected by Mom and Dad over a span of forty-seven years! So very special is a very old and worn little Santa Claus that warms my heart to this very day; on his leg is a vintage Christmas ornament and a picture of Veronica Gertrude holding Mr. Claus! Newspaper articles, grandma’s folded dress, blue shawl, a song book from the Catholic Church in Creole, LA that survived Hurricane Audrey 1957 with an inscription written by my father. I added a votive from Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Creole, LA found after the devastation of Hurricane Rita 2005.
I love placing special items on these shelves that hold such memories and continuity in faith.
The cabinet is topped by a spittoon/plant holder that found its way from Grandma/pa Monlezun’s home and now here among its friends of old!! What stories they could tell and probably do…I would love to write a children’s book of what ‘they in this home’ have to say after the lights are turned off, the heaters are turned down and all return to their home and hearth. Then ‘they’ seize the time to talk about all those humans who comment on them and how they have learned to share this holy space … but O, what it takes to behave and stay put!!
The window once opened to the front porch directly behind the swing in which Mom sat and taught catechism to children just after marriage and moving into this home of old.
This area profiles my paternal great-grandparents, Antoine and Aspazie Miller-Broussard/The Broussard/Miller Collection! They were born and reared in east Cameron Parish. This is the familial connection to dear cousins Anne Broussard-Fautt and Renee Reina! I am researching this family as you are reading this text; I now have a photo of the progenitor, great-great grandfather Nicholas Monlezun!! Nicholas Broussard family is on the left and Jacob Miller family on the right!
Front and center of the room is a beautiful and meaningful icon print by Sister Catherine Martin, Order of Carmelite entitled “Mother of Divine Tenderness!” Just below is a vintage picture of the crèche scene framed as a reminder that Christmas is coming and that this is the spot for the arrival of Baby Jesus, Blessed Mary and St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of my extended family born and raised in this special home. And, of course Santa Claus!
Visits from Santa Claus’ Helpers Over The Year!
This is only place I know to track Santa’s Helpers 2004 to present. He has so much to do just before Christmas for all the boys and girls that have written to him of their hearts desire delivered just before the birthday of Jesus! 2004 ~ Kathryn Anne, 2005~Antoine Adolfo, 2006~Christian Joseph, 2007~Branton Heath, 2008~Sye Joseph, 2009-Dominique Joseph Jr., 2010~Robert Joseph Jr., 2011~Larry Broussard, cousin, 2012~Matt Saunders, 2013~ Kameron LeRae, 2014~Dominique Layne, 2015 ~ “Louie”, friend, 2016 ~ Donald Gillett.
THE BASQUE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEPHERD PSALM XXIII
Found among the ‘papers’ as an enclosure in one of the Oblate newsletters of Sr. Yvonne Lerner, OSB, Holy Angels Convent, Jonesboro, AR…one of our ‘Goretti Sisters!’ Author unknown.
Old Fernando D’Alfonso was a Basque herder employed by a big Nevada sheep outfit. He was rated as one of the best sheep ranchers in the state, and rightly so, for back of him were at least twenty generations of Iberian shepherds. But D’Alfonso was more than a sheepherder, he was a patriarch of his guild, the various traditions and secrets of which have been handed down from generation to generation. Despite a long absence from his homeland he was, when I knew him, still full of legends, the mysteries, the religious fervor of his native hills.
I sat with him one night under the clear starry skies, his sheep bedded down beside a sparkling pool of water. As we were preparing to curl up in our blankets, he suddenly began a dissertation in a jargon of Greek and Basque. When he had finished I asked him what he had said. In reply he began to quote in English the 23rd Psalm. There on the desert I learned the shepherd’s literal interpretation of this beautiful poem.
YOU ARE MY SHEPHERD O GOD, THERE IS NOTHING I SHALL WANT
Sheep instinctively know that before they have been folded down for the night the shepherd has planned out their grazing for the morrow. It may be that he will take them back to the same range; it may be that he will go to a new grazing ground. They do not worry. His guidance has been good in the past, and they have faith in the future because they know he has their wellbeing in view.
FRESH AND GREEN ARE THE PASTURES WHERE YOU GIVE ME REPOSE
Sheep graze from around 3:30 in the morning until about 10. Then they lie down for three or four hours and rest. When they are contentedly chewing their cuds the shepherd knows they are putting on fat. Consequently the good shepherd starts his flocks out in the early hours on the rougher herbage, moving on through the morning to the richer, sweeter grasses, and finally coming to a shady place for the forenoon rest in fine green pastures, the best grazing of the day. Sheep resting in such happy surroundings feel contentment.
NEAR RESTFUL WATER YOU LEAD ME REFRESHING BY SPIRIT
Every shepherd knows that sheep will not drink from gurgling water. There are many small springs in the hills of the Holy Land, whose waters run down the valleys only to evaporate in the desert sun. Although the sheep need the water, they will not drink from these fast-flowing springs and streams. The shepherd must find a place where rocks or erosion have made a little pool, or else her fashions with his hands a pocket sufficient to hold at least a bucketful.
YOU GUIDE ME ALONG SAFE PATHS YOU ARE TRUE TO YOUR NAME
In the Holy Land each sheep takes his place in the grazing line in the morning and keeps the same position throughout the day. Once during the day, however, each sheep leaves its place and goes to the shepherd. Whereupon the shepherd stretches out his hand and rubs the animal’s nose and ears, scratches its chin, whispers affectionately into its ears. The sheep, meanwhile, rubs its cheeks against his face. After a few minutes of this communion with the Master, the sheep returns to its place in the feeding line.
THOUGH I WALK IN THE VALLEY OF DARKNESS NO EVIL DO I FEAR, YOUR ROD AND STAFF COMFORT ME
There is an actual valley in the Shadow of Death in Palestine, and every sheepherder from Spain to Dalmatia knows of it. It is south of Jericho Road leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and it is narrow – a narrow defile- though a mountain range. Climatic and grazing conditions make it necessary for the sheep to be moved through this valley for seasonal feeding each year. The valley is 4 ½ miles long. Its side walls are over 1500 feet high in places, and it is only 10 or 12 feet wide at the bottom. Travel through the valley is dangerous because its floor has gullies seven or eight feet deep. Actual footing on solid rock is so narrow in many places that sheep cannot turn around, and it is an unwritten law of the shepherds that flocks must go up the valley in the morning hours and down toward eventide, lest flocks meet in the defile.
About halfway through the valley the walk crosses from one side to the other at a place where the path is cut in two by an eight-foot gully. One side of the gully is about 18 inches higher than the other; the sheep must jump across it. The shepherd stands at this break and coaxes or forces the sheep to make the leap. If a sheep slips and lands in the gully the shepherd’s rod is brought into play. The old style crook circles a large sheep’s neck or a small sheep’s chest, and the animal is lifted to safety. If a more modern crook is used, the sheep is caught about the hoofs and lifted up to safety. Many wild dogs lurk in the shadows of the valley, looking for prey. The shepherd, skilled in throwing his staff, uses it as a weapon. Thus the sheep have learned to fear no evil in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, for the master is there to protect them from harm.
YOU PREPARE A BANQUET FOR ME IN THE SIGHT OF MY ENEMIES
Poisonous plants which are fatal to grazing animals abound in the Holy Land. Each spring the shepherd must be constantly alert. When he finds the plants, he takes his mattock and goes ahead of the flock, grubbing out every stock and root he can see. As he digs out the stocks he lays them upon little stone pures, some of which were built by shepherds in the Old Testament days, and by the morrow they were dry enough to burn. When the pasture is free from poisonous plants, the sheep are led into it, and in the presence of their plant enemies, they eat in peace.
MY HEAD YOU ANOINT WITH OIL; MY CUP OVERFLOWS
At every sheepfold there is a big earthen bowl of olive oil and a large jar of water. As the seep come in for the night, they are led to a gate. The shepherd lays his rod across the top of the gateway just above the backs of the sheep. As each sheep passes he quickly examines it for briers in the ears, snags in the cheek or weeping in the eyes from dust or scratches. When such conditions are found, he drops the rod across the sheep’s back and it steps out of line. Each sheep’s wounds are carefully cleaned. The shepherd dips his hand into the olive oil and anoints the injury. A large cup is dipped into a cool jar of water. When all the sheep are at rest, the shepherd places his staff within reach in case it is needed during the night. Then he wraps himself in his woolen robe and lies down across the gateway, facing the sheep, for his nights repose.
So after all the care and protection the shepherd has given it, a sheep may well soliloquize in the twilight, as translated into words by David: SURELY, GOODNESS AND KINDNESS SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY
LIFE, I SHALL DWELL IN YOUR HOUSE FOREVER.
How perfect! How wonderful! How true!