2022 Natchitoches Treasures recognized for contributions to city, community

A recognition ceremony for the 2022 Natchitoches Treasures was held Nov. 4 to honor Brad Ferguson, Former Sheriff Victor Jones, Bobbye Lee, Dr. Chris Maggio, Warren Massia, and Dr. Lisso Russel Simmons. Simmons son Russ accepted the award on his behalf as Lisso was unable to attend the ceremony.

The ceremony highlighted the contributions made to the City of Natchitoches and the community by each newly elected Treasure, as well as pay tribute to those individuals named as Natchitoches Treasures in years past. The Natchitoches Treasures are an elite group of Natchitoches residents of retirement age who have made a lasting contribution to the community through their generosity, service, volunteerism and spirit.

The Natchitoches Treasures were selected by a committee of those who have previously been named as a Natchitoches Treasure. Natchitoches Treasures have been selected each year since 2008. The treasures are selected from nominations received from members of the community.

Brad Ferguson

Brad was the person who first proposed that the City of Natchitoches should have an antique car show. Eventually, others joined him in making the Natchitoches Care Show happen about 16 years ago. In the 1st year, there were about 50 cars. This past year there were almost 400 cars! It has been a tremendous financial asset to the city. All the motels fill up, all the restaurants are packed, and lots of stores sell more than on any other weekend. Brad works tirelessly behind the scenes to see that the car show happens and is a success each year.

He looks for ways to help those who need assistance, usually, at his expense. He loans his expensive equipment such as a box truck, flatbed trailer, moving equipment, vehicles and more to those who need to borrow them, just to help them out.

He has also allowed friends to live in his garage apartment and his shop at his expense to help them get back on their feet.

He has been on numerous mission trips to Guatemala. On one of those trips, he donated to/and raised money to buy wheelchairs and had them shipped there. He adjusted the wheelchairs to fit kids who could not walk. Another time, he purchased supplies and went there to volunteer to help build small houses for families who had no home.

Brad is a member of the Lions Club and an active Member of First Baptist Church, Robeline.

Former Sheriff Victor Jones

Growing up on a 60-acre farm, the son of a bricklayer, Jones learned the importance of hard work and preparation at an early age and the values instilled by his family still remain a part of his everyday living.

Jones began his career with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriffs Office in 1977, beginning as a dispatcher and a patrol deputy. He ascended through the ranks during his years of service, working in every department of the office.

He was selected by the Department of Justice to attend the FBI National Academy in 1992. In addition to that training, Sheriff Jones attended and graduated from more than 20 professional education programs throughout his many years.

He was elected Sheriff in 1999 and was re-elected (four) subsequent times. In 2011, Jones was inducted into the Louisiana Criminal Justice Hall of Fame for his leadership in promoting community and youth services as an integral part of a sheriffs office.

One area in which Sheriff ones saw an immediate need was protecting the parish’s senior citizens. While Jones traveled throughout Natchitoches parish, he often observed that he would knock on a door but get no answer. No one should feel imprisoned in their own home, and because of that, the “R U OK” program was developed. This is an automated program that checks on seniors daily.

Jones created the SALT Council (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) which meets monthly to determine how to better serve senior citizens. These programs are just some of the many offshoots of the TRIAD program which he’s established.

TRIAD is a partnership of law enforcement senior citizens, land community groups working together to promote senior safety and reduce the fear of crime that seniors often experience.

Jones is an individual who refused to look the other way when people needed help. He is a public servant who went far beyond the realm of flected official duties to help citizens. He is active in the following organizations: Kiwanis Club, Magnolia State Peace Officers Association, LA Sheriff’s Association, LA Chapter FBI National Academy, State DARE Advisory Board, and Special Olympics State Board.

Bobbye Lee

Bobbye has helped save hundreds, if not thousands, of animals in Natchitoches during her lifetime of service to the animal community. She helps many in her community obtain assistance with spaying and neutering, including driving their pets to appointments.

Bobbye has been a staple in the animal community of Natchitoches for over 60 years, and continues to work daily to improve the lives of, many abandoned, abused or neglected animals throughout Natchitoches Parish.

A quiet unassuming presence in the chaos of animal rescue is a perfect description of Bobbye Lee. Soft-spoken and strong-willed, she has loved animals her entire life and rescued many dogs, cats and horses during that time. Many years ago, she went to the City Shelter looking for kittens and saw disturbing things, so she went to see Mayor Bobby DeBlieux to address her concerns. He said if you don’t like the way things are done, why don’t you do them, to which she responded, “I believe I will.” She began working at the shelter the next day, and it rained the whole week which made her wonder what she had gotten herself into. Thankfully, two people who were working there stayed on and were a great blessing to her. From that day, she spent the next 25 years as Animal Shelter Director, working tirelessly to find the best homes she could for the multitude of animals that crossed the gates.

When she started at the shelter, they only accepted dogs, but she convinced the police department to let her take in cats as well. In 2003, due to some health issues, she retired from the shelter, but remained in touch. In the late 2000s, the shelter closed for a time but reopened in 2009, and Mayor Wayne McCullen asked her to come back and help get the shelter back on good footing.

Thankfully, she did. Bobbye says, “It was the most rewarding thing I could have ever done. I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I chose to get married, so that job was as close as I could get to being a veterinarian, and working with NSU was such a blessing.”

Even today, Lee continues to serve Natchitoches working hand-in-hand with the Natchitoches Humane Society to rescue unwanted, abused, and abandoned animals.

Dr. Chris Maggio

Dr. Maggio retired from the State of Louisiana in June 2021 after a 35-year career in education, 33 years at Northwestern State University. Maggio began his career as a teacher/coach in 1986 at his high school alma mater, St. Mary’s Catholic School in Natchitoches.

In 1988, he returned to his college alma mater, Northwestern State University where he served for 33 years in various administrative roles including Head Women’s Track and Field Coach, Director of Admissions and Recruiting, Director of Enrollment Management, Executive Director of the NSU Alumni Association and NSU Foundation, Dean of Students, Assistant Vice President of External Affairs Vice President for the Student Experience, and from 2017-2021, he served as the 19th President of Northwestern State University.

Known as a tireless recruiter and fundraiser, during his Presidency, Maggio guided NSU to its largest enrollments ever recorded in the school’s 138-year history culminating with 11,447 students attending during the Fall 2020 semester. He also guided NSU to record fundraising totals including leading NSU’s first-ever comprehensive Capital Campaign where the university raised over $37 Million dollars in external funding.

In Academics during his Presidency Northwestern established and expanded several academic programs including establishing the Doctor of Nurse Anthesis program and expanding the 4-year nursing clinical program to the Natchitoches campus.

Known as a student-advocate Maggio says his greatest love was recruiting a student to NSU, assisting them while they were on campus, watching them walk across the stage at Prather Coliseum during graduation and then greeting them year’s later as they brought their kids back so that he could assist them in becoming students at NSU.

Maggio has also been involved in the community. He is a member of The Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church where he serves as a Eucharistic Minister, a member of Agitators, and a former member of the Exchange Bank Board and NRMC Foundation Board where he served as President. Dr. Maggio was honored at St. Mary’s as a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame for his athletic accomplishments, he was honored last year by the NSU Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development as a Distinguished Educator.

Warren Massia

Warren was born in 1949 in the city of New Orleans to a military family that traveled abroad during his younger years. Upon his father’s retirement at ft. Polk, his family moved to his mother’s hometown of Natchitoches. He graduated from old Natchitoches Central and went on to higher education at Northwestern State University where he earned his degree in 3 years. He started working for NSU in data processing and retired 40 years later.

Warren installed the first computers at Northwestern State University and assisted with starting the Computer Information System Program better known as the CIS program.

Warren has such a Godly spirit giving his time to helping those in need. He drives ill people in need of doctors in and out of town. Prepares and delivers food for the elderly and the shut-in. He regularly visits hospitals and nursing homes.

His Volunteer Services include: LA Baptist Disaster Relief Team for Louisiana, member, and Deacon of First Baptist Church Natchitoches, Fundamentat in starting the NSU/Natchitoches Youth Basketball League. Dixie Youth Coach,/ Dixie Youth Baseball Governing Board for 15 years, Volunteer at all NCHS basketball games as clock keeper for 50 years, and official statistician for varsity football, Member of NSU basketball games scorer’s table, and 20 years Miss Merry Christmas Volunteer auditor.

Dr. Lisso Russel Simmons

Lisso was born on October 16, 1922, in Simms, Louisiana. He graduated from Pollock High School in 1939. After graduation, he enrolled in Louisiana Normal College, now known as Northwestern State University, and attended until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War Il. During the war, he was assigned to the U.S. Aircraft Carrier, Belleau Wood, with the duty of directing pilots to enemy aircraft. His rank upon discharge was Lieutenant Junior Grade. After the war, the completed his studies at Northwestern State College in 1947 with a degree in education. He earned a master’s degree from LSU in 1949 and a doctorate from what is now the University of Northern Colorado in 1955. He began his career as a high school principal in Springhill, Louisiana, in 1949. In 1950, he married the love of his life, Nadine Smith Simmons. Together they raised five children. In 1956, he returned to Northwestern as an instructor and eventually became the head of the Department of Psychology and Elementary Education. There he guided, helped, and encouraged many Louisiana educators.

In 1970, he moved to what is now Southeastern Louisiana Unwersity as Dean of the College of Educátior/ and served until he retired from Louisiana in 1978. Upon his retirement from Southeastern, he moved to Delta State College in Cleveland, Mississippi, serving as Dean of the College of Education. In 1989 Dr. Simmons retired from Delta State and returned to Natchitoches. Lisso has always been active in his church all of his adult life. He has served as a deacon since the 1950s. During his time in Natchitoches, that service has been at First Baptist Church on Second Street. He has also been very active in Lion’s club, serving as local President and District Governor. He sold many fruitcakes and gifted many roses during his tenure. Lisso was active in Habitat for Humanity, which became the Fuller Center of Natchitoches. He actually worked on the construction of homes well into his 90s. Upon his return to Natchitoches in 1989, he and Nadine purchased and restored the home at 621 Williams Avenue. The residence was in the Natchitches Tour of Homes in 1999 as the Swett-Simmons House In 2006 Lisso lost his beloved Nadine after 56 years of marriage. In 2019, he and his family established the Dr. Lisso and Nadine Simmons Teacher Scholarship at NSU.

100 years of service to his nation and community is outstanding, but everyone who knows Dr. Simmons knows that what he valued most was his service to God, family, and friends. Every week until 2020 and the onset of Covid, Lisso would get a list of church members in the hospital or ill and he would visit them. Every week he would make the rounds at the local nursing homes to visit the residents, even though he was older than most of them. Many employees of the hospital and nursing homes recognized him and knew him by name. He has never met a stranger. He is a firm believer in the ministry of “presence.” This included out-of-town visits to friends and family, countless funerals and wakes, and an unending supply of words of encouragement. Anyone he visits receives a lift. Anyone he meets feels that they have a new friend.