Fete de Noel

Event enthusiasts count the days until this annual ado. And it always succeeds in delivering holiday cheer, a good time, and hope.

The recent luncheon of the Ladies Leukemia League Inc. took place, as it has for years, in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Riverside, amassing hundreds of guests for the pleasures of midday dining, a fashion show, a silent auction, prizes, a visit by Santa and the opportunity to raise money to combat the dreaded disease: leukemia.

Over the years, LLL has raised more than $3.3 million for research.

Answering to top titles at the fundraiser were Carolyn Escher, LLL president; Cathy Wattigney, Terri Kloor and Meb Cefalu, Fete de Noel chairwomen; and Camille Whitworth of WDSU-TV, mistress of ceremonies. Janet Patterson gave the invocation; Fay Doucet announced the Light the Tree of Hope donors; and Anne Favret and Rosalie Edwards made presentations to the 2015-16 grant recipients, Dr. Alessandra Ferrajoli, Dr. Hua Lu, Dr. Weiguo Zhang, and Thomas Kean. Drs. Kean, Zhang and Lu also hold Ph.D. degrees.

Always thrilling is the sartorial salute to the season. In the gathering, hosts of women (and men) are decked out for the holidays. And then, there’s the fashion show. It was staged by Dillard’s and titled “The Art of Fashion.” Done in eight scenes, all with music, of course, were tributes to the world of art, starting with “Abstract Imagination” and concluding with “The Royals,” featuring elegant clothing that will be making holiday and Carnival rounds. Sue Webber, of Webber Productions, was the show’s coordinator and Joyce Coleman, the LLL-Dillard’s liaison.

The next appearances are what the event is all about. Children or young adults, who have survived leukemia, are presented and walk the runway. Limelighted were Emily Peters, Kay Colten, and 21-year-old Brenda Stackhouse. Audience applause was thunderous.

Christmas joviality followed. Violinist T-Ray of New Orleans launched into “A Very Merry Christmas” and Mr. Bingle, in life-size form, appeared, escorted by models in red or green sequined gowns.

Then came the Man of the Moment, Santa Claus, who strode the runway to wild applause and photo snaps. A snowy background was projected on the back of the runway staging and “Here Comes Santa Claus” was played. He threw out gifts to a number of eager audience members.

Further highlights were the luncheon itself, a baby spinach salad with candied pecans, braised short ribs, and a hazelnut dacquoise (all delicious); the Victorian doll centerpieces, which were given as prizes, and echoed the invitation and program design by Gretchen Armbruster; the five-item Door Prizes; the Parade of Prizes; and the Special Raffle.

Various winners of aforementioned goodies were Loretta Corbet, Kristy Arcement, Judy Adams, Denise Bruce, Julie Pellegrin, Yvette Coleman, Liz Manhant, Kim Este, Chrissie Pennock, and Drew Hunter.

Spotted within the LLL legions were Fred Escher (husband of the above LLL President Carolyn), a host of committee chairmen, Brother Carl Bouchereau, S.C., Cissy Yakelis, Kay Donnelly, Jolene Ryan, Lorraine Cucchiara, Judge Mary Hotard Becnel, Farida Baig, Dr. Jayne Gurtler, Verna Landrieu, Sammy Steele III, Becky Allen, Gayle Delaney, Darlene Bisso, Richard Kernion, Joel Genovese, Michele Danos, Cindy Paulin, Maria Winn, Anita Hymel, Shelya Zeng, Doris Rappold, and Sidney Kernion, who arrived late at his table, but in the St. Nick of time. He appeared on stage in an earlier guise outfitted in a big red suit and a full beard.

1912 Society Dinner

All hail John P. Laborde! Praise and plaudits were to the fore for him at the recent 1912 Society Dinner of Loyola University New Orleans at The Roosevelt. Chairman emeritus, past chairman, president and CEO of Tidewater Inc., John Laborde received the university’s prestigious 2015 Integritas Vitae Award. In 1956, he co-founded Tidewater, which developed into the largest offshore oil and gas vessel owning and operating company in the world. His civic, community and Catholic Church achievements and contributions are myriad. In 2000, Public Broadcasting System named him a “Legend of Louisiana.”

Guests arrived at The Roosevelt, exclaiming “Winter Wonderland,” as they eyed the extraordinary hallway decorations. They proceeded upstairs to a cocktail reception in the Orleans Room before a served dinner of turtle soup and petit filet mignon and harp music by Loyola graduate student Avery Sanford. The eye-catching silver and gold centerpieces were by Jack Siciliano at Gordon’s of Metairie. Holiday desserts awaited in the Orpheum Room, where musicians Sam Dingle, Jake Hickey and Patrick Kelleher, all class of 2016, performed.

Program principals were Loyola board chairman and alumnus John J. Finan; the Rev. Francis W. Huete, S.J.; Loyola President the Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.; and John Laborde, who was called a “visionary man and leader” by emcee John Finan (with Patty) in a toast.

Noted were Sylvia Laborde, spouse of the honoree, along with several tables of their kith and kin; new Founders of the Society of St. Ignatius inductees John (a former board chairman) and Anne Levert, Dennis and Bonnie Cuneo (in from their home in Nevada), and the Azby Fund, represented by managing director Michael Liebaert, attending with Ruth Austin; Loyola Alumni Association President Allison Plaisance with Michael; and Loyola University board members Sean O’Keefe with Laura, Edgar Chase with Alma, Ileana Suquet with Jose, and Dr. Donald Faust with Mary Kay. Also, Phil and Noo Nee Brooks, Mike and Hope Read, Irma Stiegler, and Faith in the Future Co-Chairmen Anne Gauthier and Derby Gisclair (with Claire).

History and a beloved gift to the university are part of the John Laborde legacy. His late brother, Alden “Doc,” received the Integritas Vitae Award in 1981.

Among John Laborde’s many contributions to Loyola is “Iggy,” the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, which stands on the peace quad at the center of the campus.

Feliz Navidad

“If there was a Fairyland on Earth, it would be the Metairie Country Club at Christmas,” observed a member of Sociedad Espanola, who attended the society’s 40th anniversary dinner dance there.

A huge Christmas tree covered with twinkling lights stood in one corner of the Oak Room, while the rest of the room sparkled with greenery and white lights. Wine flowed throughout the meal of turtle soup and an entree choice of chicken Maxine, veal piccata or fish amandine, and the seasonal specialty: a Christmas yule log.

To a rapt audience, SE President Vivian Coutin told the story and gave a lesson on “the Language of the Fan.” All were intrigued. A red and black fan from Spain was given to each guest as a 40th anniversary gift. Then, all members of 25 or more years were recognized.

Among the many attendees were Ignacio and Carmen Menocal, Angel and Maritza Carreras, Dr. John and Maria Page, Agustin and Ruth Chin, Francisco and Bertha Merchan, Dr. Manuel and Beatriz Lopez, Luis and Tanya Macias, Juan and Maria Nogueira, Fred and Myriam Ruppel, Hugo and Juanita Varela, Stephen Chesnut and mother Lita, Thomas and Bernice Lanigan, Eileen Doll, Ronald Merlino, Noemy Lloyd, Gerardo and Lydia Viera, Cuqui Moore, Veronica Noble, Vania Valle, and Miriam Rodriguez, who was lovely in a red crepe gown. Joining her were children Andrew and Olivia Rodriguez.

To cap the delights of the Holiday Banquet, Banda Musical Vivaz regaled the crowd with Latin music. And dance they did!

Around and About

Debutante Aggie Bell, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael John Bell, was honored at an old-fashioned Christmas tea given at the home of her aunt and uncle, Janet and Thomas Favrot. Lexi Daly designed and hand-cut each invitation in the form of a teapot. Teamed as hostesses were grandmother Ann Bell, close family friend Ann Clayton Chamberlain, and aunts Jeanne Bell, the above Janet Favrot, Kathy Finney, Michele Murphy, Lynn Nolan, Kathryn Smallpage and Julie Vickers.