1) Lee Joseph Jr. 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!”
2) 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!!
3) 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 it’s 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 it’s 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!)
4) September 7, 1999, Mom 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…
5) 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 away 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…
6) 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…
7) ‘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
8) All my life I have attended “Our Lady of The Lake” Catholic Church in Lake Arthur. The site of Alvin and Veronica’s drowning is only a matter of a few dozen yards from the altar of this church. One Sunday morning after I had started writing some of the other stories in this book, I was attending mass at Our Lady of The Lake when I had the “whisper of an idea” to write Alvin and Veronica’s story. A few days later acting on this idea, I picked up the phone and called the oldest Monlezun daughter, Bernadette. Bernadette and I wept as much as we talked that day. That phone call set a chain of events in motion for the Monlezun family and myself that I truly believe was not of us. But I also recognized that some, maybe all, of the surviving Monlezun children would suffer some degree of emotional turmoil if I were to bring it all up again. Those of us who have not suffered a tragedy of this magnitude can never really know what the Monlezun family endured. Even though my asking about that day was difficult for some / all of them; nevertheless, they expressed their gratitude and encouraged me to keep moving forward with Alvin and Veronica’s story.
I do not know why God allowed this tragedy to befall the Monlezun family. But what I do know with certainty is that Alvin Monlezun’s decision to lay down his life for his sister is one of the most beautiful gifts of love I have ever known. Mere children, yet if we look, we will see that they showed us how to live our lives.
I am blessed that my parents are my next door neighbors. When I want to visit them, all I have to do is walk out my front door and in a matter of seconds, I am in my parents’ home. On one of my many visits there, I told my dad that I was writing a story about Alvin and Veronica. On my next visit to my parents’ home my dad said, “You know, Steve, after the Monlezun children drowned I wrote a letter to Lee. Gertrude told me that Lee carried it on him, and he would read it over and over and that it comforted him.”
There was a time while writing “No Greater Love” when I was struggling to determine if this urge that I had to write Alvin and Veronica’s story was just me, or if, in fact, it was more than that. I was concerned that if it was just of me, I was inflicting unnecessary turmoil upon the Monlezun family. I had mentioned my Dad’s letter to one of the chlidren, Constance Monlezun-Darbonne. Within that same week, she found the letter my Dad wrote to his friend, Mr. Lee Monlezun, thirty-nine years ago! When Constance found my dad’s letter, it gave me great comfort that I was on the right path by following the “whisper of an idea” I had on that Sunday morning.
In the Marceaux family, it is considered to be a minor miracle if we can find a document that we are looking for a few weeks after we have received it, much less years and years later. (I’m only half joking.) Yes, Bernadette and Constance, “Thank God your Mom never threw anything away.”
On the next page you will find a copy of my Dad’s letter written to his friend, Mr. Lee Monlezun, all those many years ago. Steve Marceaux…Read on…
9) Bill and Mazie Marceaux (she attended the first Silent Retreat on Arthur Avenue March 3, 2001 after Mom died) are life-long friends of Dad. They are the parents of Steve Marceaux whose beautiful work you just read. Steve knew of a letter that his Dad, Mr. Bill Marceaux had written to Mom and Dad at the time of the children’s funeral. Steve had often mentioned that letter as he was interviewing us for ‘NO GREATER LOVE’ asking that if we ever found that letter that he would love to read it. Constance found the letter among many in the old suitcase on August 10, 2004 as she had just been interviewed by Steve & heard his request on August 7, 2004, Alvin’s 50th Birthday!
Dear Lee and Gert, 5-29-65
I know you will wonder why I’m writing you this letter being I’m here in Lake Arthur. Well, it’s hard the say something to someone without getting emotional, and certainly we have cried enough, and you experienced enough grief.
I feel as Father Speyrer said- God does nothing without a reason, and I feel he was trying to tell us something. That we don’t try and help each other enough. Your son being only ten gave up his life in trying to help his sister. In what other way could God have told us this and make such a deep impression on us all. As for myself it has already changed my life. I want to teach my children more how to love but love though Christian Charity.
We always ask someone we love for help when it’s needed. I feel that this is why God called on you for this. It makes me feel how close you all must be next to God, and no doubt they are both in heaven. So when the going gets a little rough remember you are the Father and Mother of two saints.
If this not can help in any way to ease the pain of loss, then I feel I have taken my first step in helping others.
I beg to remain through Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Your Friend, Bill Marceaux
10) Dear Brothers and Sisters, August 12, 2004
I visited with Stephen Marceaux on August 7, sitting in Dad’s chair in the den on Arthur Avenue. He and I spoke of Alvin and Veronica. I told him of my day on May 27, 1965. I told him that their funeral Mass was “Mass of the Angels,” a special Mass that is said on such an occasion.
He said that Bill, his father, told him that our Dad read a letter many times over that Bill had written to him and that it gave Dad strength. Stephen said how he “wished he could read that letter now.”
I found the letter among the many this past Tuesday night, August 10. They are all kept in an old suitcase in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. I gave it to you now so that you may know what it is our father and mother read.
Now we know part of the reason why Stephen felt inspired to write his story, “No Greater Love.” As Robert said, “The story should be told to aid parents in the rearing of their children,” and so I send it to each of you. Mr. Bill Marceaux also did just that, and the fruits of his labor are seen in Stephen, as he struggled to tell his children why people die. I too feel the fruit of our parents’ labor in reading the letter. They did indeed ‘carried on’ in teaching us ‘Christian charity’ as Bill said.
I want to, quoting the letter, ‘to ease the pain of loss’ by sharing this beautiful letter, written by a friend so long ago. But it isn’t so long when the lessons learned are everlasting. We are all doing the best we can to teach our children to care for each other. The letter has achieved its purpose to the next generations. How privileged we are to read it and know our dear hometown friends loved our Mom and Dad so much. The circle is completed with Bill’s son, a special messenger.
Stephen said, “it is an honor to write this story.” He feels “called to do it.” I have no doubt who whispered this to him as he sat in church the day he was called. Mom, Dad, Alvin and Veronica want us to be comforted and know that all is well and they are with us in our daily struggles. Good things come from the closeness of family and friends. Let us continue to keep the circle close. We do all still have each other and the numbers continue to grow. This is pleasing to Our Creator and the ones who see Him now. Here’s to an eternity of all of us being together once more. I pray this for all of you.
Love, Constance Victoria…Read on…
11) Dear Mom, Mother’s Day May 13th, 1979
As I lift this pen to address the package to you, I am unable to wrap the gift, because I can’t put ‘love’ in a box and wrap it.
Today my heart is filled with joy, love, thanksgiving, pride and a feeling of a lot of accomplishments which we both have strived for and succeeded. Success is ours. It has been earned thru much hard work, praying and careful planning.
Our 38 years together has been the perfect example of what our Lord expects from all his followers. We have abided by his teachings. Our love for each other has never failed, nor was it ever questioned. The fruits of our labor is all about us…our children have been our joy, and our joy has been our children. They are all on the road to success. Our two angels are there to guide them and see that none falter on the way to their success. This I believe.
Mom, as of this day, our hardest job has been completed, and that is the end of cooking, washing, waiting till 1a.m.for the children to come home. Our last born is about the take his leave to pursue his course in life. You have done a beautiful job for them all.
The next reason for me to be so happy today is because all our children love and respect us. Your rearing of the family is truly a success. None have caused the name of Monlezun or Hensgens to be tarnished with ill deeds.
As we grow old together, and rock away our pains and ills we can hold hands and say, “wonder how so & so (name a child) is doing!” We will always have so much to talk about and think of by-gone days when they were growing up. Now Mom, as of today, I ask that you “slow down” and live for yourself and I, only. When the children need, they will call, when we get too lonesome for them, we will go, but, let’s just fall in love again, you & I. Shortly, we will begin to travel our great country and see all the sights Our Lord has given us to see, “time” is ours. No schedule. No deadline to meet. No weekly or monthly reports to fill out; just you and I.
Love you, Dad …Read on…
12) Date: 8 November 2004 To: St. Maria Goretti School Graduates All!
From: Bernadette Monlezun-Ponton (& Herman Monceaux)
What: This is a fact sheet of collaboration toward a ‘Saint Maria Goretti Catholic School Special Collection!’
Where/How: To ‘live’ in the McNeese State University Library Archives and Special Collection Department, Lake Charles, LA…Archivist: Kathie Bordelon and Pati Threatt (email@example.com). They and their staff collect, clean, store, label and categorize a collection.
+ Artifacts: School jackets, caps (!), pens, rings, uniforms, pennants, a piece of the gym floor (!), certificates, yearbooks…
+ Electronics – Audiocassettes, Video (any film), recordings of any kind.
+ Oral Histories
+ Paper: Speeches, Minutes/Reports
+ Photographs (labeled)
+ Scrapbooks/photo albums
+Memoirs/Reminiscences…more on this later!
Whom: Accepting items from all Graduates 1965 to Present.
Why: I have had the great fortune to work with these wonderful and knowledgeable women in Archival Work on projects in Lake Charles and Lake Arthur. As I work to honor and reverence those who had such influences on the lives of many people, I naturally think of Goretti, subsequently you. This is a way to reverence those who have gone before, those who are here and those who will come after us.
How: Any items that you may have, 1) You invited to call Herman and leave a message. He will call you and make arrangements for pick-up. There is a one page Donation Agreement from the MSU Archivist for you to sign and I will carry your precious contents to the Archivist in Lake Charles for assimilation into the Goretti Collection or, 2) You are of course invited to take what you have to the MSU Library first floor, Archives Department. (Easiest place to park…by the girl’s dorms and walk across the footbridge; the library is on the immediate left!) `
Special Notation: There is a display area at the McNeese Library where there very well could be a ‘Exhibit’ (glass display cases) for the 40th Year (May 2005) of the first graduation class of Goretti! Everyone of or from Goretti would be invited to enjoy the display filled with memories from everyone who contributed.
Notation: Herman poignantly said, “Father Pelous never wanted the spirit of Goretti to die!” This is a way for the first class to begin the legacy process for GHS memorabilia to ‘live together’ for we are all eldering in place! The End!
…Now, isn’t life something!
13) Mom and Daddy were two of the first Eucharistic Ministers commissioned many years ago in Our Lady of the Lake church parish in Lake Arthur, LA. Constance and Vic followed soon afterwards and were commissioned as Eucharistic Ministers and Cantors at Our Lady Queen of Heaven (OLQH) church parish in Lake Charles, LA. I was commissioned as Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Cantor, Wake Service and Communion Service Facilitator in the chapel of the Chancery, Archdiocese of Washington, DC. And Dominique and Tina were commissioned as Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Arthur, LA where it all began! I serve as a Minister of Holy Communion every Thursday at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital as well as hold membership in the Catholic Daughters and Altar Society at OLQH and, along with Constance Victoria and Ione Marie, joining the Altar Society of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Roberts Cove, LA during their centennial celebration with Mom in attendance. Her mother was a member of the Altar Society, Catholic Daughter and charter member of the church choir! Daddy, Lee J., Hector, Dominique and Kade Joel, are members of the wonderful Knights of Columbus! Robert Joseph, Jr. attended a Cursillo! My six brothers were altar boys and in this next generation- Whitney Pierre, lll, Branton Heath, Sye Joseph, Antoine Adolfo, Joseph Wayne served as well as Dominique Joseph, Christian Joseph and the 18th grandchild, Suzanne Louise who serve as altar servers! Also in this next generation, John David (Christ the King Parish in Lake Charles, LA), Katherine Anne while in Baton Rouge and Antoine Adolfo (Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, LA) are commissioned Eucharistic Ministers. Recently Antoine served the cup for the first time and as it was handed to him on the altar, he noted how very full it was but chose not to sip it. He nervously and very carefully processed to his place next to the choir and positioned himself to serve the precious wine. The first lady approached and he gently handed her the cup of which she took a little too swiftly and yes, it proceeded to spill down the front of her dress and onto the floor. He was mortified, his knees turned to rubber and his month dried up but choked out, “I’m sorry!” Clutching the purificator he began to dab the cup as she whispered, ‘It’s OK!’ She is a mother of six children that fill the first pew every Sunday, so what can surprise her?! He proceeded to drop to his knee and dab the floor and said to me, “I cleaned the best I could, then stood over Him to protect Him and continued serving!” I am taking this line to my grave and all the way up to Mom and Dad!!! They probably gave him the courage and tenacity to stand firm, come to think of it!
14) Robert Joseph, Jr. informs me, during his birthday call, that they planted in their holy ground in Carencro, LA, 26 fruit trees to include 8 fig trees, 2 plum, 3 pears 2 cherry, 2 lemons satsumas, kumquarts…”if all else fails, I can build a stand at the street and sell fruit!” Now who does that remind one of?!! One of the kumquart trees’ mama was originally at Arthur Avenue and when they went there to gather-up his Daddy Womack’s hand crafted, well-made metal boat that was parked behind Mom’s garage while they had all been residing in Alaska, there the tree was, rooting from its’ mama and making itself a home, a boat plant! Mom told him to take the whole thing, to include the little startling, and now it blooms where it is planted rooting new memories and fruit that definitely doesn’t fall far from the tree!
15) Trees and Vines
There’s a dead tree in my backyard.
It died slowly from old age and neglect.
One strong storm finally pushed it so hard that it leans way over.
It’s standing only because it is surrounded by vines that are healthy.
That tree reminds me of a sick and dying person.
The vines remind me of loved ones that do not want to let go of the dying tree.
Finally, God chooses.
It is the dying person’s turn to join him in heaven.
The tree falls to the ground and begins to rot.
The vines around the trees either start growing away from the tree,
Or they die when the dead tree keeps nutrients from reaching their leaves.
People join with other people in caring for a sick person just like the vines.
But, when it is time to let go, if people do not let go they will die just like the vines do.
If you look around you, you will see that nature gives these lessons for people everyday.
You just have to remember to look.
Christian Joseph Monlezun, Son of Dominique and Tina King-Monlezun age 10, Our Lady Immaculate Elementary School. Written March 2001, four months after Mom died!
16) If you knew where I’m standing, if you can see the sights I am seeing. If you could hear the angels singing the songs they sing eternally, of you knew the one who is holding me, could see the smile He smiles at me, if you knew where I am resting, you would not cry for me. Author Unknown. Submitted by Katherine Anne upon the death of Mom.
17) Constance Victoria, my sister closest by birth, attended a Silent Retreat at my home in Lake Charles, LA on March 1996. This is what she wrote while meditating facing Grandpa Antoine’s wooden crosses and 60 year old windows from our home of origin that hung on my fence!
WINDOWS AND THE CROSS…THOUGHTS ON GENDER
Windows and the Cross, to see in and out,
To suffer and to save, to be broken, then mended
Raised up to be a reminder that we are here only briefly but bring with us all who have gone before. That we could make a difference to a life but our life, though single, be open to all the possibilities that lie within us.
That we are made gloriously different for a reason - our commonality of imperfectness is the driving force to strive for a better way.
That windows open and crosses hung unclutters our vision, our thoughts, our everyday lives. However, understand that windows get jammed shut and crosses are burned if we hide or look the other way…become comfortable…be of the world.
It was men who carried the cross and a man and woman who remained at the foot of it. It was a cloth offered by a woman upon which Christ emblazoned his countenance so that His Holy Mother could lessen her grief while He lay in the tomb for three endless days. It was a woman who discovered and first believed that the tomb was opened and empty and the God-Man walked among them again.
Can all the wrongs be righted? Can we love enough to change? Can we love enough to carry the crosses of our lives joyfully? Why does our path make so many curves and turns like the Via Delorosa?
Men and women in a dance of life each made wonderfully different!
Who does windows? Both! Who carries the cross? Both!
It is in our realization of these things that we grow as people of God,
Not male, not female.
God gives us our differences so we can revel in them and be joyful in them. If we indeed are made In His Image then it is in the image of His life on earth, His creation of the universe that should be reflected in faces, male and female.
The word woman has man in it. The word man has woman in it.
He gifted us with each other to see life and live it from different perspectives because it is too much to take in, to be comprehended, alone.
How different it would be if we saw what lies ahead.
But it is in the journeying that we can prepare for whatever comes, in this process of becoming that we sometimes rage against.
We have been given ample supplies to make the trip, if we but dig deep into our backpack and make use of them.
The stone in our shoe can be a supply.
Each suffers in his own way, to more easily see the suffering in his fellow journeyman through a window or at the cross.
18) Mrs. Lee Monlezun,
Your little boy, Lee, sings so very sweetly. Everyone enjoyed hearing him sing “Baby Face” at our Carnival. So I’d like to have him sing “When You Wore a Tulip” for our American Educational Week program, to be given during the week of November 6-12. Will you please let him sing for us? He knows the tune of “When You Wore a Tulip” already, as he sings this tune to a little song about driving a car.
I’m sending you the song, page 9. Please teach it to him and get him to sing it plenty at home so he will know it well.
I’ll let you know later what day the program is to be, so you can be sure to come, It will be during the day at school.
I thank you.
Miss Lockwood (4th grade teacher.) Circa 1953
19) ‘Lee Monlezun Jr. Graduates from Seminary Studies’
(Lake Arthur Sun, June 1961)
Lee J. Monlezun, Jr., was graduated from the high school department of Immaculata Seminary in ceremonies held in Lafayette Saturday morning. Bishop Maurice Schexnayder was celebrant of the graduates’ Mass, and the sermon was delivered by Rev. Charles Zaunbrecher, a cousin of Lee J’s mother.
Those attending the graduation from Lake Arthur were Mr. and Mrs. Lee Monlezun, Sr., and children, Robert, Charles, Bernadette, Malcolm and Alvin; Mr. and Mrs. Antoine Monlezun, Mrs. Joseph Hensgens, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Berken and children and Anthony Hensgens, Jr.
To honor Lee J. and their daughter, Bernadette, who finished the eighth grade at St. Maria Goretti School, the Monlezun’s held open house Sunday afternoon. Guests were the graduating class of Lake Arthur High School, Bernadette’s classmates, the Sisters of St. Benedict and several of Lee J’s classmates from the seminary, Mr. and Mrs. Coney Hensgens and son, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Hensgens, Mrs. Joseph Hensgens and Mr. and Mrs. Herman Berken and children.
Refreshments of punch, sandwiches and cake were served to two hundred guests who called during the day.
20) ‘Lee Monlezun, Jr. Attending Harvard University’
(Jennings Daily News Summer 1961 and 1962)
Lee J. Monlezun, Jr., of Lake Arthur has been accepted for summer session at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Lee Jr., received his high school education at Immaculata Seminary in Lafayette and has completed one year of pre-med courses at McNeese State College. He plans to take subjects this summer which will further his medical studies.
Harvard, one of the oldest universities in the United States, is often in the news, and even more so of late, since it counts President John Kennedy as one of its alumni, and many of the men appointed by the president to cabinet posts and other important positions are graduates of Harvard. The largest university library in the world is at Harvard, and among libraries in this country, only the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library are larger.
While at McNeese, Monlezun maintained a 3.0 average and was very active in extracurricular affairs. He was elected senator of the freshman class last year; sang tenor in the men’s quartet; and worked on numerous projects of the Newman Club. He was student director of the Rally Wranglers, a small band which performed at all McNeese football and basketball games, and sang featured roles in the college’s production of Carousel and the Lake Charles production of The Messiah. He is a member of Delta Theta Chi, social fraternity and this spring was elected secretary-treasurer of the society for medical students for the year 1962-63.
The Monlezuns received a letter from Lee J. recently and here is what he had to say about Harvard, “I am writing this letter while sitting on the bank of the Charles River under a giant shady oak. It is truly one of the most beautiful and quietest spots I have ever seen in my life. A writer would be lost for words if he would ever try to describe the scene. Here students gather on the banks and talk. Since I arrived last Friday I have never stopped walking. Harvard University is by far the greatest University in America. For example, you could walk for miles and never get out of the shade. Once you set foot into the Harvard Yard the hussle and bussle of the streets outside the wall suddenly stops and your senses behold a quiet and calm atmosphere towered by the giant oaks and spruce trees and by the century old red brick buildings covered from head to toe by climbing Sherwood green vines. Truly this is a place where knowledge dwells.”
21) ‘Lee J. Monlezun Jr. in Harvard Chorus’ (Lake Arthur Sun)
We hear from Lee J. Monlezun, Jr. that he is singing tenor in the Harvard Summer School chorus of 200 voices, both male and female. The chorus is directed by Iva Dee Hiatt, professor at Smith College for Women. The chorus presents two concerts during the summer and the first is set for today at Sanders Theatre on the Harvard Campus.
From the chorus, a Madrigal Group of twenty voices, five soprano, five alto, five tenor and five bass are chosen and Monlezun was one of the five tenors chosen for this special group. The Madrigal group sings “a capella” that is, without accompaniment and is given this name after the roving singers who entertained the public in Europe during the Middle Ages. Some of the selections to be given by this group today are Flora Give Me Fairest Flowers, Rest Sweet Nymphs and the Silver Swan.
22) ‘Local Youths Among Cadets Recognized’ Jennings, LA
Several local students were included among the outstanding cadets of the McNeese State College Reserve Officers Training Corps who were singled out for recognition Thursday with the annual observance for ROTC Honors Day at McNeese.
Jeff Davis student among the 24 senior cadets who will receive their commissions in the regular Army either at the end of the semester or upon completion of a tour at ROTC summer camp is: Cadet 2nd Lt. Lee J. Monlezun of Lake Arthur was cited as the junior student who contributed the most through leadership to advancing the standing of the ROTC unit. Monlezun was awarded the Association of the U.S. Army proficiency medal in this connection.
23) ‘Monlezun Wins Student Body Post at McNeese’ (May 14, 1964)
Lee J. Monlezun, Jr., of Lake Arthur will take the oath of office as president of the McNeese State College student body during the annual student Senate banquet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Charles Country Club. He has been named to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, is serving as president of the school’s Newman Club received the Mr. Newman Award and is a member of the Blue Key honorary society. Monlezun also holds membership in two national military fraternities, the Pershing Ware Rifles and the Scabbard and Blade.
24) ‘Two Presented Top Scout Award’ 1 April 1965 Jennings Daily News, LA
Two Jeff Davis District Boy Scouts attained the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3686 hall here last night. They were Lee J. Monlezun, 21 and Charles J. Monlezun, 17.
The Monlezun boys are the second and third sons to attain the Eagle Scout rank in the Monlezun family. Robert J. Monlezun, 19, became an Eagle Scout in 1963.
The Monlezuns have 10 children: six boys and four girls. Lee J., a senior at McNeese State College is the eldest.
The mother of the new Eagle Scouts received a pin and necklace denoting her son’s honors.
25) ‘33 Students Finish ’59-60 Term with Perfect Attendance Marks’
Thirty-three Lake Arthur public school students completed the 1959-1960 term with perfect attendance records. Heading the list was Charles J. Monlezun, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lee J. Monlezun, who finished his eighth straight year without an absence.
Charles, who is 13, hasn’t missed a day of school since starting in the first grade. He plans to attend Immaculata Seminary at Lafayette in September.
Good attendance runs in his family as last year the Monlezuns had six children in various schools and five showed perfect records in attendance.
26) MONLEZUN RECEIVES APPOINTMENT (newspaper clipping of 1974 with a classic; the photograph is wonderful!) BATON ROUGE, LA –
Charles J. Monlezun, a native of Lake Arthur and a recent resident of Lake Charles, has just been appointed as State Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Services to Special Education, according to State Superintendent Louis J. Michot.
Monlezun received a B.A. from Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, an M.S.W. in Social Worker and an M.S. in Hygiene from Tulane University. He has been certified in the theory and practice of Mental Health Consultation from Tulane University and is a Board Certified Social Worker.
He has served as volunteer counselor at various institutions in the New Orleans area and worked as a graduate student with the Tulane Schools of Social Work and Public Health. He was summer intern at Acadiana Mental Health Center, Lafayette and assisted in planning, implementing and operating mental health satellite clinics in surrounding communities. He has been active in private practice as well as public agencies.
Before coming to the Department of Education, Monlezun was connected with the Austin-Travis County Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center in Austin, Texas was well as the Calcasieu Area Guidance Center in Lake Charles.
In announcing the appointment Michot stated, “Mr. Monlezun will serve as liaison between the Division of Special Education and the State Department of Hospitals’ Mental Health Section. He will also be holding in-service training sessions in mental health for our own Special Education personnel. We feel that he will be filling a vital position, and will do much to help us in our efforts in this area.”
27) SOLDIER’S THANKSGIVING PRAYER
IS SHARED WITH ‘LES LAKE ARTHUR LES NOUVELLES’
Front page newspaper article, December 19, 1968. (Editor’s Note: The following Thanksgiving Prayer was written by Charles Monlezun, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lee J. Monlezun of Lake Arthur, who is stationed at Ft. Dix, N.J for four months National Guard Training.)
A THANKSGIVING PRAYER
My Brother, it’s that time of the year again. Time to slow down, back up to take stock, and realize things. Yes, I know, these realities stare us in the face day in and day out, but well, we are a thankless people. Please be patient with us if we take things for granted sometimes.
Since I’m only me and it has taken me 22 years to find me- and I’m still not sure of anything yet – I feel I should say thank you for all the things You have sent my way. Some were seen as immediate goods, while others weren’t seen quite that way. But now that they are behind me, I understand. Naturally, You were right.
It’s difficult to know where to start when I have the task of saying “thank you” for all You have given. This is so because nothing of what I was within the past year was possible without all the previous years. But “by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
Thank you, Lord, for the grace of decision, for strength in the storm, and for the various guide posts of reinforcements.
Thank You for my education. This year I temporarily finished college, my formal education, only to start the informal learning process. Please never allow me to cease to learn.
And thank You for the military also. (With a lump in my throat I write this!) This situation has given me invaluable experience with personalities (besides teaching me important things like left face and right shoulder arms).
But Lord, my thank you list is indeed short if I don’t that you for the people in my life. Naturally, first come my parents; for the beauty of their example, the strength of their perseverance, their willingness to give and ask nothing but love in return, and all the good they have injected into the veins of my existence. Thank You also for all those people, know and unknown who have had sway on my life. Please let me live by that power of grace which flows into me by those around.
And Lord, since You said “ask and you will receive”, I will end my prayer of Thanksgiving with a prayer of petition. I suspect that the coming year will be even more traumatic that the one just past. I suspect too, that this next year holds in store a decision which will affect the remainder of my earthly existence and the existence of another (and hopefully more than one) human being. I ask You to guide me, that my steps will be straight, logical, thought out and prayed over.
Please give the world peace and love, my Brother. Allow us to grow in awareness of one another and compassion for those who want.
Thank You for being a good listener.
A Friend of Yours
28) To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Choir Memories
Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2009
My sister, Bernadette Monlezun-Ponton, sent me an email that you need a few stories about being in choirs.
My mother and father, Lee and Gertrude Hensgens Monlezun, sang in choirs all of their lives. My brothers and sisters followed suit and joined various choirs and singing groups. Each of us sang in the Lake Charles Messiah Chorus when we were Seniors in High School. It was nice to be the only one in the car with Mom and Dad on Monday nights of rehearsals, since there were 10 children and we didn't get many chances to get the back seat all to ourselves! Many of us still sing in choirs, chorales, and shows, including the Messiah. (Thank You Dr. Bulber!)
In 1967, my Junior Year at Goretti Catholic High School in Lake Arthur, I was in the "Glee Club". Our director was the pastor of our church, Our Lady of the Lake, and also taught us Religion. We sang for various functions and had a wonderful time. He had a great voice, and a good ear for harmony. Our director taught us songs with religious themes, but one we loved to do that was different and "struck a chord" with all of us was "Michelle My Belle" by the Beatles! Our director is known in this community as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Bishop Jude Speyrer! He is now retired and living in Carencro. And so, "I will say the only words I know that you'll understand"...Thank you Bishop Speyrer for blending sacred and secular in perfect harmony.
Constance Monlezun Darbonne
29) September 2009…we were requested to bring a story to the birthday party… In Celebration of the Fortieth Birthday of ‘My Twin Nephews Lee Joseph lll and Lawrence Joseph’…
In my vivid memory reside these two wonderful remembrances…
First ~ I received a phone call of marching orders from my father/PawPaw to ~ ”gather up Mr. and Mrs. Martin in Lake Charles come through Lake Arthur and pick us up; we’re heading for New Orleans. TWINS have arrived and we’re going to see them!” It was a wonderful trip hearing the entire way as the two GRAND-parents spoke of their ‘children’, your arrival and all the excitement that generated! THE GRANDS resembled teenagers on their way to the prom chatting and thoroughly enjoying themselves the entire trip to and fro! The ‘fro’ trip was even livelier!!
Upon arriving at the hospital and following each other through the maze to the pediatric ward and then THE VIEWING, and there you were brought forth with much fanfare! I stood to the side and watched these grown folk point uttering unintelligible sounds, smiles, giggles, wanting everyone up and down the hall to see you, weeping with joy and…the faces they made to get your attention as you squirmed in the blanket all snug and warm… so small, such potential in two little bundles of joy! And in that moment, upon seeing, their generations were born of two. Our joy was unbounded!
Second ~ Your Baptism Day at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Lake Charles, LA ~ All were gathered for this most solemn of Rites and after Mass we, en masse, proceeded to the altar. After the beautiful ceremony and congratulatory remarks being offered by all present your maternal grandfather Mr. Martin very quietly gathered you up, gently but with purpose tucked you in each arm and proceeded to stand in front of the statue of St. Joseph. There he stood alone for a long while in front of your Patron Saint whispering prayer, looking down at each of you from time to time and back up to the face of St. Joseph. My mother/MawMaw and I solemnly watched with respect from afar as she smiled as if knowing the prayers unfolding. Could-it-be your grandfather knew that he would not live to see you grow to manhood? His prayers are with you to this day for they are eternal.
He knew how to offer, he knew how to pray ~ could-it-be his oblation was for you to be protected by the earthly father of Jesus and all that a grandfather can know; supplication to grow to manhood in the footsteps and reverence of those who have gone before; taking your generational place in the faith of our Fathers which joins the family to those who have prayed us forward since 1694!
Now your father is a grandfather and he continues to offer his prayers for you and yours in reverence of those who have gone before. He too knows how to offer up.
Lead, Kindly Light!
Aunt Anna ‘Bernadette’ Monlezun-Pontón
Your Father’s Eldest Sister Who with Familial Love Offers Beaucoup Remembrances!
Print copies for:
Lee Joseph Monlezun Jr., M.D., Lee Joseph Monlezun lll and Lawrence Joseph Monlezun
Gift ~ ‘Hensgens/Reiners Paternal Lineage’ for:
Lee Joseph Monlezun lll and Lawrence Joseph Monlezun
30) 23 July 2013
TO: My Son, Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of Holy Angels Convent, Priests, Family and Friends
FROM: Anna ‘Bernadette’ Monlezun-Pontón
RE: Bishop Jude Speyrer, the first leader of the Diocese of Lake Charles (1980 – 2000) died Sunday 21 July 2013 in Opelousas, LA at the age of 84. A Mass of Christian burial will be at 11 a.m. July 31 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles. Burial will be in New Bethany Cemetery on the grounds of Saint Charles Retreat Center in Moss Bluff.
I have just returned from Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, AR for our Oblate Spiritual Weekend where, providentially, I spoke to the topic “The Benedictine Spirituality of Heritage: Reverencing Those Who Have Gone Before!” I had placed on the piano in the convent meeting room, inclusive to my presentation, artifacts and memorabilia of Goretti Catholic School to include a Binder with photos of Father Speyrer, Sisters, faculty and students of many years ago.
Many of the Goretti Sisters inquired about this gentle man and I was able to then and now share,
+ I was so happy to have visited him in Opelousas a few years ago where he inquired about so many people, siblings, as well as many fond memories of our diocese and its good people. He recalled that my parents had sung in the diocesan choir for his installation as Bishop…I have the printed articles of this special event on Arthur Avenue!!
+ I had thanked him for being my religion teacher and for the opportunity, by his invitation in 1990, to host a diocesan television segment which continues to this day, 23 years later, which he continued to view upon his retirement; I told him I would have been more attentive in class if I knew then what I know now!
+ We also spoke of the day my brother Alvin and sister Veronica drowned to which he recalled the faith and resolve of my mother and father to hold up for the rest of us and how he and Fr. Ferdinand Gouaux stood over their little bodies once pulled from the water never leaving them until my father was led to my mother in the car on the corner as she could come no closer. He and Fr. Gouaux, side by side, offered to The Father their little souls and big hearts into their eternal home. These special priests were the Celebrant with many concelebrants at The Mass of Angels. He wept as I told him that I had his printed homily that was posted in the Lake Arthur newspaper framed and has forever hung next to my bed; he had asked to read it and I brought it to him for that purpose. I thanked him for shepherding my parents and family post-drowning tendering them; now so many are all together in heaven rejoicing in The Light eternal! He said that he never really got over that day and I concurred but assured him that I had placed it all in the palm of The Father’s hand in trust and, By His Grace, leave them there.
+ He spoke in fondness and gratefulness toward my mother for her generous contribution in memory of my father toward the library in St. Charles Center where he summoned many to build this beautiful place of rest and spiritual wellspring spending precious time in His precious presence. He enjoyed sharing his German heritage with her. I told him of my ancestral home of origin, where he spent many hours, and all who come to her back door where ten children shared sacred space being formed and transformed by the love and intense toil of a father and mother who centered on their God Who they called Father and with Whom they now abide; these events are a memorial legacy. He informed me that he was aware of this and had joyfully visited my website on his iPad and had heard others speak of my retreats, Heritage Tours and Placed Based Heritage Education day especially for the Diocese of Lafayette school children!! I asked for his blessing upon departing. For goodness sake!
Bishop emeritus Speyrer will be buried Wednesday 31 July sharing the 28th anniversary of the death of my father. What a time in ‘Alleluia Square!’ All is made known in an instant and for eternity to live in The Light!
Thank you, God, for our parents, grandparents, priests, Sisters, aunts and uncles who mentored us …’in the way we should go so that when we are old we will not depart from it.’ I will miss them all the days of my life and my determination to join them is resolute as I take my place in honoring and reverencing in gratefulness those who have gone before by emulating and teaching what they taught me down through the generations; ‘to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next!’
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen. God of our ancestors, help us cling to You.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE, dear friend and mentor! Lead, Kindly Light!
“Thanks for forwarding this It is so true. He was there for all of us Was so very kind, gentle, and helpful in all of his actions. Served many masses with him and all funerals during school hours. Had to place the cross in the police car for transport to graveyard as it did not fit with him and I in his volkswagon. God bless him as he did unto us so many times. Thx again.” Tony Hensgens (my lovin-lovin first cousin!)
A few days later, as per requests…the framed newspaper article which hangs
next to my bed 48 years later…
SERVICES ARE HELD FOR TWO MONLEZUN CHILDREN; HEROISM BY ALVIN CITED IN LAKE ARTHUR TRAGEDY
Funeral services were held Friday afternoon at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Lake Arthur for Veronica Gertrude Monlezun, 6, and Alvin Monlezun, 10, who were drowned last Thursday after Alvin heroically leaped into the water in an effort to save his little sister.
The two children, whose parents are Mr. and Mrs. Lee J. Monlezun, were on the wharf near the boat landing across the street from their father’s bulk plant when the tragedy occurred.
The girl fell into the water and her brother immediately leaped in to rescue her. The body of the boy was recovered 20 minutes later and the girl was found 40 minutes later police reported.
The water was about 14 feet deep at the spot.
A Mass of Angels was said for the children Friday, with Rev. Jude Speyrer as celebrant, Rev. Charles Zaunbrecher as deacon and Rev. Ronald Bollich of Beaumont, TX as sub-deacon.
In the sanctuary were Rev. Edwin Bourgue, Msgr. Charles Martin of Jennings, Msgr. LaFleur, Rev. Daniel Habetz, Rev. Lloyd Hatfield, of Immaculata Seminary, and Rev. Bernard, chaplain of McNeese State College.
Burial was in St. Anthony Cemetery.
The children are survived by their parents; five brothers, Lee Jr., Robert, Charles, Malcome and Dominique; three sisters, Bernadette, Constance and Ione; and their grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Antoine Monlezun and Mrs. Joseph Hensgens.
Pallbearers were the childrens’ cousins, Anthony Hensgens, Leonard Hensgens, Raymond Hensgens, Patrick Habetz, Pirmin Habetz and Stephen Berken.
Editor’s Note: The following is the sermon given by Father Jude Speyrer at the services for the Monlezun children. It is published here in Memoriam.
A bereaved man with a trace of despair in his voice once approached his minister: “Preacher,” he said, “where was God when my son died?”
Very wisely, the man of God replied, “And where was God when His Son died?”
Most of us responded to last Thursday’s tragedy with more or less the same reactions: Where was God when Alvin and Veronica died?
The answer of course, is the same: God was there. His good and gracious purpose may not always be discernible, and it would be presumptuous to answer for the almighty, but some reasons do come to mind.
God’s Son was allowed to die that we might live; not the life of the body, but the life of God Himself, a life of love. Had He not Himself proclaimed that He came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly? It was not a medicine bag of anti-biotics to fight our bodily fevers which He brought us; it was a way of love, “Greater love than this hath no many than to give his life…”
The death of Jesus took place almost two thousand years ago; it is not always as fresh in our minds as we would like it to be. And so periodically, this memory is refreshed, as a share in Christ’s own death when God uses the death of innocents to teach us about the important things of life.
We know about the important things, of course, but we forget. We place success in business, in family matters even in church affairs, over success in loving God and serving Him in our neighbor. May words have been addressed to us through the Bible and its weekly applications in countless sermons, but when these words fail, God reminds us with deeds as He did on Good Friday afternoon.
The redemptive death of Jesus is repeated in His own way in the death of two of our children. The community of Lake Arthur must not let this sacrifice be in vain. It must look at itself, at its own guilt, its own injustices and rise out from its neglect and indifference to God’s call of love by serving Him first.
Everyone would like to think that he has been placed on earth somehow for his betterment. Hardly articulate, these young children became loud witnesses to love, honor, justice, purity, innocence an bravery. We envy their contribution. We thank Lee and Gertrude as we reach out to them in sorrow.
Two splashes, a few ripples, then silence. May these ripples turn into chills of repentance as we are brought more closely together in love.
A few days after the funeral for Bishop Speyrer, I received a phone call from my niece, Suzanne Louise Monlezun. She spoke of reading my email pursuant to this story and that she was on her way to a Core Retreat for the Diocesan of Lake Charles Catholic Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She wanted me to hear what she had composed as her ‘Witness’ for this wonderful group at the upcoming retreat and with her permission I share with you. This precious niece just turned 18 years of age as she is the 18th of 18 grandchildren of Lee Joseph and Anna ‘Gertrude’ Hensgens-Monlezun!! I couldn’t be more proud of this fifth of five nieces and yet, I am, every day for her way of being in His image and likeness that lights up my life, my soul. Notation ~ 31July 2013 is the 28th anniversary of my father’s death, her paternal grandfather. God’s timing is perfect!
Suzanne Louise Monlezun
31 July, 2013
I remember sitting on my grandmother’s lap a as child with all her other children and grandchildren scattered throughout the great Monlezun house, but in that moment everything and everyone felt so far away. It was just her and I clinging to one another, and there I was looking up into those peaceful, gentle eyes with a look of utter joy upon my face. I never wanted our gaze to be broken. She whispered, “Who do you love?” I jokingly responded, “Mom, Dad, Nique, Christian, but not MawMaw. To which she responded, “Of course you love me, my girl.”
I’ve grown up having been held close, protected, told that I am loved. I never would have imagined that these people, the ones who were gathered around the living room singing and playing the guitar laughing and encouraging me to join in would have experienced a tragedy within the family. I have been told numerous times about the drowning of my aunt and uncle, Alvin Joseph, age 10, and Veronica Gertrude, age 6, near the wharf near my grandparent’s home.
It was the first day of summer and the two sisters, Ione and Veronica Gertrude, decided to go down to the wharf to watch the boats come in and out when Veronica peered over the edge and fell in. She nor Ione knew how to swim, but Ione saw their brothers Malcolm and Alvin Joseph on their bikes headed home. Ione called frantically to them but Malcolm didn’t hear the call because he was too far down the road, but Alvin did. He rushed over to the wharf and immediately jumped into the water to save Veronica Gertrude; however, when he tried to pull her up, she pulled him down out of fear. Alvin would not let her go, and they both went down together. All these years later, the wharf is still known as the Monlezun wharf and Alvin will forever be known as a hero.
Hearing this story as a child, I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of it all. No one seemed to want to talk about it, so I never asked, until a week ago when my dad, Dominique Joseph, showed me an email from my Aunt Bet in which she wrote a letter commemorating the death of Bishop Jude Speyrer. The letter included the homily that he gave at the funeral of Alvin Joseph and Veronica Gertrude. I couldn’t believe that after all these years, God had allowed me to read this homily and really begin to ask questions.
Through inquiring my aunts and uncles to discover what happened on that day and the journey that my grandparents, along with the brothers and sisters, took toward peace and healing in Christ, I realized a sole similarity among everyone’s story. No one really got over that day, which is good because rather than asking the question of where God was through it all, they became and continue to be a living witness to the truth of God’s love, which is a “greater love than to give his life for a ransom of many.”
God has allowed me to realize where that love, honor, gentleness, and even joy came from in my grandmother’s eyes so many years ago when she questioned me if I knew that I was loved…it was continual decision by her to let go of her fears and doubts and truly trust that in His time all will be made known.
My prayer for all of us as we look forward to the coming year that we may surrender our hearts to a God who is abundant in love.
31) 15 June 2005
To: The Brothers and Sisters
From: Dominique, Your Brother
“It is 60 years ago today Daddy and Mom started The Business! I want to thank each of you for, at age 25, trusting me to buy the business and pay you back monthly; it took 12 years but Tina and I did it. You helped make it a success. Thank you! It is a privilege to carry on.
I’ve recently spoken with John David about utilizing some of the cypress from Grandpa Monlezun’s barn which, as you know he felled, to be crafted into a cross for the new office to which he readily agreed! (They pour the slab at the new location this Friday!) I would like your permission to use Daddy’s casket cross that hangs in the back room on Arthur Avenue and superimpose it onto the cypress-crafted cross. I can’t think of a better way to honor his toil than by the significance of a cypress cross from his father, a carpenter who worked with our native wood. (If I don’t hear from you in the near future, may I take that as a yes and move on this so as to have it ready for the opening?) Thank you!
I just wanted to share this special day and my thoughts with you. I love you!”
(God, I love this and the man who penned his heart to paper…O, the faith we live by and for…)