Couple happy to work out of the spotlight on NSU’s theatre faculty

richoux

Tucked away in a corner office in the bowels of the A.A. Fredericks Fine Arts Center, Robert and Karn Richoux aren’t in the spotlight.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The married couple, who are each starting their first semester in the Northwestern State University theatre department this fall, specialize in technical theatre, which includes building sets, props, scene painting, stage management as well as costumes, lighting and sound.

Robert, a 2007 NSU graduate who aims to bring his experience working with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and at the ZACH Theatre in Austin, Texas, said coming back to Natchitoches has been eye-opening.

Karn, an assistant professor of theatre technology who doubles as the technical director for the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, taught high school theatre for the past three years.

The pair met at Florida State while pursuing master’s degrees and married on Leap Day in 2011.

Although the Richouxs aren’t together every waking hour because of differing class schedules and project builds, Robert said he doesn’t get tired of being around his wife of five years.

“She’s my best friend, and we get along really well,” Robert said. “We have enough respect for one another, and we know that each other knows what they’re doing and respects each other’s choices.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses. We get along so well that we don’t mind being around each other most of the time.”

A diplomatic answer with his wife sitting beside him, but Karn shared the real reason behind their success.

“We make fun of each other all the time. Laughing is the key,” Karn said.

The Richouxs are still shaping their roles as they assist technical director Phillip Kidd and lighting designer/facilities director Paul Pharris among others.

Robert, who specializes in set building, said he hopes to incorporate more projection designs and automated scenery.

He aspired to be an athletic trainer before falling into theatre by chance.

Karn, a Minnesota native, recalls being involved in her sister’s plays as a child.

The Richouxs stress that theatre isn’t just for students who want to pursue a professional theatre career.

The department is working on its first production of the season, “Young Frankenstein,” running Oct. 12-16 in the A. A. Fredericks Auditorium.

To see a full calendar of the season’s productions, visit https://theatre.nsula.edu/calendar/.

11 Years Later, How has Natchitoches Changed? Or has it?

DarbyNPJ
It’s hard for me to believe, but quite soon it will be 11 years since Mary and I retired to Natchitoches from the New Orleans area.

We had escaped all but minor damage from Hurricane Katrina, with no flooding at all, but everyone at that time was saying how the fierce storms were going to be more frequent and more powerful. So, I didn’t want to be an old man worried every summer and early fall about having my house blown away by Hurricane Whoever. Thank God there have been no major storms in our area since then, but hey, it could happen again next year. Who knows?

So, having been acquainted with Natchitoches in previous visits, and having fallen in love with its charm and history, I posed the question to my spouse on one of our visits after Katrina, “Don’t you think this would be a good place to retire?”

And the rest is history. History from the last 11 years, at any rate.

In some ways the town has changed very little in the last decade, and in some ways that’s very good. It retains its unique beauty, its history going back to colonial days and some very cool museums as well as some good places to eat.

Some of the changes in the last 11 years are also for the better. We have a new form of parish government, having gone from the old Police Jury to a Parish Council and president, and I think that’s also very good. I think some old time residents need to understand that government under the new parish charter can be made to be much more efficient than the old Police Jury system and that different outlooks are sometimes needed.

For many years I covered the Jefferson Parish Council and president and believe me, the system can work and work well. Not that Jefferson didn’t have its share of problems, but a modern system of government is needed for these modern times. Jefferson is much larger and more urban than Natchitoches Parish, but the principle of efficient government still holds.

I think we have some good elected officials, who are dedicated to improvements, but they must be given time.

Commercial change is also inevitable and a couple of my favorite little neighborhood restaurants that flourished a decade ago are no longer around. But new eateries have opened up and Mary and I still enjoy going out to lunch and dinner a lot.
One of the most notable additions to our town is the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. I must admit, I’m still not quite used to its architecture, but it’s a great place to visit if you love sports and/or history. The staff is working hard to put on interesting programs and new foundation CEO Ronnie Rantz has some neat ideas he wants to run with.

Too many people around the state are not aware of this special attraction and Ronnie wants to change that.

What can I say about Fort St. Jean Baptiste, the exact replica of the early 18th century French fort here. I love that place and it’s a true time machine and a real asset to Natchitoches.

I do miss the Old Courthouse Museum, but the great old late Victorian structure is still open to members of the public who want to research their ancestry at the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association library. Check them out, the very helpful volunteers are ready to assist you.

We still have our frequent festivals and, of course, Christmas. The Christmas Festival keeps the economic wheels of Natchitoches turning. Some business owners on Front Street are concerned about the flat economy and lagging sales, but a couple of projects to increase tourism are in the works and may be able to turn that around.

NSU, naturally, is the main year-round economic mainstay for Natchitoches. Even with all of the cutbacks in the state higher education budget, campus officials are doing their best to offer the best education that their money will allow.

So, we’re glad to be part of this very traditional yet still changing little city. I can’t say I don’t miss the New Orleans area, but Natchitoches, which outsiders will never learn to pronounce on the first try, is a pretty neat place to hang our hats.

Students compete at Beebe Martin Memorial FFA Competition

ffa-contest_routing-edges

Ten teams of students from FFA clubs competed in a 3-hour Beebe Martin Memorial FFA Competition Sept. 28 at the Natchitoches Parish Fairgrounds.The students are from Natchitoches Central High School, Lakeview High School, Ebarb High School and Dodson High School. They represented Natchitoches, Sabine and Winn Parishes. Wood for the competition was donated by a local wood company and a local supply company  donated a 5-gallon bucket of supplies to each school.  Students built porch swings from a set of plans provided and four area contractors judged their work. The students were judged on the following criteria:

workspace cleanliness
safety
teamwork
quality of finished product
following plans

While each team has a woodworking shop at their school, the competition gives them an opportunity to work under pressure with a time limit and quality requirements. LSU AgCenter Assistant Extension Agent Randall Mallette helped organize the event and the Natchitoches Parish Fair Board provided the students with lunch.

Campti educator receives Teaching Excellence Award

teacher-award-3

Crystal Pierce, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Fairview Alpha Elementary School in Campti was recently named one of 43 public school educators who received the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence – one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for public educators.

The educators will be honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in
Education Gala in Washington, DC Feb. 10.

The California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence are unique: in addition to being
recognized for excellence in instructional and professional practice, awardees are
nominated by their peers – their National Education Association state affiliate – for their
dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development,
attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators.

Pierce says she is dedicated to finding the “aha” moment with her students.

“I can show my students pictures or videos, but when I actually bring the experience to them:

Aha! They get it! So when it comes time for the lesson on jungles, for example, my
classroom becomes a jungle, complete with vines, waterfalls and wildlife,” Pierce
said.

Because the NEA Foundation values both professional development and diversity,
awardees are invited to participate in its Global Learning Fellowship. Fellows learn how
to prepare their students for a connected and multicultural world in this comprehensive,
year-long professional development program, which includes an international field study
next June.

“These outstanding educators are innovators, challengers, and global thinkers,” said
Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation President and CEO. “We are delighted that California
Casualty joins us once again in expressing our shared admiration and thanks for their
work.”

“The California Casualty awardees are the architects of our nation’s future,” said Beau
Brown, California Casualty CEO. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to honor them with
the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence.” The Louisiana Association of Educators nominated Pierce for the honor. Her school received an award of $650.

Goldonna Elementary announces Students of the Week

goldonnastudents092716

Students of the Week at Goldonna Elementary for the week of Sept. 16 are Case Sampey, Sara Barron, Jadyn Nelson, Bryce Norris, Breanna Hines, Hannah Milner and Dylan Fulton. Students of the Week for the week of Sept. 27 are Andrew Johnson, Kellci Ross, Ethan Smith, Anthony Gionnone, Nathaniel Garner, Colie Kilingworth and Elizabeth Hightower.

City recognizes resident for 80 years of gospel singing

Worshipful voices filled the Arts Center at Monday night’s City Council meeting as Willie Mae Kennedy was recognized for 80 years of gospel singing.

Sitting at her home the following day, with her bible on the arm of her chair, Willie Mae said she was excited for the recognition, but it’s Jesus that’s kept her going these 80 years.
“He’s still letting me sing and praise him,” she said.

Willie Mae said her grandmother would carry her to church when she was 5-years-old to sing.

“I was singing before I knew what the songs meant,” she said.
Some of her favorite songs are “Going Up Yonder,” “Take the Lord with You,” “Amazing Grace,” and “There’s a Leak in This Old Building.” She teaches these old songs to the next generation, encouraging the youth by telling them to use their talents, what God gave them.

“If you do things that are pleasing in his sight, he’ll give you a long life,” she said. “And love everybody.”

She includes a long list of Natchitoches residents among her friends, including mayors Joe Sampite, Wayne McCullen and Lee Posey.

“I’ve been here a while,” she said with a smile.

Determined to keep moving, Willie Mae sings at churches throughout the area, the NSU Folk Life Festival (where she was inducted into the Hall of Master Folk Artists) and nursing homes in Natchitoches. She is the only original living member of the gospel group, the Gospelrettes of Natchitoches.

“It’s encouraging to the people I sing to and to me,” said Willie Mae. “I asked God what he wanted me to do in my old age and he said to go out and tell people about him and sing his praises.”

Willie Mae enjoys caring for others. She graduated from the Natchitoches Technical College in nursing and worked at the hospital for 15 years.

Her children are Ronald Kennedy Sr., who works for the City and is a member of TCS singing group; Michael, who is in a band in Houston; James; Robert; Darrell; Joyce Walker and Geraldine Curry. She also has over 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Magee’s hosts Give Back Nights to benefit NHS

magees_2522

Cheerleaders urged passers by to eat at Magee’s Patio Cafe to benefit the last Give Back Night for the Natchitoches Humane Society Sept. 27. For the past three Tuesdays Magee’s Patio Cafe has given the NHS 15 percent of its sales. Local cheerleaders from Natchitoches Central High School, Northwestern State University and St. Mary’s Catholic School helped collect donations and pull in passing vehicles.

Their enthusiasm was contagious, clapping and cheering each time a car pulled in or donated.

“Big thanks to George Celles and everyone here at Magee’s for hosting us,” said Debbie Tebbetts of NHS. “We’re so happy he let us and the local cheerleaders take over. All of the money we receive will go to the care of the animals at Happy Tails, the NHS facility. Right now we have over 20 animals at the facility and in foster care and we want the best for all of them. That is why I hope we make $1,000 by the end of this. We made $200 in donations alone one night, so I’m crossing my fingers.”

Anyone interested in making a difference in an animal’s life at happy tails can visit www.natchitocheshumane.com or the NHS Facebook page. The NHS urges pet owners to spay and neuter their pets.

NCHS senior earns welding certification at NWLTC

chadwalker
Chad Walker is a Natchitoches Central High School senior who started his second semester at NWLTC. John Young, NWLTC’s high school welding teacher, said, “Chad is an awesome person. Always on time, always ready to work. He gets in there and works from the time he arrives to the time class is out. I have never seen anyone work as hard as him, and it’s paying off.”

When Chad graduates from high school he will have earned his Welders Helper certification and will be a certified structural welder. His goal after graduation is to obtain a job and become a pipeline worker. He has already completed welding book 1 and completed the core curriculum. The beads he creates when he welds are solid and some of the best Young has seen in his many years of experience.

“Welding came naturally to me. It’s fun and I enjoy it,” Chad said when asked why he chose to pursue a welding career.

Stay Social, my friends

staysocialmyfriends

Thursday, Sept. 29
BOM Financial Services 10 Year Celebration & Ribbon Cutting: 5:30-7:30 p.m.
BOM Financial Services: 814 Washington Street

Friday, Sept. 30
Robeline Heritage Festival: 5-9 p.m.
Robeline
Prayer and the National Anthem followed by Live Gospel Music, a Weenie Roast and Free Hayrides for the kids. Vendors will also be set up.

Saturday, Oct. 1
Natchitoches Classic Car Show: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Front Street and downtown riverbank

Caracters, Customs and Crypts Tour: 4-7 p.m.
American Cemetery

Doctors of Merci, live music by Snake Doctors: 5-8 p.m.
Merci Beaucoup

Pigs and Pearls-A Cochon de Lait: 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Prud’homme-Roquier House

Robeline Heritage Festival: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Robeline
10 a.m.- Prayer and the Pledge
11 a.m.- Heritage Parade will roll through downtown Robeline
Activities throughout the day
9-11 p.m.- Zwolle native and Nashville Recording Artist, Jerad Bridges

RFBC Color Run/5K/Walk: 8-9:30 a.m.
Robeline First Baptist Church
Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. in the RFBC gym and the course must be completed by 9:30 a.m. For information contact Brittany Procell at 318-332-5371 or Belinda Berry at 318-715-6060

Tom Sawyer Work Day: 9 a.m. – noon
Briarwood Nature Preserve, 216 Caroline Dorman Road in Saline

Tuesday, Oct. 4
Sensory Friendly Movie Night: 6-9 p.m.
Natchitoches Parish Library

National Night Out: TBA

Tour the American Cemetery and learn its history this Saturday

tour-1

The Natchitoches Historic Foundation (NHF) will offer its Characters, Customs and Crypts Cemetery Tour Saturday, Oct. 1 from 4-7 p.m. at the American Cemetery on Second Street. There will be Mourning exhibits on display throughout the tour.

Visitors will be greeted by historic characters who played a role in the history of Natchitoches. They include Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, founder of Natchitoches, Dame D’Artigue, John Sibley, James Metoyer, and John Gideon Lewis. The tour includes a showcase of mourning memorabilia with commentary on the pre-Civil War traditions surrounding death and burial, interspersed between the “characters” sharing their life stories within the cemetery. Students from the Louisiana School For Math, Science and the Arts will assist with stories and entertainment during the tour.

The tour begins at the American Cemetery entrance, located just to the north of Holy Cross Church and parking is available across the street from the Cemetery. The tour is $10 for adults and $5 for students.
The American Cemetery is one of the cornerstones of the Natchitoches community. Established around 1737, the cemetery is only a few years younger than the town itself.

In addition to the annual cemetery tour Natchitoches Historic Foundation developed units aligned with the Louisiana State Social Studies Standards that will be given to participating teachers for use in 8th grade classrooms.  Eighth grade Louisiana History students from schools in Natchitoches Parish participate in a similar tour Oct. 5. Unit topics include the Great Raft, women in Natchitoches, the arts, and the history of the American Cemetery and the persons interred there.

Last year’s program for 8th graders was named the Outstanding Education Program for 2015 by the Louisiana Office of History and Culture in the Office of the Lt. Governor.
Proceeds raised from the tour will be used for historic preservation, restoration, and educational projects in Natchitoches.

Pigs & Pearls fundraiser is one of many planned by Service League

service-league_pigs-and-pearls

The Service League of Natchitoches will host its Pigs & Pearls “Cochon de Lait” fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Prud’homme-Rouquier House. Tickets are still available but are going fast. For information call the Service League at 318-352-6723. It is all about favorites – good food, good music and good times. Proceeds go to the Service League to support restoration and maintenance of the Prud’homme-Rouquier House and other service projects.

The Service League’s 2016-2017 year started with the induction of new members including: Hillary Bennett, Angela Bolton, Meagan Bonnette, Kellie Cedars, Natalie Covher, Anna Dieter, Jaime Fontana, Amber Freeman, Cristy Gentry, Jenny Hancock, Claire Harrington Christina Johnson, Karen Lee, Misty Lester, Karen Loach, Kelli Lorenz, Lacy Merrill, Lauren Moreno, Susan Poston, Lauryn Sharplin, Crystal Slaughter, Jennifer Thornton, Nora Townsend, Kate Trichell and Aimee Walker.

The Service League depends on new membership to keep the organization fresh with new ideas for service opportunities in the Natchitoches community as well as fundraising work to maintain the Prud’homme-Rouquier House and other responsibilities.
President Susan Godfrey and Vice President of Service Mary Beth Van Sickle organized the collection of supplies for victims of the flooding in August in South Louisiana. Recipients were extremely grateful but the needs are great and much is still needed. New and gently used books will continue to be collected.

In times such as the flood, special service needs are met, but there are service projects that are additional service opportunities. This year the first project will provide chemotherapy patients at the local Natchitoches Cancer Center with “chemo bags” filled with items to help the patients feel more comfortable and to let them know that others care.

The annual mum sale, another Service League fundraising project took place earlier in September. Anyone interested in buying mums next year from the Service League, mark the calendar for early August and call the Service League at 318-352-6723 or email serviceleagueofnatchitoches@gmail.com and the Service League will be glad to fill and deliver orders.

Shell Beach & Grand Ecore Pipeline

By Junior Johnson

shell-beach-story-photo
Many people have memories of the old Shell Beach Bridge and Grand Ecore Pipeline from the 60s-70s, beyond what they were designed for.

During those days we were carefree, full of adventure and feeling indestructible. How we made it through is beyond me. I believe everyone has a Guardian Angel, most of the time.

As a student at Northwestern State College (NSC) in 1965, it didn’t take me long to find where the action.

Natchitoches didn’t have nightclubs and bars like larger college towns. We had Shell Beach, an unlikely place because it was a boat launch to Cane River Lake by a bridge. I was disappointed when I first saw the place after hearing so many stories. It didn’t take long to change my mind. It was the most “happening” place around.

At NSC women were told Shell Beach was “off limits,” and if seen there, they were subject to demerits and possible “Strict-Campus,” which meant they couldn’t leave Campus except with parents or for Church. House Mothers would send their Dorm Monitors to check out that terrible place to see if their girls were there.

There was one activity that was on the minds of everyone: jumping off Shell Beach Bridge. Why someone wanted to jump off a bridge didn’t make sense to me, but people did it.

There were two levels to jump from: the road and the top of the structure. The top seemed a “right of passage.” When one boasted they jumped off Shell Beach Bridge, the next question was always, “Road or Top?”

I watched friends make the plunge, but it never interested me. They would try to encourage me to jump, but I never found the courage. As a young man I was a bit embarrassed that I couldn’t accomplish what seemed to be easy for everyone else.

It didn’t take long to regain my self-esteem.

On the other side of town was the Grand Ecore Bridge crossing the Red River. On the opposite side of the bridge was a big gas pipeline. It was many times higher than the Shell Beach Bridge.

I’d heard stories of people walking across the pipeline, but assumed it was workers for the pipeline company. Surely no sane individual would do this just for fun.

Somehow I found the idea of walking the pipeline interesting.

After discussing the pros and cons, a plan was made. Armed with flashlights and nothing more, myself and two of Fraternity Brothers, slowly began our trek. For some insane reason I volunteered to be the leader.

About halfway from where our journey began, we noticed the ground seemed so far away. Our nerves began to get jittery. Soon we were over the water and noticed the wind picked up and there appeared to be a swaying action on the pipeline.

Trying to find humor in the situation I suggested we could jump. A round of laughter followed and one of my brothers said, “Well the fall would kill us so it doesn’t matter.”  There was no laughter then, only silence and a swaying bridge.

Our downward trek was much livelier and our confidence grew with each step. At the bottom platform, we said a prayer to God for watching over us on this foolish expedition. It took us almost two hours to make the walk.

To celebrate we went to our favorite spot, Duty’s Pizza House. We ordered several pitchers of beer and a couple of Russell Duty’s delicious pizzas, and began telling our story to all who would listen.

I never jumped off the Shell Beach Bridge, but I did walk the Grand Ecore Pipeline.

I suppose my manhood was intact.