Sharon Nunez stands on the caboose at the old Covington railroad depot and reflects on her passion for the city of Covington and old-style architecture. Her interests fit with her new role as president of the Covington Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Foundation evolved from last year’s Bicentennial Committee, which won an honorable mention award in the category of community development at the Louisiana Municipal Association convention held in Baton Rouge.
“It brought a renewed enthusiasm for the city,” Nunez said. “We approached the mayor suggesting forming a group dedicated to preserving and cultivating Covington’s culture, character and community spirit, and we now have over 150 members.”
Nunez grew up in Norco (New Orleans Refinery Company), 23 miles from New Orleans, but her parents grew up in St. Tammany. Nunez and her husband, Harry, moved to Covington in 1985 and her husband took a coaching job at a local school in 1986.
“My maternal grandfather actually lived three blocks from my present home on West 24th in Covington, and my paternal grandmother lived in Madisonville,” Nunez said. “My love for the area began there visiting the family.”
Growing up in what Nunez calls a club-like atmosphere provided to Shell Oil employees, she was on Shell’s swim team from age 5 until 13. Besides competitions, she also did water ballet and performed at the Covington Country Club one summer.
“My most memorable family vacations were at my grandfather’s camp where the lake met the Techfuncte River in Madisonville,” she said with smile. “Also at the Riverside Cottages in Covington.”
Nunez worked for Tulane University and began taking classes in the School of Architecture. Before long, she exhausted all the architect classes required for a Master of Preservation Studies.
“I have always loved old things — probably born during the wrong century,” Nunez said, adding her father was always renovating her childhood home. “I am always intrigued to watch an old master fix stained-glass windows or old wooden corbels, anything to do with preserving the architectural pieces of those old places.”
Nunez admits her love for old architecture began in the early ’60s when her husband was coaching at Newman High School in New Orleans and they attended gatherings at the homes of the team.
“All those old houses beautifully renovated with such charm and interesting stories of their history,” she said, adding she remembers the Eagans’ home and how Mrs. Eagan had an eye in bringing life to the old homes. “After our move to Covington I found out that she had actually lived in the house we now live in.”
Her interest in Covington’s history began with the stories of her grandfather’s family moving from the Houma area to the city in 1906 by train.
“I have heard so many wonderful stories, especially from people like Howard Nichols and Robin Perkins,” she explained commenting she studied the old ordinances that Howard Nichols published in his historical highlights during the bicentennial year.
“They were not only amusing, but also so beneficial in learning the culture and life of the citizens at that time.”
The Covington Heritage Foundation was recently granted a 501(c)(3) status; Nunez says it’s a very exciting milestone for the foundation. It will open many doors to expand fundraising activities and fully realize its goals as a charitable organization.
When asked what she likes best in working with the foundation, Nunez was quick to answer that it’s the people and their stories. She remarked that Covington is filled with history and many residents have come forward to share their stories.
“From the architectural history, as touched on in our Bicentennial Home Tour to Covington’s latest preservation project at the Southern Hotel, and the history that can be read from the tombstones in our Covington No. 1 Cemetery, there is so much we can explore.”
Nunez is looking forward to the future of the Covington Heritage Foundation.
“The foundation’s top priorities is preserving the city and sharing it with its citizens as well as the city’s many visitors,” she said. “The board will continue to bring top-quality programs that not only educate, but are interesting and entertaining.”
Sign-up for the Heritage Foundation newsletter to keep up with upcoming events is available at www.covingtonheritagefoundation.com.
Deborah Burst writes about people behind the scenes of organizations and events in St. Tammany Parish. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.