The holidays are oh-so-busy and oh-so-much fun. It has been great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
Eight “Louisiana Role Models” were honored by the Baton Rouge Chapter of The Links at its 10th annual New Orleans Style Jazz Brunch Dec. 12 at the Renaissance Hotel. The event highlighted the accomplishments of Louisiana natives who have had a “positive and insightful impact” on communities at the local, state and national level in each of the Links service areas: Services to Youth, National Trends & Services, International Trends & Services, Health & Human Services and the Arts.
This year’s honorees included Joyce Colin, owner/operator of McDonald’s restaurants in the New Orleans area — Services to the Youth; Endas Vincent Jr., system director of facilities planning at Southern University, and Isaiah M. Warner, LSU’s first and only African American Boyd Professor — National Trends; Velma “Jean” Kirksey-Tarver, founder of the Institute for Global Outreach — International Trends & Services; Ta sha Clark-Amar, executive director if the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, and Leah Cullins, assistant professor, Southern University’s College of Nursing & Allied Health — Health & Human Services; and Sadie Roberts-Joseph, founder and curator of the Odell S. Williams Now & Then African American History Museum, and James Terry III, photo journalist and capitol correspondent for United Press International — The Arts.
The honorees were introduced by chapter President Yolanda Dixon. Emcee for the morning was state Rep. Ted J ame s. Entertaining the hundred-plus attendees was state Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith and the Michael Foster Project.
The night before, I joined supporters of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana for their annual Classic Homes & Cocktails tour through Baton Rouge’s College Town. The festivities got underway at the “host home” of Marci and Bob Drumm with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. It was also the site of the always fun “Tackiest Christmas Sweater” contest. This year’s winners were Brandy and Peter Langland.
In addition to the Drumms’ home, also on the tour were the homes of Grant Gautreaux and Mi c hael Milanowski, Katey and Adrien Bergeron, Rene and Hank Eiserloh, Gretchen and Preston Peterson and Lillian and Carl Carver, along with Gwen and Todd Graves’ famous treehouse. The classic home tour honors FHL board member and former Hotel Indigo General Manager Francis Grayson, who died two years ago and who helped to create the FHL’s holiday tour event. It was chaired this year by FHL board members Vicki Spurlock, Myrna Bergeron and Claire Major.
Garden club tea
Earlier that afternoon, I traveled across the Mississippi for the Plaquemine Garden Club’s annual Christmas Tea, hosted this year at the home of Dianne Grace. Welcoming the hundred-plus guests with the hostess were club President Nancy Delahaye and tea Chairwoman Julie Hebert. Assisting Hebert with the tea were Lou Anna Canello and Donna Carville.
Transforming the historic home into a holiday showplace were club members Penny Acosta, Paula Alexander, Peggy Alonzo, Barbara Breaux, Louise Broussard, Janet Bryant, Travis Campesi, Delahaye, Lucille Distefano, Jeannine Dunn, Diane Evans, Verlee Guilbeau, Gwen Gum, Hebert, Mary Jo Hymel, Madeline Kessler, Marvo Legendre, Gail LeJeune, Carol Ann Marionneaux, Marion Medine, Mary Lou Medlen, Jaynel Nadler, Linda Panepinto, Ramona Perrin, Patty Phillips, Sheryl Ramirez, Jackie Carville Simpson, Sandi Stassi and Patsy Williams.
When I say these ladies leave no nook or cranny untouched, I’m not exaggerating. They even had flowers floating in the master bathtub.
How do I get them to come to my house?
The day started with a very special group of ladies known as the JAGS, who gathered for their Christmas celebration. Hostess Phyllis McLaurin promised, in writing, she would not read “The Wright’s Christmas,” so pretty much the whole gang showed up. After enjoying the delicious lunch Phyllis had prepared for us, we got down to business — the white elephant gift swap. I think everyone left with the perfect gift.
Mayor Kip Holden hosted a champagne stroll Dec. 10 benefiting this year’s Red Stick Revelry New Year’s Eve event. The stroll started at Visit Baton Rouge headquarters on Third Street, followed with stops at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Hotel Indigo and Holiday Inn Express. Among the strollers were Melissa Parmalee, Karen and Bill Profita, Paul Arrigo, Stacy Simon, Lauralyn Maranto, Geraldine Bordelon, Christy Chachere and Rhanna Gray.
The festivities also included the debut Holiday Hop Shop, a pop-up market featuring over 20 downtown businesses hosting 30 vendors peddling all manner of gift options. At Visit Baton Rouge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Marx was selling and autographing copies of his latest book, “Walking With Tigers.”
‘Finding the Forgotten’
Once the stroll got underway, I moseyed on down Third Street to the Gallery at Manship Theatre, where Louisiana ceramic artist Becky Gottsegen and South African painter Taryn Möller Nicoll, who is currently serving as the artist-in-resident at the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at the LSU Health Sciences Center, teamed up for “Finding the Forgotten … In the Shadows of the Mind.” The exhibit runs through the end of January.
Inspired by her own personal relationships as well as time spent with clients and caregivers at Alzheimer’s Services Charlie’s Place Activity & Respite Center, Gottsegen created 16 ceramic portraits representing an intimate cross section of the individuals living with dementia in Baton Rouge. One of those portraits was of Paul Gates, the veteran WAFB newsman who was forced to retire four years ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was so great to see his wife, Michelle, there along with adorable grandson Kaden. She says Paul is doing well, especially when interacting with Kaden., who has brought much joy into all of their lives.
Aside from Michelle, I also enjoyed visiting with Alzheimer’s Services Executive Director Barbara Auten, Manship Executive Director Melanie Couvillion and Carole and Charlie Lamar.
For years I’ve heard about the fab holiday party hosted by the Tyler & Possa law firm, so I was tickled pink when I got invited this year. It was the perfect way to wrap up my night of party hopping — with the congenial hosts (Joe Possa, Stephanie Possa Delgado and John Tyler) and several hundred of their guests.
I got to catch up with several of my boyfriends: Bobby Bernard, Eddie Sims, Hal Holloway, Larry Fremin, Jimmy Thomas, Mike Polozola, Manny Nottingham, Paul Lemoine, Ms. William, Dennis Brewin, Jim Gershey and Dan Gutner , as well as buddies Carmen Williams, Bill McMillin, Peggy Cross Wooley, Toni Higginbotham, Whitney Greene, Sarah Holliday, George Bayhi, Danny McGlynn, Chris Trahan, Vanda and James Referment, Joshua Hayes, SJ Montalbano, Kathleen Byers, Gabby Loubiere Higgins, Brooke Stikeleather and Ned Fasullo, who, with his Big Band combo, provided the night’s entertainment. I even managed to get in a dance with Chadwick Kenny-Possa to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
The week started off with a very special presentation at the McMains Children’s Development Center Dec. 8. Michael Tipton, executive director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, came by to present the center with a $50,000 Angels of Change grant. Naturally, McMains Executive Director Renée Craft and staff decided to host a little celebration for Tipton, board members and McMains staff and clients.
Also on hand for the presentation was former Angel Award recipient Al Hindrichs, a 25-year volunteer with McMains, who along with fellow Angel Award recipient Dr. Barry Rills, volunteer orthopedic surgeon at the center, nominated the center’s Inclusion House as the project to receive the grant. We all got a tour of the house, where children with developmental disabilities learn to function independently in activities of daily living thanks to some way cool technology.
Later that evening, Frances and Charles Bennett were recognized yet again for their volunteer efforts when they were presented AARP’s most-prestigious volunteer tribute — the Andrus Award for Community Service — at a ceremony at the Main Library on Goodwood. Lois Holden represented her husband, Mayor Kip Holden, in presenting a proclamation to the Bennetts, who volunteer their time and talent to a plethora of nonprofits throughout the parish.
Representatives from many of those organizations were on hand to offer their congratulations, including Jamie Tindle , of Families Helping Families, who nominated the couple. Others stopping by were Susan and Marvin Borgmeyer, Karen and Bill Profita, Michael Tipton, Linda Lightfoot and Julie Baxter Payer. In fact, Denise Bottcher, communications director of AARP Louisiana, said it was the largest crowd they’d ever had for this ceremony.
My last stop of the day was the Burden Conference Center at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Gardens & Museum, where members of the Baton Rouge Camellia Society were holding their annual Christmas party. While beautiful camellias graced the tables inside the conference room, the foyer was decorated with some of the prettiest poinsettias I’ve seen in quite a while.
I enjoyed my annual visit with several of the members, including Gerald Phares, Lynn Vicknair and Eva Hoover.
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