Awards and investiture were highlighted at a brace of events when Saint Elizabeth’s Guild held its annual luncheon to spotlight the 2015 Volunteer Activists, while six days earlier, the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, Grand Priory of North America, tapped new members prior to a gala dinner. Good works were the focus of each round of “saintly” socializing.

Guild Gratitude

Ten outstanding community leaders are hailed each year at the St. Elizabeth’s Guild Luncheon and Fashion Show. This year, the laurels and the looks unfolded at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel with, as mastheaders, luncheon Chairwoman Julie Vanderbrook, Co-Chairwomen Erin Shea Stahnke and Nancy Colomb, honorary Chairwoman Maria Huete, guild President Cindy Wooderson, master of ceremonies Mark Romig, national anthem singer Megan Dearie, Catholic Charities President and CEO Sister Marjorie Hebert, M.S.C., and the Rev. Neal McDermott, O.P. for the invocation. Clad in Dominican-friar white, Father Neal said he was stopped en route to the luncheon with folks asking, “Are you the pope?”

Joan Ingram did the commentary for the fashion show that included as celebrity models Jim Letten, John Young, Mike Yenni, Johnny Blancher and daughters Piper and Lola, Todd Murphy, Norman Robinson, Dennis Assaf, Jay Galle, Ron Maestri, Bradley Ingram, Kathy Mitchell, Elizabeth LeBlanc, Randi Rousseau, LaShawna Scofield, Natalie Shepherd, Margaret Orr, and Candice Bennatt (Miss Louisiana). The show putted into place with Father T. (Monsignor Anthony Taormina) decked out in golfing gear, complete with a club.

Luncheon fare consisted of a salad and a chicken main course followed by Bananas Foster cheese cake. Federico’s Family Florist did the centerpieces of Tropicana-colored and yellow roses with touches of purple and greenery.

Additional features of the day included door prizes, a parade of prizes, raffles, a silent auction of 250 items chaired by Suzette Herpich and Lisa Baynham, entertainment, and the attendance of certain notables in the city. Sighted were Gary Lorio, Paul Fischer, the Rev. Anthony McGinn, S.J., Gayle (Mrs. Tom) Benson, and siblings Kay McKissack and Thomas Capella, who rallied in support of their sister, the above event Chairwoman Julie Vanderbrook. Kevin Colomb, Jim Stahnke, LaMarr Ingram, Rob Wooderson, and Rudy Herpich figured among the many supportive spouses.

Then there were the 2015 Partners, who gave so generously. In the top Guardian Angel category was Angel Wings Foundation (with special thanks to Cindy Paulin). The Faith category included Anne and Dave Dunlap (Houstonians and in honor of Chairwoman Julie, Anne’s sister), The Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation, and Peoples Health (with thanks to Ana Eler). The Hope category included Jacquelyn Steele Daniels, the Shane and Holley Guidry Foundation, and Phyllis M. Taylor. The above Julie and husband Richard Vanderbrook were among the 16 names in the Charity category.

Funds from the event support the work of St. Elizabeth’s Guild and the various children’s and young people’s programs serviced by Catholic Charities. The particular ones are St. John the Baptist Head Start, infants, toddlers and preschoolers; Padua House, a residential program for those “with intellectual disabilities who are medically fragile from the ages of birth to 35”; and Independent Living Skills Program, for teens and young adults.

The presentation of the 10 Volunteer Activists is the highlight of the annual luncheon, which limelights them for their community contributions. Applause during the 45th annual presentation accompanied nine of them as they walked the runway: Kathleen Mix Diamond, Elizabeth B. Dowling, Carolyn G. Escher, David R. Gallo, Patricia Golemi, Sandra Thompson Herman, Betsy Becker Laborde, Michael H. Rodrigue, and Linda Vinsanau. Missing was Thomas Morstead, punter for the New Orleans Saints. His reason for not being present? Spouse Lauren had just had their second son.

Two former Activists were named to the 2015 Hall of Fame. They were nonagenarian Irene Klinger and Mary Jane Becker, who felt “double blessed” because daughter Betsy Laborde was also honored.

Rallying the crowd of 656 to their feet were the red-jacketed entertainers, The Mystics. They started with hits from the past, even a few done with a marvelous falsetto, before launching into a sixth number: “My Girl.” By then, the audience was hyped to their vocal thrills and, for the most part, clapped and boogied in place. Several couples took the opportunity for a lively dance.


During a late Saturday afternoon, the investiture of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Jerusalem, Grand Priory of North America, took place at Christ Church Cathedral, thanks to the dean, the Rev. David duPlantier. Two dozen new members were invested, among whom were New Orleanians Sylvia Porteous, the Rev. Emile Noel, Drs. Edwin and Barbara Beckman, Dr. Lamar Teaford, and Brian Costello (New Roads). Then promotions of members occurred, as well as a presentation of awards to others.

From the St. Charles Avenue-located cathedral, members of the Order set a course to the National WWII Museum and its U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center for a reception and a gala dinner, which was organized by Michie Bissell, vice commander of the Grand Commandery of New Orleans. It opened with a Marines color guard and the singing of three national anthems, those of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Remarks followed just after, made by Don Carlos de Gereda de Borbon, Grand Master (Spain), and Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, Grand Prior of America. Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Mexico was greeted as a special guest.

Prandial pleasures were to the fore, starting with a roasted pear salad and continuing with braised beef short ribs, and French Opera cake, all prepared by the museum’s American Sector restaurant. Embellishing the tables were bouquets of white roses, white day lilies, hydrangeas and stock created by Order member Keith Derbes. The musical arrangements came from the Victory Belles and their ensemble, who played evocative tunes of the 1940s. Not content to sit and listen, quite a few twosomes got up to dance.

Figuring as guests were Bailiff of the Grand Priory Herschel L. Abbott and Anne, Chancellor Hugh Straub and Vice Chancellor of Administration Mary Ann (his wife), Monsignor George Appleyard, Head Marshall C.W. Gilluly and Grand Vice Chancellor of Administration Marny Gilluly, hospitaller John Bryrnes, and Commander of the New Orleans Grand Priory Jim Jeter and Jan.

Also, John and Bonnie Boyd, Carlo and Rosemonde Capomazza di Campolattaro, Connie Dahlberg, Dr. Tony and Ann Fuselier, Susan Kartzke, the Rev. Stan Klores, Kevin and Haydee Mackie, Gary Mannina, the Rev. Jean Meade, Ann Mentz, Courtney-Anne Sarpy, as well as the grand priors of Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Spain.

National and international meeting of St. Lazarus members recalled the hundreds of years of history of the chivalric organization that now pursues humanitarian and philanthropic activities around the globe.

Around and About

Magazine readers are flipping pages of three national publications for New Orleans focus, thanks to the September-October Veranda issue and the 14-page spread titled “Perfectly Suited” on the home of designer Tara Shaw and husband Robert Walsh written by Julia Read; Preservation (the National Trust for Historic Preservation magazine) and “Period Piece” about professor and musician S. Frederick Starr’s 1826 Creole-style house, the Lombard Plantation; and the October House Beautiful. Hailed as “Kitchen of the Year,” and featured through 10 pages, is that of Scott and Helen Schmidt Jenkins.

The Garden District home of the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association was the site for tea for two -- and many, many more. Past presidents Polly Durham, Betsy Dowling (current president and an above Activist), Betty Davidson, Dr. Erin Fleming, Diane Dupin and Jean Rice were honored. The occasion included the unveiling of a portrait of Mrs. Herman deBachelle Seebold, who donated her home and all of its contents to the guild.

Christine Roucher, a Crescent City resident for five years, returned with husband Christophe Hinfray to renew ties of friendship, witness the city’s post-Katrina recovery, and party. Which she did. The lawn of Jean Porter’s home was the location for the levity enjoyed by Gregg Porter, Alexandra Stafford, Lil Pinney, Katherine de Montluzin, Jamie Charbonnet, Holly Barnett, John Crenshaw, Tac Carrere, Sara Paradis, Gigi Dabezies Trelo, Cecile Tebo, Nanette Colomb, and John Wolf.