At 11:58pm Monday night, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies, and Natchitoches Parish Fire Protection District #2 are on the scene of a structure fire in 100 block of Ash Street in Goldonna, La. according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Firefighters are fighting the blaze at this time.
The home owned by W.O. Scallion appears to be a total loss.
The cause of the fire is currently unknown. There are no injuries.
Miss Renea Elizabeth Cunningham will reign as Queen of the Spring Festival Court presented by the St. Denis Art League at its 52nd annual ball on the campus of Northwestern State University in the Sylvan Friedman Student Union Ballroom.
Renea is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Murray Cunningham. She is the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Ray Penny of Coushatta, Louisiana, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Payne Cunningham, Sr. and the late Marva Glover Cunningham of Natchitoches.
A senior at St. Mary’s High School, Miss Cunningham is active in both school and community activities. In high school, Renea was a four year member of the Lady Tiger golf team where they qualified for state the last two years. She also served as the statistician for the Lady Tiger State Champion Basketball team. She will graduate high school with a 3.96 cumulative GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. She has also participated in FBLA, FCA, BETA and Student Council. During her senior year, she was selected as a member of the Homecoming Court. Renea plans to major in Accounting at Louisiana State University.
In the community, Renea is a member of the Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. She was on the Summer Dance Committee, a member of Leo Club, and served for seven years as a Calico Belle during the Natchitoches Tour of Homes. Renea is also a member of the court for the Holiday in Dixie Plantation Ball.
The Cunningham family has been involved in the League’s celebrations for many years. She served as Herald to Queen Hillary Elisabeth Ackel Bodden in 2010 and as an usher in 2018. Her brothers, Reagan Spencer Cunningham and Ryan Alexander Cunningham, were presented as Gentlemen of the Court in 2016.
Queen Renea Elizabeth Cunningham was formally presented at the annual Spring Festival King’s Party, Sunday, March 8th hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Billy Joseph Harrington at the Natchitoches Historic Foundation Headquarters formerly the Cunningham Law Office.
Friends, family and school classmates are honoring the memory of Belinda Michelle Williams by creating an endowed scholarship in her name that will benefit Northwestern State University students majoring in nursing and biology.
Gabrielle Bellard, a nursing major from Opelousas, is the inaugural recipient of the Melinda Michelle Williams Memorial Scholarship that will be awarded to a nursing major each fall and a biology major each spring semester with preference to a minority female with a 3.0 or better grade point average.
“Ms. Bellard exceeds the qualifications and absolutely represents my sister’s commitment to academic excellence as well as her passion for helping others. Never has the need been greater to help individuals who wish to become health professionals due to the COVID-19 world crisis. As such, we are proud to support Ms. Bellard and in doing so, help continue my sister’s legacy,” said Williams’ sister, Dr. Carmella Parker.
“Belinda was committed to excellence and education. The recipient of her scholarship is committed to both. We are pleased that she will continue Belinda’s legacy,” Parker added.
Williams Scholarship will benefit NSU nursing of biology major
Williams was born May 24, 1978, in Alexandria, to the late Tom Williams, Jr. and Linda Gail Culbert Williams. She was reared in Leesville after her father, a Vietnam War veteran, died at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. She attended schools in Vernon Parish and graduated from Leesville High School in May 1996. Upon her completion of high school, she continued her education and attended Northwestern State University.
“She absolutely adored Northwestern State University, as it is a family school,” Parker said.
Williams graduated from the University of New Orleans with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Healthcare Management. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Louisiana State University and Nurse Practitioner certification from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Williams, a former captain in the United States Army and a Nurse Practitioner, was attending the St. James Medical School in St. Vincent Island at the time of her passing.
The scholarship was made possible by her classmates in Leesville High School’s graduating class of 1996, friends, family and faculty at NSU.
Natchitoches City Council Meetings Reopen to Public
Social Distancing in Place
Natchitoches City Council meetings will reopen to the public at the next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. Occupancy for the Council Chamber is limited to 25% or 26 people total. Temperature checks will be given before entering the chamber. Seating markers will be placed on the chairs. Any Citizen that wishes to observe the City Council meeting live may do so at:
If you have any comments that you would like to make on any agenda item, you can email those comments to email@example.com and they will be read into record. Also during the meeting if you have any comments on the agenda item being considered, you may call 318-521-1023 and you will be placed on speaker phone to make your comments. You must state your name for the record and you will be limited to 3 minutes for your comments. Please remember that this is not a question and answer session and please speak clearly for the record. Since we are allowing for a public comment period, agenda items will take longer than usual because we will allow 45 seconds between the reading of the item and the vote being taken, for any public comment. For additional questions, please call 318-357-3821.
The City Council meeting will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month and will be reserved to only items on the Agenda. The City Council Meetings are held at the Natchitoches City Council Chambers located at 716 Second Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana.
A G E N D A
CALL TO ORDER
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
READING AND APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF MAY 11, 2020
SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Juanita Fowler – Congratulations on your retirement, and in appreciation for your 20 years of dedicated service to the City of Natchitoches.
PLANNING & ZONING – FINAL: #030 Harrington Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing
Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
Lots 4 & 5 on Plat of Aswell Property, N Side College Avenue Between Jefferson St. & Cypress Avenue, Less 8 feet Off Lot 5. (206 University Parkway – Joseph Brant & Felix Clint III Perot)
#031 Batiste Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing
Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
39.61 Ac. Being ½ Int. In 79.22 Ac. Described as W ½ of SE ¼ Sec. 20-87(Owners: Hawley Group LLC and Tabletop Land & Development) and 73.004 Ac E ½ Of SE Sec. 20-8-7, Less 6.216 Ac To Hwy. (tracts of land located Southwest of the I-49/LA Hwy. 478 Interchange and adjacent to Bayou Blue Rd (Owner: Hawley Group LLC)
ORDINANCES – FINAL: #032 Nielsen Ordinance Amending The 2019-2020 Budget To Reflect Additional Revenues And Expenditures.
ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION: #033 Mims Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, To Execute An Agreement Or Lease Of Public Property And Airspace With Ronald Mooty And Marilyn D. Mooty Whereby The City Of Natchitoches And The Board Of Commissioners Of Waterworks District Number 1 Will Lease Public Ground And Airspace Pursuant To The Terms Of R. S. 33:4712 And R. S. 33:4712.1 To Ronald Mooty And Marilyn D. Mooty , To Provide For A Public Hearing, To Provide For Advertising, And A Savings Clause.
#034 Nielsen Ordinance Amending The 2019-2020 Budget To Reflect Additional Revenues And Expenditures.
RESOLUTIONS: #028 Morrow Resolution Authorizing Mayor Lee Posey To Execute An Agreement With The Louisiana Office Of Community Development For The 2019-2020 Community Water Enrichment Fund Grant Application For Improvements To The Natchitoches Water System
ANNOUNCEMENTS: The next scheduled City Council meeting will be June 8, 2020
I was recently interviewed by Louisiana Hometown Productions regarding the FCC’s commitment to provide funding for high speed internet across rural Louisiana.
As Public Service Commissioner, high-speed internet is my number-one priority for North Louisiana and we are working with the FCC to bring it to rural Louisiana. We are in line to receive an estimated $600 million in federal government aid over the next 10 years to spread broadband to these “unserved and underserved” areas. The aid is coming from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
The major companies serve the larger population centers, and the Public Service Commission does not regulate the internet. Unfortunately I can’t wave a wand and get it to everybody as I would like. However, with this (FCC) program, we’re going to finally be able to fund service to some unserved places which is long overdue.
The Natchitoches Parish Library’s (NPL) Main Branch in Natchitoches and Northeast Branch (NEB) in Campti will be reopening to the public, with limited access, effective Tuesday, May 26. The Main Branch will be open 9 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Friday, and Saturday, 10 AM to 2 PM. The NEB will be open Monday through Thursday, 9 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday, 10 AM to 2 PM. COVID-19 safety measures will limit the number of patrons allowed to 20 at the NPL and 4 at the NEB at a time. Visitors are asked to quickly browse and checkout, limiting their time within the building to 30 minutes. Visitors are asked to observe vulnerable population service hours for the first hour of operation of each library location Monday to Friday. Curbside service will also remain available throughout this time.
Masks will be required for those age 6 or older. For the safety of patrons and staff, there are 6-foot demarcations at all service desks, along with sneeze-shields. Public lounge furniture will not be available during this time. Children 15 and younger will not be allowed into the library without an adult over the age of 18. The children’s computer lab will remain closed and the adult computer lab will have limited terminals available, with time-limited to 30 minutes. Portable Wi-Fi-devices will again be offered for checkout, however, laptop checkout will remain for parking-lot use only.
To make a phone request for pickup, patrons should call the Main Branch at 318-238-9224 and the NEB at 318-476-3280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrons must include their library card number, address, and date of birth with any request, to verify their identity. Available items will be pulled and checked out and be available for pick up at the requested library’s parking lot entrance. Patrons are asked to call the appropriate number above for a staff member to bring out his or her materials, open their trunk or passenger door, and then return to their vehicle to minimize interaction for everyone’s safety.
The Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce held its first virtual monthly membership luncheon this Thursday, May 22. Attendees heard from U.S. Congressman Mike Johnson. Johnson has sat on the White House task force to reopen America. Johnson talked about the coronavirus relief package, the greatest economic relief package in the history of the country, and how the first three phases of the recovery plan were the result of a bipartisan effort. Johnson discussed the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the country’s economy, as well as the state economy. He stated that analysts have ranked Louisiana as the state projected to have the most difficult time in economically recovering post pandemic.
In regard to the Louisiana economy’s ability to recover from COVID-19, Johnson stated that, “We do recovery really well. In fact, it’s our specialty.”
The Chamber Monthly Membership Luncheons program is a networking and educational program, as well as a monthly membership update. Members and non-members of the Chamber are invited to attend to build their knowledge base and professional network.
Louisianans purchased thousands more fishing licenses during the first month and half of Gov. John Bel Edwards COVID-19 pandemic-fighting stay-at-home order than they did during the same time in 2019.
In fact, the April purchases of basic fishing license and saltwater licenses far exceeded sales for the past three prior years over the same month.
Here are the results. In April, residents purchased 39,702 basic fishing licenses compared to 18,901 in April of 2019 (a 53% increase). In April of 2020, there were 21,000 saltwater licenses sold compared to 13,771 in April of 2019 (a 35% increase).
“This is fantastic that our residents decided that Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise is where they wanted to spend some time during the pandemic,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “It’s no secret that fishing is in our blood, but we have been pulled away due to so many competing activities. The stay-at-home order showed that when given the time, Louisianans will choose to fish.”
The governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect in late March. That order included restrictions that involved the limiting of group gatherings not to exceed 10 and required social distancing of 6 feet apart. Many people were working from home, were not working or just needed to get out. The license numbers show they quickly decided to get outdoors and wet a line.
Here’s more evidence. In March of this year, LDWF sold 15,162 saltwater licenses compared to 12,995 during the prior March. There were 28,800 basic fishing licenses sold in March, compared to 20,550 in March 2019 (a 29% increase).
Secretary Montoucet said he hopes the upward trend toward fishing continues into the coming months and beyond. “Please buy a license. It helps us provide the programs and science needed to maintain Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise.”
This weekend’s inclement weather and social distancing rules forced the cancellation of Natchitoches’ traditional Memorial Day ceremony that would have been held on Memorial day at the Natchitoches Parish Veterans and Memorial Park.
Despite these obstacles, the parish’s fallen veterans would not be forgotten. On Friday, May 22, veterans Ms. Dee Fowler and Mr. Jeremy Miller laid a wreath at the memorial fountain at the park that lists the parish’s war dead from WWI to the present day. Both veterans are former Army officers who are active in community and veterans’ causes. Ms. Fowler is the commander of the American Legion Gordon Peters Post 10 in Natchitoches, while Mr. Miller is active in both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. In addition, he is the president of the Veterans Park Committee.
The Memorial Day Program at the Natchitoches Parish Veterans and Memorial Park will continue next year and will feature the reading of veterans who have died since the last program. This Memorial Day let us remember the last part of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
“…But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Several years ago I participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range. It is a unique event, a full marathon across the New Mexico desert held to honor the soldiers who endured the Bataan Death March in WWII, many of whom were from New Mexico National Guard units. While the race takes place on an Army post and has a distinctly military flavor, there are people from every walk of life there.
I was thinking of the last time I participated in the march as I sat down to write this piece. The Bataan Memorial Death March is a truly eclectic event. There are people running it as one would a conventional marathon. There are soldiers running the marathon in uniform, boots and a 35 lb rucksack. Then there are people like me who hike the whole route without running.
The race is impossible to participate in without contemplating the relationship between America and her military, the men and women who serve, have served, and their families. I spent 11 hours passing, and being passed by, a variety of people. I was passed by a soldier whose prosthetic leg made a clinking sound as he marched at a furious pace. An hour later, I saw him by the side of the road sitting down, his leg beside him, in obvious pain as he massaged the stump. As I went over to see if he needed help, another soldier helped him to his feet . He put the leg back on, shouldered his rucksack and took off again. We were to pass each other several times that day in the same manner. I spent an hour or so with a group of older women who were talking about what a good time they were having that day. One could see women like them taking an early morning walk in any city in America except for one difference. They all wore t-shirts with a photo of a young man, a date and a place. Between them, they had lost 5 sons to our nation’s wars. Two of them had other children in the military. At that moment President Lincoln’s 1864 letter to Mrs. Bixby became more than a piece of history to me: “…laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom…” Many of the marchers’ rucksacks had photographs of friends and relatives pinned to them.
Social media will be briefly full of flags and military cemeteries. We will be piously reminded of the reason for the three day weekend. In a very real way, it is a good thing that the vast majority of the population has no real connection to the military. I would not wish us a return to the days of the Civil War or WWII in which the casualty lists were in the thousands and almost every family had a connection to the war.
President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address laid out what we owe to the men and women who died in our nation’s battles “… It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We owe them more than gratitude, much more than a shallow moment or two before we get on with the cookout, etc. We owe them to be better men and women. Make your life count. Be worthy. Be the kind of American worth fighting for.
The Natchitoches Police Department is investigating a homicide that took place Sunday night on Jackson Drive.
On May 24, 2020 around 11:06 p.m., officers with the Natchitoches Police Department responded to the 600 block of Jackson Drive in reference to someone being shot in the area. Upon officers arrival they located Latrice Thomas (B/F, 28 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) suffering from a gunshot wound. Latrice Thomas was transported to the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced deceased from her injuries.
As additional officers were responding to the area they located Onterio Pier, the suspect, (B/M, 26 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) driving away from the 600 block of Jackson Drive. When officers attempted to stop his vehicle, Onterio Pier, led them on a vehicle pursuit and crashed in the 100 block of Harry Drive. Onterio Pier exited his vehicle and ran into a wooded area.
Onterio Pier is charged with Second Degree Murder.
The Natchitoches Police Department will release more details as they become available.
If you have seen Onterio Pier please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101 or Detective Trent Perritt at (318) 238-3914. Do not attempt to apprehend or detain this individual by yourself. Onterio Pier is considered to be armed and dangerous. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.
Officer John Greely Natchitoches Police Department
In writing this story, I sadly admit to not having met Mr. James L. Womack. Therefore my original intentions were to visit those of the Sikes community who personally knew him. After the COVID-19 pandemic, I reverted to other means of communication to develop this story. We were able to retell a story that many in this area have already heard.
At its core, the James L. Womack story is of a man whom the late radio talk show host Paul Harvey would refer to as “a man who fell down and got up again.” This story would not have been possible without help from Mrs. Rita James, niece of Mr. Womack; Mr. Noah Peppers, friend of Mr. Womack; Mrs. Ethel Howell, Mr. Womack’s church member; and Mr. James Calhoun, a lawyer friend of Mr. Womack. Of course, I also credit my mother, Mrs. Vadie Lou Riser Calhoun, who I suspect tried to scare me with this story.
On this Memorial Day 2020, as we celebrate, memorialize, and honor the servicepersons who died in all wars, I ask that we also remember a group of servicepersons like Mr. James L. Womack. This group is classified by the Veterans Affairs Administration as combat related disabled. These veterans are often confused with non-combat related disabled veterans.
I first heard the James L. Womack story from my dear mother (madea) at about the age of 15. She and James were born and raised in or around the northeastern Winn Parish village of Skies, which accounted for her being familiar with his story. As the mother of a soon–to-be military draft eligible son, her motives for telling this story appeared ulterior. Of the several times she told the story, often she didn’t mention James was a lawyer, but always seemed to remember to describe his multiple combat sustained wounds, injuries, and disabilities.
Even though I believe this story was used as one of her many ill-fated attempts to dissuade me from volunteering for the Marines, she unwittingly sparked my interest in a military career that lasted for over 22 years. I now consider the James L. Womack story to be one of the most extraordinary, inspirational, and motivational of any combat related disabled veteran of this state and far beyond.
After returning from World war II, he indeed adapted to his current situation and overcame many obstacles to accomplish his goals and objectives during his life. By daily upholding the “adapt to and overcome” warrior creed, he became a great credit to his family, church, community, civic and professional organizations, and to his state.
James L. Womack was born on November 19, 1925. He attended Sikes High School and later Louisiana Tech. As with all World War II veterans, it’s likely he probably would have lived out his entire life without any significant event occurring. However, there were a series of events that changed the lives of James and all other able bodied young men of that era.
With almost the entire World (except America) engaged in hostilities, The Imperial Japanese Navy staged an unprovoked attack on a U.S. Naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii on December, 7 1941. The attack resulted in 2,403 American servicemen killed and 1,178 wounded and some equipment lost. The next day President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared November, 7 1941 as “a day of infirmary” and shortly after, Congress declared war on the Axis powers (Japan, Germany, and Italy). This declaration of war was followed by the largest mobilization of the U.S. military as of this date. All men from their 18th birthday until their 45th birthday were subject to military service, and all men from their 18th birthday until the day before their 65th birthday were required to register for the draft.
James L. Womack fit into the World War II stats in the following way; he was one of the 39% that volunteered and one of the 17.7 out of 1,000 that received non-fatal combat wounds.
Mr. Womack’s experiences while in WW II was relayed to his family on many occasions. Following is a story from Mrs. Rita (Mr. Womack’s niece). As a volunteer her uncle, with all other troops, was packed on a train going across France. This was after D-Day. Her uncle was by the door because he wanted to look out at the countryside. The train ride was rough and you had to hold on. One soldier was drinking and fell into her uncle and fell off the train. Of course the engineer was unaware of this and kept going. The soldier wandered around the countryside. A French family picked him up and he stayed with them. He fought with the French Resistance Army for at least a month and finally was transported to his outfit.
Mrs. Rita continued to explain that a German sniper had several soldiers penned down. Her uncle saw where he was hiding and shot through the tree, which killed the German sniper. He was very fortunate that our soldiers had armor piercing bullets that would go through anything from trees to a tank.
The following story, also told by Mrs. Rita, is one that was probably first told to her Grandparents by what is called a Casualty Assistance Officer team, most likely accompanied by some member of the Sikes community who was held in high esteem (most likely a clergyman). Mrs. Rita explained how, in a small town, the Germans were advancing so fast that her uncle’s unit pulled back. In an effort to slow the Germans down, three volunteers of the Army stayed and were setting up a land mine. Her uncle was one of the three volunteers. As one soldier knelt down to set up the mine, her uncle was looking over him as the mine exploded killing the solider who was kneeling and severely wounding her uncle. The other solider picked up her uncle and loaded him onto a transport vehicle. He was taken to a hospital and was eventually transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland. He lay there for two weeks before he realized he didn’t have any arms. Gangrene set up in one leg and he fought them about cutting off his leg. At one low point in his stay at Walter Reed, he managed to work his way up the stairs to the top floor and climb onto the balcony ledge- ready to jump. He said a prayer, “Lord if I can’t help anybody, I don’t want to live.” He said as he was standing there he knew he couldn’t jump. Also while in the Walter Reed Hospital, President Harry Truman came to visit her Uncle. He wanted to make a real “hero” of her uncle but her uncle didn’t want that. Even though he was a real hero, he didn’t really like that big a deal being made out of it.”
According to Mr. Noah Peppers of Sikes, Mr. Womack returned to his home village and his fiancee, Mrs. Geraldine Abrams, who promised to marry him. Once the war was over she kept her promise. They were married and he attempted to become a lawyer. There were obstacles to getting into law school. Mrs. Rita shared that it took 3 years to get into law school at LSU as they didn’t think he could possibly do the work since he could not see, but finally they accepted him. The students that were not doing well in class were made to read to her uncle. As they helped her uncle they also helped themselves because there were deep discussions in their reading sessions. Mr. Peppers also states that Mrs. Geraldine assisted her husband in reading as he could not see. In Mr. Womack’s obit, it states he graduated 4th in his class and was honored with membership in the Order of the Coif.
As one might imagine Mr. Womack’s work earned him many awards and recognitions in his life. Mrs Rita said that in 1976, her uncle was awarded the most accomplished Disabled Veteran Award. Throughout his career, he was on the board to start the Boy Scouts of America in Winn Parish and was a big supporter and member of the Kiwanis in Winnfield. He also implemented the Winn Sheltered Workshop for the disabled persons and started the Sikes Wolf Creek Guild in 1979 and it still goes on today. The James L. Womack story could not be completely told without exposing his appeal to celebrities and politicians. Mrs. Rita said that when the movie “Blaze” was being filmed in Winnfield, the actor Paul Newman wandered into her uncle’s office and struck up a conversation with him. They enjoyed a beer together and several times when they couldn’t find Paul Newman to do his part in the film, they knew to look around her uncle’s office. Paul Newman was so impressed with her uncle by him being an attorney with no arms and blind. Also, Mr. John McCarty of Quitman once told me that Governor Earl K. Long would always look up Mr. Womack when he passed through Sikes. The radio talk show host Paul Harvey, according to Mrs. Rita , made a comment that deserves repeating of Mr. Womack: James Womack, a man who fell down and got up again.