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P E O P L E

T R A V E L

H E A LT H

DECEMBER 2019

A R T

| JANUARY 2020

F O O D

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It’s time to let us know what you LOVE about living on the Northshore from Artists to Restaurants to Yoga.... VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE! Go to EDGEOFTHELAKE.COM to vote and we will announce the winners in our February/March issue. VOTING TAKES PLACE Thanksgiving through New Years For our readers in Tangipahoa Parish please go to our sister publication, Tangi Lifestyles and vote at Tangilifestyles.com.


PUBLISHER Sarah Cottrell

The St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce held their annual Business Appreciation Luncheon, and Northshore Media Group was proud to be awarded the Go Give Award. The award celebrates a company that encourages employee involvement in the community by giving of their time and/or money to a worthy cause. It reminded me of what we set out to do three years ago and that was to be local and to celebrate the people, culture and businesses that make up the Northshore. We continue to grow and everywhere I go people compliment me on EDGE. The success of the magazine is because of the team that works on it. From the sales team that are involved in the community every day, to the behind the scenes team of writers who take on ideas and turn them into the stories you read today, and our graphic designers, photographers, editors and our delivery people who deliver the magazines to over 300 locations. As we move into our fourth year of publishing, I THANK YOU all. We couldn’t publish the magazine without the support of our advertisers, and this is the time of year we ask our readers to vote on their favorites. The third annual Readers’ Choice is open! Voting will take place until the end of the year and the results will be published in February. Go to edgeofthelake.com to vote today. Thank you, and I wish you all the best for the Holiday season,

PUBLISHER

EDITOR Scut Farkas ART DIRECTOR Erich Belk STYLE DIRECTOR Patty Beal BEAUTY EDITOR Caitlin Picou COPY EDITOR Mary-Brent Brown CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mary-Brent Brown Sarah Bonnette Charles Dowdy Liz Genest Smith STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jerry Cottrell CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Mary-Brent Brown Joel Treadwell SENIOR SALES EXECUTIVES Eloise Cottrell Rick Clasen ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rebecca Blossman-Ferran Erin Bolton Jamie Dakin Debi Menasco Michelle Wallis-Croas

ON THE COVER St Tammany Parish Fire Academy Photographer - Sarah Cottrell

The entire contents of this magazine are copyrighted by EDGE Publishing. @ 2019 with all rights reserved. Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is prohibited. Please email comments or story ideas to edgepublisher@yahoo.com. EDGE PUBLISHING • 69170 HWY 190 SERVICE RD. SUITE 1 COVINGTON, LA 70433 • 985.875.9691


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HEART & HEROISM ANATOMY OF A FIREFIGHTER


STORY LIZ GENEST SMITH PHOTOS SARAH AND JERRY COTTRELL

F

or anyone interested in personal development and general self-awareness, it’s helpful to occasionally take an honest look at the kind of people we are. Are we contributing to society? Helping our fellow humans? I, for example, donate monthly to a few worthy causes; I always put my shopping carts in the cart returns; and I often let people out in traffic – if I’m in a good mood and not in a huge hurry. I probably rank just above people who donate their expired canned goods to food drives, and just below those who always remember their reusable grocery bags and voluntarily chaperone school field trips. Even if you rank high above those of us hovering in the negligible to mediocre range, and you believe yourself to be a real do-gooder and model citizen, you still most likely don’t hold a candle to firefighters. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a firefighter’s job is to “control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.” It also explains that prospective firefighters have to pass written and physical tests, complete fire academy training, and earn emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. That’s the official, bureaucratic job description, but if you talk to Jeremy Windom, the Fire Prevention and Public Information Officer for Mandeville FIRE/EMS – as I recently did – he’ll tell you that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “You have to have heart,” he offers up immediately, when I ask what it takes to be a

firefighter. “When you’re hot and tired, still in your gear, and you don’t want to keep going – you have to have that drive to take care of people, serve, be at your best for those people. And [once the fire is out] you have to ask where their pictures, valuables, and trinkets they’ve collected over the years are. I’ve found that it means the world if I can bring a little joy on their worst day.” Firefighters are often the first ones on the scene of anyone’s worst day, whether that’s due to fire, accident, or medical emergency. For people who are lucky enough not to have experienced any of these situations, especially residents of a relatively safe area like ours, it’s sometimes easy to start taking our local first responders for granted, and to underestimate not only the physical risks, but the emotional toll their jobs take on them and their families. Northshore residents were given an all-too-brutal lesson on that topic when Mandeville police officer Captain Vincent Liberto, Jr., was shot and killed in the line of duty back in September. My meeting with Jeremy Windom took place less than a month later, and emotions were still raw in the tight-knit community. But in the midst of all the anguish, there came a renewed appreciation and respect for those who put their lives on the line every day. “We can easily say we have the best citizens,” Jeremy says. “Especially in these last few weeks, where they lifted up the police department.” The outpouring of support came in the form of makeshift memorials, gifts to the department, donations to the family, and a huge turnout for Captain Liberto’s funeral service and procession. The bond between local citizens and the


emergency services community has become particularly strong in the wake of that tragedy, which made the timing of this fall’s Citizens Fire Academy in Mandeville all the more ideal. Many cities and towns across the U.S. have similar events, but Jeremy decided to take the basic concept and mold it into his own custom-designed creation. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to just do PowerPoint. I’m a visual learner, and I think most people learn better when they can see and touch something,” he explains. “Our goal is to become familiar faces and to show citizens who we are and what we do.” The annual Citizens Fire Academy, which is a mix of both speakers and multiple hands-on activities, allows 15-20 pre-registered participants, who are either citizens of Mandeville or have close ties to the town, to attend one three-hour session a week for three weeks,

plus an extended final Saturday session that concludes with an awards ceremony. The activities include simulated emergency situations, such as a room burn, a tower burn, and a technical rescue. Of course, it’s impossible to replicate all the emotional elements of real-life emergencies in a monitored, controlled environment, as no one’s life, loved ones, or property are in actual peril. And participants won’t experience the stress and uncertainty that a 24-hour shift can bring, but they get a taste of the physical and mental challenges our firefighters face. “This is the closest to real life you can get,” Jeremy tells me. “You get in the gear, put the air pack on, put your face in a mask, have heavy extrication tools and use fire extinguishers. You see it, you feel it.” Having participated in last year’s academy, Steven Federer, owner of The Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast in Mandeville, can attest to this.


“It was intense. More intense than I expected,” he admits. A self-professed adrenaline junky, the 37-year-old says many aspects of the experience were real eyeopeners, including the maze simulation. “You wear full gear with oxygen tank, helmet and everything, and you go through to get to survivors, like it’s someone’s attic. There are wires everywhere to replicate duct work and your tank can get caught, but we saw the maze beforehand. When they do the real training, they turn their helmet backwards and go in blind. It just gives you a whole new respect for what they do.” For a little more perspective, in addition to the obvious situational dangers and challenges of fighting a fire, basic firefighting gear – helmet, hood, pants, coat, gloves, boots and air pack – is estimated to weigh about 45 pounds, and it raises the temperature by about 30 degrees. Combine the physical stress with the emotional stress, and it’s no wonder that the leading cause of firefighter fatalities is heart attack.

“There was also a mock living room,” Steven continues. “It was in a storage container with a couch, rug, table and a lit candle. The wax dripped into a trashcan, and before you knew it, it all went up in flames. It really gave you a sense of how quickly they have to get to the scene.” According to Jeremy, there’s a five minute and twenty second window in which you have the best chance of keeping the fire in the initial room and extinguishing it. And that includes how long it takes someone to discover it and call it in. “We’re behind the 8-ball before we get there,” he admits. “The life safety aspect alone is why it’s so incredibly important to us to build additional fire stations in our area. If we can cover our fire district better, we can get to the emergency faster. We could stop the fire faster, before it destroys everything or to save the life of the person that just went into cardiac arrest. Our department is the best, but in this case, our best needs to be much better.”


LETTER FROM THE PARISH PRESIDENT

During his experience at the academy, Steven also gained some insight into both the individual training and the department’s general emergency response. “I was shocked by the amount of knowledge each fireman had. They’re continually going to classes and training because they don’t know what they might face, and they have to be prepared. I’ve heard people complaining that the fire department is wasting tax dollars when multiple trucks show up to a call, but they have to be ready for anything. If they don’t have the right tools on-hand in an emergency situation, they may have to wait around for it to get there.” The academy also provides fire prevention tips to participants, including extinguisher training. “Kitchen fire safety is huge,” Jeremy explains. “Forty to fifty percent of home fires start with unattended cooking or appliance failure. You need to have a fire extinguisher in a position where you can have your back to an exit while you can still get to the fire.”

Other tips he offers to lower the risk of household fires: • Clean the lint out of your dryer • Don’t store things on the stove or in the oven • Don’t overload surge protectors • Never leave BBQ pits unattended • Only drop a fully defrosted turkey into a fryer full of oil It’s pretty sobering to realize that such minor mistakes as these – things most of us have been guilty of, at one time or another – can lead to catastrophe. As Jeremy points out, “The general population thinks it’s not going to happen. But, no one is immune to accidents or fires.” While none of us wants to face these situations that may become the worst day of our lives, it’s comforting to know how invested our first responders are in not only our safety, but our general well-being. “We go the extra mile,” Jeremy explains, reiterating his earlier point about firefighters putting their hearts into their work. “We aim to take a little weight off people’s shoulders in these situations. We treat them like family.”

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EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

As we see 2019 come to a close, we see Safe Haven begin to open a new chapter. In August, 2019, ground was broken to mark the renovation and construction of Louisiana’s first 24-bed Crisis Receiving Center. As it stands today, this facility is very near completion. As we ring in 2020, we will see Safe Haven open the doors of the Crisis Receiving Center and the anchor to the Safe Haven Campus within the first quarter. Once opened and operational, this facility will house multiple agencies and will include, or have a direct connection to, a sobering room, a psychiatric observation room/respite center, healing services, outpatient treatment services, primary care, housing related resources and intensive as well as acute services. Patients will either walk in, be dropped off by law enforcement or transported from the emergency room, and then go through an assessment to receive the specialized care they need. Safe Haven is a unique investment in our future because our elected officials, healthcare providers, first responders, non-profit organizations and countless other agencies are working collaboratively to make this vision a reality and to bring hope and healing to those who need it.

Pat Brister St. Tammany Parish President


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EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020


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The Life, Loss and Legacy of

Captain Vincent Liberto, Jr. E.O.W. 9.20.19


STORY LIZ GENEST SMITH PHOTOS LIBERTO FAMILY AND MANDEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

L

ike any traumatic event, most Mandeville residents probably remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on that seemingly normal Friday afternoon in September when the tranquility of our little town was suddenly and violently shattered. I was in my home office, aware of the fact that I had under two hours to finish up some work before the school bus arrived. It was sometime after 2 p.m. when I got the first vague news alert on my phone, and a friend soon followed up with a text about what she’d heard. There had been a police chase in town that ended in a shooting, and the gunman was still at large. First reaction: panic and confusion. What if he heads for a school or hijacks a school bus? Are they on lockdown? Should I go get my kid? Should we shelter in place until they catch him? It didn’t take long for updates to trickle in and change the focus – suspect caught. One officer injured, one officer killed. One officer killed. Like many, fear for my own family’s safety immediately shifted to anguish for the unknown officer’s family, who was at that very moment undoubtedly entering into an absolute nightmare that would change their lives forever. Just trying to imagine the shock and horror that must come with getting that news is enough to make your blood run cold, and that chilling effect seemed to immediately settle over Mandeville. It’s tragic anytime an officer is killed in the line of duty, but having it happen in a small town like this amplifies the grief and reality, because it feels so personal. It happened to one of us. As more details emerged, we learned that the slain officer was 58-year-old Captain Vincent Liberto, Jr., a 25-year veteran of the Mandeville Police Department and a decorated U.S. Marine combat veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. While his career and military credentials certainly garnered instant respect and admiration for illustrating his obvious dedication to serving his country and community, learning about the man behind the badge added an even more human dimension that made it really hit home. Captain Liberto was married to Tracey Bayard Liberto, and together they raised seven children, ranging from ages 23 to 33 – Vincent Liberto, III, Chad (Joey) Liberto, Michael Liberto, Bailee Dean, Tyler McIntyre, Dominic Liberto and Victoria Liberto. Following in their father’s footsteps, three served in the military and two moved on to also work in law enforcement. The image of him that accompanied the news stories did not show an intimidating law enforcement official, but rather a gentle man with kind eyes, who looked like he was barely suppressing a broad smile. I had an opportunity to speak with his widow Tracey recently, and I asked her if my impression of his picture was accurate. “He was fun,” she told me. “But when that uniform went on, his personality changed. He was all business.” And when it came to parenting? “I was the heavy; he was the teddy bear,” Tracey admitted, with a fond laugh. “But having said that, the kids respected him. When he told them something, they believed him and they listened.” For those of us whose loved ones do nothing more dangerous than cross the Causeway, the stress on law enforcement families seems unbearable. I asked Tracey if it takes nerves of steel to love a police officer. “He prepared us,” she told me. “Not knowingly. But we’re very strong; we’re close knit. We rely on each other; we’re there for each other. And we are working our way through it.” “He made me think he was Superman,” she continued. “I never imagined him working any other job. When this happened, my daughter asked why he wasn’t behind his desk. But that was


not his personality. He was there to back up his fellow officers.” Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker, who was also kind enough to speak with me about Captain Liberto, is well aware of the toll that this type of job takes on families. “It’s a necessary evil, and it’s something the families have to take on. I’m 50 years old and no longer on the road, but my mom still worries. My kids are now 28 and 25, but back when they were young, I think I was able to take them trick or treating one time. Our families make a huge sacrifice; it’s not just the individual in uniform.” In addition to his blood relatives, Captain Liberto’s law enforcement family was dealt a devastating blow, as well. The last time a Mandeville Police officer was killed in the line of duty was 1958, so this is not a process the current department has had to endure before. Thankfully, Benjamin Cato, the other officer who was wounded in the shooting, was treated and released on the same day. Despite having a bullet graze his head, mere inches from turning this into a double tragedy, he is back on the job. “He’s a hard charger,” Chief Sticker says of Officer Cato. “He’s fully recovered physically and back on duty. He’ll do good things; I have full faith in him.” As for the department as a whole, the Chief told me, “We’re still grieving, still trying to recover, but the show must go on. We’re trying to rebuild and get back on track.” Getting back on track has included ongoing grief counseling and training for officers, dispatchers and other personnel. “It’s a long-term process,” he said. “And I have an obligation to ensure they get the care they need.” Chief Sticker and Captain Liberto had known each other since the early 1980s, and they were deployed to the Gulf War


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LETTER FROM THE MAYOR

together. So, along with supporting his department, the chief feels bound by both personal and professional duty to help care for the Liberto family. The only time his voice faltered – ever so slightly – during our entire conversation, was when speaking of them. “I told Tracey that night, ‘we can’t bring him back, but you’re still part of this department. That tie is not severed, we are here to support you.’” When asked how the loss of Captain Liberto has changed the department, Chief Sticker explained, “We’ve learned to look at the trivial things we usually complain about differently. We’ve refocused our priorities and rededicated ourselves in honor of him. He left a void, but he also left a legacy.” Of the impact the loss had on Mandeville, the Chief said, “This didn’t just happen to the Liberto family or the Mandeville Police Department. It was a community tragedy. Not a single segment wasn’t rocked to the core.” The initial chilling effect that Captain Liberto’s death had on the town quickly transformed into a widespread effort to pull together to console each other, the family, and the department. Makeshift memorials began popping up and online tributes, donations and gifts began pouring in. Turnout for the funeral and procession was also quite phenomenal. And both the family and the department saw, felt and appreciated the support. “It’s been spectacular,” Tracey told me. “We’re very lucky to live where we live. We came here for the school system, but we always knew it was a great community. People still come up to me and introduce themselves, and tell me they’re sorry for my loss.” Chief Sticker concurred, saying, “My message to the community is one big thank you, in all caps. This department has always had a good relationship with the community, and we guard it jealously. Between the meals, the gifts, the hundreds of cards – it was overwhelming in a good way. It made this tragedy bearable for us.” Veterans Day fell the day before I spoke with Chief Sticker and Mrs. Liberto, and both told me that though Captain Liberto couldn’t be there for his grandson’s program to honor veterans at Pontchartrain Elementary School, members of the Mandeville Police Department turned up and stood in his place. Tracey called it, quite simply, “Beautiful.” The chief says the department will also continue to act as a conduit to the family to walk them through things like the benefit application process, administrative issues and fallout from the trial. Oh, right – the trial. As if this wasn’t difficult enough, all involved will have to relive it when the case gets litigated. The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, so very little is known about why it happened, or when it will wind up in court. But it’s something that’s looming on the horizon. While that is a daunting prospect, if recent events are any indication, residents are sure to once again come together and rally around the Libertos and the police department, and face it together. Because, as the Libertos were taught by their patriarch, that’s what families do.

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The City of Mandeville is buzzing with events this fall. Our Mandeville Live Concerts have begun and for the entire first week of October, News With A Twist on WGNO will be spotlighting our wonderful City. This includes news stories, advertisements and local highlights. The promotion ends with two live broadcasts at the Trailhead at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., followed by the Mandeville Live! Concert featuring Soul Revival. The City participated with the station last year and representatives from News With A Twist said our citizens were the best! The 2nd Annual Ozone Songwriter’s Festival will be held at The Mandeville Trailhead and Lafitte Street Station in Old Mandeville Saturday, October 19th and Sunday, October 20th. The Pontchartrain Film Festival returns to Mandeville at the Spitzfaden Community Center November 1st – 2nd. Visit www. pontchartrainfilmfestival.com for the complete schedule. Come out and enjoy a fabulous sunset on the Mandeville lakefront while being serenaded by The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra on October 26th. The event is free and the rain date will be October 27th. Bring your chairs and blankets, eating and drinking (non alcoholic beverages) are allowed this day on the lakefront. For more information visit ExperienceMandeville.org. Hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30th. For the latest news and weather updates, sign up for EBriefs on the front of our website. While you’re at it, check out our new site. It’s even more user friendly and packed with information. Feel free to call my office at 985-626-1082 for information on any of our events or ways we may assist you. Hope to see you soon!

Donald Villere City of Mandeville Mayor


2019

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Saturday, Dec 7th Winter on the Water Sunday, Dec 22nd Santa Parade 4:00 www.experiencemandeville.com Jane Austen Caroling (985) 624-3147 Gazebo 3:00 pm 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

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Achieving Glowing Skin, It is no secret that winter takes a toll on skin. When temperatures go from 80° to 30°, your face, lips and skin have trouble adjusting. For me, my lips and legs are the most in need of extra love when our weather decides to have a dramatic ‘mood swing.’ STORY CAITLIN PICOU PHOTOS JOEL TREADWELL

FOR YOUR FACE

Exfoliate with a gentle scrub or enzyme cleanser. There are such things as harsh facial scrubs: stay away from exfoliates like walnuts and salt. Look for scrubs that use jojoba beads or oatmeal. Or opt for an enzyme cleanser that is gentle, yet effective. Follow with a hydrating mask a few times a week. Look for terms like ‘nourishing,’ ‘softening’ or ‘for dry skin.’ That will help you find the most hydrating facial masks. Find a good, all-natural serum with hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid delivers a surge of moisture to your skin, making your face appear more hydrated and youthful. I prefer to find a serum where Hyaluronic acid is listed as the first or second ingredient, that way you know it is powerful. Pull out that heavier face moisturizer, the one you cannot use all summer long. If you don’t like the feel of a heavy lotion during the day, get an overnight cream. Hydration is key, if you haven’t noticed.

MAKEUP TIP: Blend your

favorite liquid illuminator with your foundation for an all-over glow this holiday season.

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From Head to Toe. FOR YOUR LIPS

Exfoliate with a sugar lip scrub that has nurturing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. Those extra add-ons help protect your lips in the process of scrubbing. Find a nighttime lip conditioner. I am not a big fan of carrying lip balm around, mainly because I’d rather wear my favorite lip gloss, so applying a heavy lip conditioner at night keeps my lips soft and protected all day.

MAKEUP TIP: Top your favorite lipstick with a clear gloss for fuller, softer lips.

FOR YOUR BODY

Ditch the soap. Exfoliate and cleanse with a moisturizing body scrub. I look for scrubs with ingredients like shea butter, whipped coconut oil or other natural oil blends. The key is to find these nourishing ingredients in the first few listed on the back of the jar. That is how you know it will be effective. Bring on the heavy body butter. Body butter is different from your typical moisturizer. Moisturizers are made up mainly of water and lighter, hydrating ingredients like vitamins and oils. Body Butters not only contain those good-forskin vitamins and oils, but they also contain various natural butters that deliver intense hydration, preventing any dry skin from making an appearance this winter.

MAKEUP TIP: Grab a body bronzer

before heading out the door for a little added glow.

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ENDURING Benevolence

THE SALMENS OF SLIDELL


STORY LIZ GENEST SMITH PHOTOS JERRY COTTRELL

If

you tour around Slidell, you may notice that, like most cities and towns, many local forefathers and historical figures have been honored in the naming of streets, buildings and parks. Basic research on some of these notables, like John Slidell (who never actually lived there), Baron Friedrich Erlanger, Col. Leon J. Fremaux and Francois Cousin, yields instant and fairly thorough results. Some have their own Wikipedia pages, some enjoy instant name recognition among locals and some even have many descendants among the current population. But one seems to have flown a little more under the radar than others – Fritz Salmen. Sure, most people are quite familiar with Salmen High School, Camp Salmen Nature Park and even the SalmenFritchie House, but how many know about the man associated with these prominent landmarks and often credited with putting Slidell on the map? Not many, according to Arriollia “Bonnie” Vanney, local historian and author of the Slidell edition of the Images of America book series. “There are a lot of things this man did that many people don’t know about,” she explained. “He was a smart business person, and he created an economic boom for Slidell in its early days.” While there seems to be scarcely any anecdotal accounts or personal stories to be found, piecing together basic historical facts begins to create a very vivid picture of Fritz Salmen and his family, who experienced dizzying success, a fairytale wedding, unimaginable tragedy and a lasting legacy of benevolence. Who was Fritz Salmen? Born in Switzerland in 1854, Fritz emigrated to Mississippi at age 12, but soon after lost his father. Young Fritz worked in lumber mills and an uncle’s brickmaking business until he married and used the skills and knowledge he had acquired as an apprentice to start his own brickmaking business in the fledgling town of Slidell. By choosing to set up shop in a location with easy access to the adjacent railroad lines and waterways, namely Bayou Bonfouca, he was able to not only launch, but rapidly expand his business, as he was readily able to ship products across the lake, country and ocean. He eventually brought two of his brothers onboard as he built an empire. At its apex, Fritz is said to have employed 1,000 men and owned multiple sawmills throughout Louisiana and one in Nicaragua, a lumber yard in Mexico, an enormous tract of cypress and pine timber, a shipbuilding business, a store, livestock and agriculture and of course, a plant that manufactured various clay products and bricks.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ST. TAMMANY PARISH GOVERNMENT


“He hit it at the right time,” Arriollia said of his success. “New Orleans was at the peak of its growth, and he was getting all the contracts. Every day, 600,000 bricks left Slidell.” That massive quantity of bricks was used in the construction of New Orleans’ sewer and drainage systems, as well as some of the city’s most iconic buildings, including the St. Charles Hotel, Maison Blanche, D. H. Holmes and the Grunewald Hotel, now the Roosevelt Hotel.

Rise of the Robber Barons

It’s worth noting that Fritz’s skyrocketing success happened during the famous Gilded Age, that period in American history between the Civil War and the advent of the 20th century, which saw unprecedented growth in industry and technology that mostly benefited industrialists, bankers and politicians. Many of these titans earned the title of “Robber Barons,” because their ruthless drive to acquire extreme wealth, opulence and monopolies often came at the expense of the working class, which suffered terribly and fell further into abject poverty. But Fritz seems to have been the antithesis of this, displaying a much more pragmatic approach to his businesses and acquisition of wealth. While many of his contemporaries were constructing insanely extravagant, far-flung estates like Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in North Carolina or Hearst’s Castle in California, Salmen built a lovely, but surprisingly modest, home (now owned by Patton’s, a catering and special events company) on 3.5 acres, situated on the corner of Cleveland and Front Streets - directly next door to his commissary and a stone’s throw across the railroad tracks from his massive production complex. And while many other businessmen were building substandard, crude shacks for their largely AfricanAmerican labor forces way out on the outskirts of local towns, Salmen created Salmen Town, a large community of well-built cottages mere blocks from his own home – some of which are still standing to this day. I asked Arriollia if I had correctly surmised that this

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reflected a tolerant and inclusive approach to both race and social class on Fritz’s part. “Think about it,” she replied. “Look at who he initially brought with him to Slidell – an AfricanAmerican man from Mississippi who helped him start his business. It wasn’t until later that he brought his brothers on.” More evidence to support the theory that Fritz operated in a compassionate, non-RobberBaron-esque manner comes from a passage about him from the Brick and Clay Record, an industry journal from 1920: Every day he may be seen strolling through the various plants - in his shirtsleeves if the weather is warm. He has many casual conversations with “the boys” and gets a pretty intimate knowledge of their worries and problems. Every workman feels that he has a personal acquaintance with him, and when they speak of “the old man,” it is with affection. They know he is kindly, just, and fair in his decisions, and that loyalty will be rewarded.

Fairytale & Tragedy

When describing the Salmen family, Arriollia told me, “They weren’t flamboyant.” But after a beat, she added, “Except for the wedding.” Ah, the wedding. It’s hard to say if the marriage of Fritz’s daughter, Ellarose, to William H. Sullivan – the first mayor of Bogalusa, vice president and general manager of the Great Southern Lumber Company, executive vice president of the Bogalusa Paper Company and a director of the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad – came about as a result of true love or the strategic merging of two highly successful families, but it certainly kicked off with enormous fanfare in 1922. The elaborate affair was billed by many in this region as the "wedding of the century"; it drew national media attention and varying accounts estimate that the number of guests topped out at anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000. Sadly, like many fairytales, this one did not have a happy ending. Within seven years, the couple would welcome two children – a boy and a girl, named William and Ellarose


like their parents – and would promptly leave them orphans when they died within a month of each other in December of 1928 and January of 1929. Details are a bit sketchy, but an online account from Richard Lawrence, a former Bogalusa city official and editor of the Bogalusa Daily News, sheds some light on the situation. Lawrence says that, later in life, the daughter Ellarose insisted that an honorary portrait of her father be removed from the Bogalusa courthouse and that she angrily refused to donate his papers and personal effects to the city’s archives (but they have since found their way to Southeastern Louisiana University’s archives). Lawrence also claims that his friend, Bogalusa Judge Jim Warren Richardson, explained to him that William Sullivan contracted a fatal disease, which made him increasingly paranoid and erratic at the end of his life, and that he passed the lethal condition on to his wife. The judge also told Lawrence that Ellarose held her father responsible for her mother’s death. Rather than speculate on whether all these details support any lurid conclusions about the Sullivan’s tragic deaths, let’s take a look at what became of little Ellarose and her younger brother, William, Jr.

Fritz & His Grandchildren

Following the death of their parents, the children, only about 4 and 2 years old at the time, went to live with their grandfather, Fritz, in Slidell. Within about six years, Fritz would also die, forcing the siblings to cross the lake to live with their uncle, Frederick, who had taken the helm of the Salmen Company in New Orleans. Very little documentation is available about their upbringing after that, but according to Ellarose’s obituary from 2017, they don’t appear to have been spoiled by wealth nor tragedy. Ellarose and William are said to have been very close, having been through so much together. The pair even started the Salmen Family Foundation, which donated millions of dollars to charities, schools, EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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LETTER FROM THE MAYOR

churches, and organizations in St. Tammany and New Orleans. While I was unable to uncover many details about William, who predeceased his sister by about 13 years, we know that Ellarose graduated from Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans and Columbia University in New York, served as a managing partner of the Salmen Company and chairperson of the Salmen Family Foundation, and dedicated over 20 years to volunteering and supporting the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Hospice program. Despite her childhood tragedies and having to bury two husbands and a daughter, Ellarose is described in glowing terms as a generous woman and life of the party who loved art, travel and laughter. Her final request was for her family – which includes two sons and four grandchildren – to throw her a bon voyage party instead of a traditional funeral, and she left this world simply saying, “I am just taking a trip to visit my family.” Sure enough, beyond the spiritual implications, she is buried next to her beloved mother and daughter, and near other kin in Greenwood Cemetery, which is just a few blocks from the former family home in Slidell. Although Fritz must have been heartbroken by the tragedy and heartache that befell his daughter and her family, he obviously didn’t allow it to ruin his grandchildren’s spirit. In addition to his lasting contributions to the city of Slidell, he is credited with imbuing in William and Ellarose “a strong love of God, family and generosity – traits which neither ever forgot.” That is a legacy worth remembering, honoring and emulating.

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Dear Citizens, As the holiday season approaches, I am asking everyone to Shop Slidell and support your local businesses. They need your support now more than ever. I invite you to join the City of Slidell for these holiday events in Olde Towne Slidell: • Christmas Under the Stars will be held Dec. 6-7 and 13-14 in Griffith Park. This annual celebration features lights and decorations, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Parade of Trees, Santa’s Magical Mailbox and letter writing station and life-size Christmas Cottages and a Nativity created by artist Lori Gomez. • Christmas in Olde Towne is a holiday festival featuring an old-fashioned community parade on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. • Olde Towne Slidell will be decked out in lights and decorations for the 5th annual Spirit of the Season competition, on display Dec. 6 through Jan. 3. • The 5th annual Holiday Concert with the Northshore Community Orchestra will be held on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Slidell Municipal Auditorium. All events offer free admission. For more information, please visit MySlidell.com or call the Dept. of Cultural & Public Affairs at (985) 6464375. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Greg Cromer City of Slidell Mayor

EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020


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The Lions Club and the City of Covington invite you to help make February 25, CARNIVAL IN COVINGTON 2020, the best ever! See our Facebook page “CarnivalinCovington” or www.carnivalincovington.com for details. Please RSVP by January 24 to be part of the February 25 Celebration.

Feel free to contact via phone or email one of the Parade Committee members listed below for additional details: Larry Rolling • Parade Committee Chairman 985.502.8586 • llrollingjr@aol.com Amy Tucker Parade Committee Member 985.867.1206 • atucker@covla.com

Theo Mullen Parade Committee Member 865.776.8612 • theomullen@yahoo.com

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Artisanal items part of monks’ work and prayer life

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STORY SARAH BONNETTE PHOTOS SARAH AND JERRY COTTRELL

A

c lose look at a box of Monksweets candy shows two special ingredients – love and prayers – in addition to the peanuts, sugar and salt needed for the bite-size treats made on the grounds of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College north of Covington. “The first day we made it, the first thing we did was to pray,” said Brother Leo França, who manages Monksweets. Although not formally listed on their labels, love and prayers are part of two other artisanal items unique to St. Joseph Abbey: Abbee Honey and MONKSOAP. Hours of care and love go into each item. “Since Benedictines hold as their motto Ora et Labora (prayer and work), the prayer of the monk and the work of the monk are united in a vision that calls for a life of balance, which sees all of life, including the work of our hands, as a way of giving praise to God,” said Abbot Justin Brown of the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB). A small group of monks from Saint Meinrad Abbey in Indiana established St. Joseph Abbey in December 1889. It has since become known for its peaceful presence and daily prayer rituals, its dedication to educating civic and religious leaders and its cultural impact through programs in both liturgical and secular arts. It also is among the many monasteries that produce delicious treats: jams and jellies, beer and liqueur, cheese and cheesecake and much, much more. “For centuries, monks have been known for working with their hands in the production of goods to help support themselves and to offer something of value to the local community,” Brown said, adding that the proceeds from the three products go toward “the overall support and maintenance of the Abbey and its apostolates.” The operations for the three artisanal products are just a short walk from each other on the Abbey’s 1,200-acre wooded campus. Each bearing a label featuring the church’s central rose window, they are sold in the Abbey Gift Shop, which is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m.

saintjosephabbey.com

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ABBEE HONEY

Volunteer Jeff Horchoff’s hands are kept busy with the 200 hives, equating to tens of thousands of individual bees, which produce Abbee Honey. At the St. Ambrose Honey House – located beyond the church and refectory and named for one of the patron saints of beekeepers – the retired postal worker spends each day tending to thousands of bees. “I keep bees because I’m able to witness God’s hand in it. There’s no way we could do this ourselves,” he said. With their buzzing noticeably audible behind him, Horchoff brushed off concerns about the dangers of the flying insects’ stingers. “You’ll get stung regardless, but you meet a lot of great people doing this,” he said. Bee keeping at monasteries goes back more than 1,500 years. “The appeal of bee keeping is closely tied to the ways of life of the monk. Bees operate as a close knit community in which each bee has a special task that is for the good of the group. Much like monastic life, the bees are devoted to their community and work together for a common goal,” the Abbee Honey website states. The operation at St. Joseph Abbey started about eight years ago when one of the monks became interested in bee keeping. He asked Horchoff – who was volunteering in Abbey Woodworks and whose own hives had been stolen – to help. “I didn’t really know a lot about bee keeping… I always had bees, but I didn’t really know anything about them. I just had them in the yard, and I’d go get honey from them every once in a while,” Horchoff said. But after agreeing to keep the Abbey’s bees, “I started going to classes and learning how to keep bees and to raise bees,” he added. For him, there’s nothing more rewarding. In the first five years, Horchoff amassed nearly 20 hives. The March 2016 floods destroyed almost all of them, and honey production was halted for months. “I didn’t want to give up on what we were doing here,” Horchoff said. “At that point, I really began in earnest” to extract unwanted colonies from people’s homes, split hives and catch swarms. “In three years, we went from zero to 200.” Bee keeping and producing honey is a very involved process. Hives must be established in the wooden frames built by Abbey Woodworks, placed in wooden boxes and stacked all over the campus. Once the bees work their magic, the boxes are brought in so the honey can be harvested. Getting the honey from the hives is another multi-step process, although nothing is added to the liquid along the way. “Our honey is chemical free; there’s nothing unnatural about it. We don’t add heat; we don’t filter. Every particle that’s in there is supposed to be in there. The bees put it in there, and I didn’t take it out. The only thing I took out was the wax,” he added. Harvest time comes at the end of June, when Horchoff and his dedicated volunteers put in long hours at the 900-square-foot Honey House, dedicated after the 2016 flood. Their goal is to get jars in the Abbey Gift Shop by July 11, the feast day of Saint Benedict. Another

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harvest comes sometime in the fall when the goldenrod – one of the plants the bees feed on – stops blooming. To explain beekeeping’s different steps, Horchoff started a YouTube channel, Jeff Horchoff Bees, in 2011 and posts a new video each week. “Bees are just a hot topic. I’m pretty big on YouTube now,” he said, referring to the channel’s nearly 80,000 subscribers. The proceeds from the YouTube channel go toward the Abbee Honey’s operations. There are also “a number of really generous people” who have donated funds to buy the operation’s numerous pieces of modern equipment, which make harvesting the honey easier, Horchoff said. Sponsorships are available through the Abbey’s website. So far this year, Abbee Honey has produced more than 220 gallons, with hopes to harvest another 100 gallons before the year’s end. That’s more than 3,800 bottles of the thick liquidly sweetness, which sell for $9 each exclusively in the Abbey Gift Shop.

MONKSWEETS

Monksweets is the newest income-generating venture on the Abbey’s campus. It began in March and is based on Pacoquinha, a candy native to Brazil. “It’s something different; people in the U.S. don’t get to taste something like this,” said Brother França, who grew up in a small town north of Rio de Janeiro. After becoming manager of the Abbey Gift Shop earlier this year, he decided to add the candy to the store’s inventory as a new way of supporting the Abbey. Its two varieties – “Peanut Bliss” and “Bliss with a Twist,” which is dipped in dark chocolate for added sweetness – are sold in boxes of two, four or eight pieces. He and a group of volunteers gather each Monday to crush the peanuts, mix them with salt and sugar, and mold them into domes that deliciously crumble in one’s mouth after the first bite. An afternoon’s work yields between 60 and 70 pieces.


“This is a cottage industry,” França said, jokingly referring to the red cottage in which he and his volunteers form a sweet production line at its metal tables. Soon they’ll have a new machine – built by Abbey Woodworks – that will improve the process of molding the candy’s ingredients into servable pieces. “There’ll be more types of candy coming,” he added. “There will be two other types: Abbey Crumbles and Peanut Fudge.”

MONKSOAP

While França is still trying to get the word out about Monksweets, another of the Abbey’s items – MONKSOAP – is known throughout the community. “I’ve sold over 28,000 bars in the past eight years. We keep the monks busy,” said Rebecca Bradford, owner of Southern Avenue in Covington. The gift and arts boutique was the first retail store to carry MONKSOAP outside of the Abbey Gift Shop and remains the second largest seller. Bradford added it to her array of handmade offerings because “I was baptized [at the Abbey] and grew up down the street,” she said. The soap also can be found locally at About Face and Jeansonne Family Pharmacy, both of which are in Mandeville. It was the Abbey Gift Shop’s constant sales of a soap made by the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri that made Brother Andrew Faraci start MONKSOAP in 2009. The gift shop manager at the time, he asked the Benedictine nuns if they would mind teaching him the process. “They were kind enough to share their recipe. Brother Andrew went up and learned under Sister Kathleen, and he came back and started it,” said Brother Austin Simon, who now manages MONKSOAP. EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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LETTER FROM THE MAYOR

MONKSOAP is now a thriving part of St. Joseph Abbey. Simon estimates between 10,000 and 11,000 bars are made each year. He and five other monks, along with volunteers, spend four days each week making soap in a newly constructed building, paid for with a grant from the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO). The NRRO provides support, education and assistance to U.S. religious institutes to care for their elderly and frail members. “The idea of building this building was to expand,” Simon said of moving the operation from a room above the refectory kitchen to the new space, allowing for the addition of more equipment in the future. Each 4-ounce bar’s ingredients are simple: saponified oils of soy, coconut, olive and rice bran; distilled water; shea butter and fragrance. Lye is added, which “changes all those oils into soap. The process is called saponification,” Simon said. The oils are combined in an industrial-sized kettle, mixed with a stick blender – similar to those home cooks use but larger – and left to cook for an hour. The chosen combination of fragrances are added before the liquid soap is poured into a mold, covered and left to harden for 24 hours. The rectangular molds of soap are then cut into bars with a tabletop wooden device – made by Abbey Woodworks – outfitted with piano wire. Each kettle batch equals about 150 bars, Simon said. Once cut, the bars dry on sweet-smelling shelves – labeled with cards that mark when the bars were cut – for two weeks before they are wrapped with wax paper and labeled. The divine-smelling bars come in 30 varieties, ranging from the sweet-smelling Gardenia, Magnolia and Frangipani to more food-based scents such as Crème Brulee, Cucumber Mint and Pumpkin Harvest, and woodsy varieties such as Caribbean Teakwood and Mayan Gold. Some, like Abbey Christmas, are seasonal. The most popular is Saint Therese’s Roses, perhaps because “Saint Therese is a very popular saint, so people may buy it for the devotion,” Simon said. “And also, I think it reminds people of their grandmothers. It smells very grandmotherly.” There are scents with spiritual inspirations, such as Frankincense and Myrrh, a popular scent at Christmastime, as well as Dew of Hermon and Solemn Vespers. This last one smells like the incense used during the “liturgical prayers we pray in the evening,” Simon said. Since becoming MONKSOAP’S manager in August 2017, Simon has used his discerning nose to introduce three new scents: Caribbean Teakwood, Balm of Gilead and Dew of Hermon. This is an allusion to Psalm 133. “It talks about how good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in unity. It’s like oil upon the head, running down Aaron’s beard like the dew of Hermon,” he said.

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In Covington, it’s a December to Remember: The KingFish, Bingo, Celtics, Big Swing, Luminaries, Deck the Rails and more all add some holiday spice to our little City. All at the Fuhrmann Auditorium: On the 1st, Spud McConnell performs KingFish: The Life of Huey P. Long. On the 5th, Catholics celebrate two of their favorite things: Christmas and Bingo in the hilarious It’s a Ho-Ho-Holy Night! On the 18th, the all-ladies Celtic Angels quintet are joined by the river-style dancing of the Celtic Knight dancers for a delightful evening of song and stomp, and the Swing 101 Big Band goes Swinging into Christmas on the 22nd. Bring Your Nana: St. Paul’s School continues its tradition of lighting the luminaries and caroling (5th). The Covington Heritage Foundation hosts the ever-popular History and Holly Home Tour (8th). There is Candlelight Caroling at the Trailhead (13th) and year ‘round you can watch the Trailhead Museum’s Covington, Our Little Old Town: The Movie (M-F 10-2, Sat 10-4 and Sun 12-4). Bring the Kids: Deck the Rails at the Trailhead (7th), Carolyn Darby’s Christmas Wish toys for children (14th) and come any day to watch the Trailhead Museum’s animated history, Oxlot’s Whimsical History of Covington (M-F 102, Sat 10-4 and Sun 12-4). Turkey-in-a-Box: Join friends and family at St. Paul’s School cafeteria at 8:00 am on the 23rd to help the Rotary Club of Covington pack over 6,000 meals for Feeding the Needy delivery. In the Childcare Art Room, youngsters create holiday cards to go in the boxes. Athletictypes are welcome later in the morning (10:00 am) to help load the boxes into trucks.

Mark Johnson City of Covington Mayor EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020


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Franco’s 100 Bon Temps Roule Mandeville 985.792.0200 Tennis Bag

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Gulf Coast Lanterns 401 N Columbia St. Covington, La. 70433 800.910.3275 Gas & Electric Lights

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Ruby’s 100 N Cate St, Hammond, LA 985.345.4745 Eeshal Leopard Coat

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Cutting Edge Theater 767 Robert Blvd Slidell 985.649.3727 Season Tickets

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The Villa 1281 N. Causeway Mandeville 985-626-9797 Cuff Bracelet

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Outdoor Living 1331 N Hwy 190 #600, Covington 985.893.8008 Ice Chest

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Columbia Street Mercantile 231 and 236 N. Columbia St. Covington 985.809.1690 Poncho

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DeCoeur Gifts & Home Accessories 222 N Columbia St. Covington 985.809.3244 Dream Diffusers

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Magic Moments Gifts 70515 LA-21, Suite B Covington 985.327-.7063 Saint Jude Candles

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r ad that will run in the June/July issue of EDGE of the Lake magazine. This ad will run as is s by ( 1 1 . 1 4 . 2 0 1 9 ) a t 5 : 0 0 P M . Please make any changes or approve via email.

Johnny Was | Citizens of Humanity | Lisett e | H ob o

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ART FOR

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EVERYONE :

ABBEY ART WORKS TEACHES BEGINNERS EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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STORY SARAH BONNETTE PHOTOS SARAH COTTRELL

“Happy are the painters for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.” So said Winston Churchill in a 1925 essay, entitled Hobbies. Scholars believe he may have been reflecting on the relief – from both the pressures of public life and bouts of depression – painting gave him. Churchill’s words come to life inside the walls of an old chicken coop on the grounds of St. Joseph Abbey. On a sunny fall afternoon, painters of all skill levels talked and laughed while working on individual artworks. One mixed a palette of colors to get the tones of a building just right, another wired finished paintings for hanging in a local gallery. Her own copperplate etching project in front of her, Lyn Hill Taylor watched over the buzz of activity. It’s exactly what St. Joseph Abbey’s artist-in-residence envisioned when she first started Abbey Art Works 10 years ago. The program focuses on teaching students who think they can’t create original artwork, proving through neuroscience that it’s possible. It also emphasizes the link between art and spirituality, showing how the contemplative nature of painting is simply good for the soul. That’s done first through a series of classes with Taylor to understand the traditional principles of drawing and painting. Guest teachers, such as renowned pastel artist Alan Flattmann and professional painter Robert Labranche, teach other classes in painting landscapes, drawing, watercolor and more. Workshops and multi-day retreats also are offered. “We believe – like our slogan says – that we paint to let ourselves know we’re listening. We come here to learn the actual physical process of how to do the work and create original works, at the same time understanding that we’ve entered into a contemplative activity,” Taylor said.

ART AT A MONASTERY

Abbey Art Works began with discussions between Taylor and Abbot Justin Brown, Order of Saint Benedict (OSB), about “the possibilities of continuing the tradition of art production and understanding and appreciating what the Benedictines have been famous for,” said Taylor, known for her portraiture. Among her many works, she’s painted portraits of Brown and former Abbot Patrick Regan, as well as former Covington mayor Keith Villere. Creating an art program at the Abbey made sense. “In Benedictine monasteries particularly, the arts, especially the art of illuminating manuscripts, was given particular attention as a way of giving glory to God and producing something that speaks to the human spirit,” Brown said. Also, the Abbey’s wooded grounds provide “a quiet, contemplative atmosphere that you just can’t reproduce that easily. And the tradition that we have not only with the physical environment, but the living tradition that remains in the (art)work of Dom Gregory de Wit,

Abbey Art Works saintjosephabbey.com/abbeyartworks St. Luke’s Guild saintjosephabbey.com/guild-of-st-luke

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is part of this place,” Brown added. Located off River Road north of Covington, St. Joseph Abbey was founded in 1889 by a small group of monks from Saint Meinrad Abbey in Indiana. In 1946, Abbot Columban Thuis commissioned Dom Gregory De Wit to execute a series of original murals. De Wit was born in the Netherlands in 1892 and entered the Benedictine monastery at Mont César in Louvain, Belgium in 1913. He was ordained there in 1915. He studied art at the Brussels Academy of Art, the Munich Academy in Germany and in Italy. Although his artwork can be found in other locations, his most notable work is at St. Joseph Abbey.

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De Wit wanted to first paint murals in the Abbey’s large church, as he’d done in churches in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Abbot Thuis instead first let him paint the refectory, the open, vaulted-ceiling room where the monks eat in silence each day. His first mural there – said to be the world’s largest depiction of the Last Supper – took nine months. On the opposite wall, he depicted the young Christ as the Prince of Peace. He also painted the order’s founder, St. Benedict, over the entry door and covered the other walls with scenes of Biblical characters interacting with food, an attempt to discuss salvation through eating. The refectory’s 72 richly colored ceiling panels were


painted to show God as the Creator through the earth’s four elements: earth, water, air and fire. The church’s murals are just as detailed and narrative. There are saints painted on various walls and a large-scale rendering of Christ the Redeemer in the church’s apse. De Wit’s painting of The Last Judgement depicts an African American wearing an undershirt standing in the place of highest honor next to Christ, along with a child with a disability, an armed soldier, a businessman with a cigar hanging out of his mouth and a bishop. De Wit lived and worked at the Abbey for 10 years as he painted the murals with mixtures that could withstand the humid climate. They were added to the National Register

of Historic Places in 2007.

A NEW WAY OF TEACHING

While the goal was for Abbey Art Works to build upon St. Joseph Abbey’s already significant artistic history, it also needed to be “an arts program that fit at a monastery,” Taylor said. “And from my standpoint, it would have to be a program that was unique and was a step forward in teaching.” She spent years researching how art was being taught in universities and art schools and “what has and has not been produced by young artists today,” she said. Her search led her to a 12th century Benedictine monk – Theophilus EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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Presbyter – who was the first to write a treatise on art. “It was not just on painting but on metalwork, which was his specialty,” she said. It also led her to Leonardo DaVinci, whose A Treatise on Painting came from a collection of entries in his notebooks that were first compiled and published by an apprentice before being revised and republished in the 1800s. DaVinci concluded that painting is a science. “What I was looking for was the magic, the spark. And DaVinci is the one who gave it to me,” Taylor said. “He talks about how bad art schools are, how badly they treat artists,” she added, referencing a 97-year-old student she has who spent 17 years in art classes but never learned to draw and never learned about color. DaVinci also “talked about art being a contemplative act, which is why it fits here. He talked about having to be alone to do it. Not to have noise or distractions, which we understand now as getting in the flow. We teach people all about the flow and how that works and the creative model fits into it,” Taylor said. Her introductory art classes – a prerequisite to other Abbey Art Works offerings – are different than any other. Students get a wealth of information on art and people’s reactions to it. Taylor’s introductory class – Leonardo’s Legacy: Painting, Science, and the Life of the Soul – is different from any other, she said. Students attain knowledge on art through Da Vinci’s own words and learn the neuroscience of visual perception. People respond to art “from their reptilian brain first,” Taylor said. “We’re color blind at that level. We see only light and dark, patterns and shapes, edges, light against dark. After we decide that it’s safe – because this is an instinctive brain – then we move into the limbic system where we start to feel something, that there’s something coming at us. There are edges and softening and values. “But we’re still color blind. Your visual system is color blind two-thirds of the way up, and that’s why artists have got to understand the nature of light, how it falls on form and how to

replicate it,” Taylor added. Once students have completed the introductory courses, numerous classes are available to them. That includes an introduction to watercolor, classical printmaking techniques, drawing and personal expression, painting impressionistic landscapes and manuscript illumination, where students learn about the medieval tradition of illustrating texts. A new program in 2020 – Botanical Painting and Illustration – will focus on painting flowers and creating scientifically appropriate botanical illustrations that could be kept in the Rouquette Library on the Abbey’s campus. The idea came to Taylor after she did a module on flowers in a summer watercolor class. “It morphed into classical botanical illustration,” she said. “The Abbey has joined the American Society of Botanical Artists,” Taylor said, adding that she hopes to develop a group of artists who are interested in creating illustrations “of everything that blooms on these 1,200 acres, whether it’s cultivated or out in the woods. It’ll be a nice thing to have in the archives. It will be beautiful too… and every spring we will have a flower exhibit.”

CLASSES IN A CHICKEN COOP

All of Abbey Art Works’ classes take place in a former chicken coop – with its metal roof and unadorned façade – behind the Christian Life Center. The building was renovated for the arts program, which first held classes in a cabin the monastery owns off River Road. It was slated to open in March 2016, the same weekend as the historic floods that left the campus under two feet of water. Built about 80 years ago by the Benedictine monks who call the Abbey home, the rustic – yet refined – narrow building offers plenty of natural light through its pane-glass windows. In the classroom’s open space, drawing tables line the walls and equipment for various classes, such as the press printmaker Phillip Sage uses, can be found throughout the space. The other end of the building contains studio space for Taylor and other Art Works instructors. “This is a place you come because you are

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allowed; you are welcome,” Taylor said. “The whole thing is to build up community. We’re not here to judge anybody’s work or have fancy shows. Everybody is included and at some level, everybody feels welcome.” To grow and sustain Abbey Art Works’ programs, the Guild of St. Luke was formed in 2017. Guild funds also have helped with further renovations of the chicken coop; the next project will turn an entry space in the center of the building into a gallery for students’ artwork. The Guild of St. Luke takes its name from the art guilds found in the 14th to 18th centuries across Europe. They were named for Saint Luke, considered to be the patron saint of artists as well as physicians and surgeons. Himself a physician, Luke the Evangelist was one of the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical Gospels. He is said to have authored two New Testament Books: The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. A yearly membership program called the Guild of St. Luke is open to arts organizations, professional artists, teachers, working artists, patrons, collectors, scholars, historians and philosophers. The taxdeductible memberships run from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 each year, and several membership levels are available. The $400 Master level is open to arts organizations and professional art instructors and allows use of the Abbey Artworks facility once per year. The Journeyman level – at $200 – is available to working artists who want to be part of the worldwide conversation on what painting is and why it matters in today’s world. The $100 Apprentice level is for those who are drawn to the arts as patrons, collectors, scholars, historians and philosophers. The $50 Friends level is available for adult students and friends who want to encourage Abbey Artworks.

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This musical, based on the movie of the same name, was created by star Dolly Parton and the film’s original screenwriter, Patricia Resnick. Co-workers Violet, Judy, and Doralee form a strong female triumvirate through their mutual dissatisfaction with workplace conditions and especially obnoxious office boss Franklin Hart, Jr. After fantasizing about making things better, the women work together to help improve both their personal and professional situations.

JAN. 10TH - FEB. 1ST Friday & Saturday 8pm

It was over 100 years ago that the American Theater opened for business on 42nd Street in the heart of Manhattan. It was to be the first of many theaters in that part of town, the area which became known around the world as “Broadway.” Celebrate the history of Broadway and our great heritage of musical theater in this marvelous 35-minute choral revue by Mac Huff. From the music of Tin Pan Alley to state-of-theart contemporary Broadway, you’ll treasure the magic of an entire century of drama, laughter and beautiful music!

FEB. 13TH - FEB. 15TH Thursday, Friday, & Saturday 7pm

Welcome to Southie, a Boston neighborhood where a night on the town means a few rounds of bingo, where this month’s paycheck covers last month’s bills, and where Margie Walsh has just been let go from yet another job. Facing eviction and scrambling to catch a break, Margie thinks an old fling who’s made it out of Southie might be her ticket to a fresh new start. But is this apparently self-made man secure enough to face his humble beginnings? Margie is about to risk what little she has left to find out. With his signature humorous glow, Lindsay-Abaire explores the struggles, shifting loyalties and unshakeable hopes that come with having next to nothing in America.

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Japan


STORY MARY-BRENT BROWN PHOTOS BEVERLY BROWN

I

saved my high school plaid uniform skirt to use for costumes, and it has come in quite handy: Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries, Hermoine from Harry Potter, etc. Other than that, it just reminds me how much I wanted to be able to wear my own clothes to school every day. So I never expected to see scores of girls wearing plaid skirts just like mine without a mandatory dress code requirement. But Tokyo is a fashion-forward world of its own, and when I visited in 2017, the “schoolgirl” look was very on trend. I’d always heard about Japan’s majestic cherry blossoms, but the timing didn’t work out for us to visit during the spring, and flights and accommodations can be more expensive and harder to find during the blooming. Fortunately, there is so much to see year ’round. We started our trip in Kyoto, the capital of Japan for over a millennium until the Emperor moved to Tokyo in 1868. The first stop was our ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn featuring tatami – flooring made of straw mats – and yukata – lightweight kimonos. Ryokans are more commonly found in less urban areas since tourist destinations have largely switched over to hotels with beds. But if you have a curious nature and want to



experience the traditional Japanese way of sleeping, I highly recommend Ohanabo Ryokan. As is tradition in most homes, schools and sacred spaces, we removed our shoes at the ryokan entryway. This tradition stems from the separation of “clean” and “unclean” places. For example, the bathroom is regarded as “unclean” so should not be entered in bare feet or indoor slippers. Our ryokan provided special bathroom slippers to be used only in that space. We booked a room with a private bath (some ryokans have communal bathrooms), giving us more time to figure out the myriad buttons on the toilet. There was one for everything! A seat heater, a bidet, music… When we first arrived at Ohanabo, we were greeted with green tea and slippers and led to our room, which we entered through a wide sliding door. During the day a short table was put out in our room, just high enough for us to use while sitting on the tatami floor. At bedtime, staff put the table away and put out traditional Japanese futons, which differ substantially from Western futons you might find in a dorm room. Our futons were soft pallets set up on the floor with a thin mattress and a duvet. After a long day of walking, the futons were a very comfortable respite, although the pillow was different than what I am used to: it seemed to be full of marbles. After politely declining the ryokan’s fish breakfast, we embarrassingly ate McDonald’s pancakes, and then hit the streets of Kyoto! Our first stop was nearby: Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, pictured on the next page. One of the largest wooden buildings in the world, the Founder’s Hall is supported by 90 pillars and stands 125 feet tall. The pillars and walls are intricately carved and painted, so much so that I cannot imagine rebuilding it, as was done in 1895 after a fire. Buddhists still use this tranquil space, so no photographs are permitted inside. You may have seen pictures of brilliant vermillion torii gates, which mark the entrance to a Shinto shrine. Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. Torri gates consist of wooden beams and pillars. We visited Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has thousands of gates, pictured to the left, along a hiking path on sacred Mount Inari. This shrine is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and prosperity, Inari. Shinto is still very popular today, along with Buddhism. On our train ride to Tokyo we stopped over in Himeji to see the Himeji Castle, pictured on the first pages, which is almost unanimously declared the most beautiful surviving feudal castle in Japan. Originally constructed in 1333 before being rebuilt multiple times, this is the largest and most visited castle in Japan. It was designated as one of the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is the international version of the U.S. Park Services’ National Register of Historical Places.


As was required at the time, the defense systems at Himeji Castle are extremely thorough. The castle was built on a hill, and its walls have very small windows so that defenders could look out to shoot arrows, but it would be difficult for opposing forces to hit the inhabitants of the castle. The ascent to the entrance is purposefully steep and winding to prevent a surprise attack. (This also prevents many tourists from finding their way.) Moats were employed to both ward off invaders and protect against fires. Angled chutes jut off various floors so that stones or oil could be dropped on attackers. For all this, the unfurnished interior is simply made of fine wood, with each progressive level having smaller square footage than the last. You can see the view from the top floor on the previous page. The fish sculpture was meant to ward off fires. As we walked back to the train, we encountered quite a surprise. Among the shop signs at a large mall was one we recognized: Café du Monde! After winding through the mall, we spotted the familiar green and white awning. Those beignets were a sight for sore eyes, although not exactly the same texture

as what we are used to. Interestingly, this location is not listed on the Café du Monde website. It does seem strange that a Japanese city of 500,000 people is the first expansion beyond the New Orleans metropolitan area, but who am I to question the beignet king? At last we made it to Tokyo, where the sushi was as fresh and meticulously created as one might expect. Shiba Inus, the medium sized, muscled dogs with pointy ears, are the most popular dog by far in Japanese pop culture. In Japan, shibas are featured on everything from backpacks to baby mobiles. We found this out through hours of shopping due diligence, which included picking up Tokyo 2020 Olympic gear three years before the games. The breadth of shiba items one can find in Japan was truly remarkable, although the breadth of women’s shoe sizes was not. My sister, a size 9, purchased shoes in the largest size available, which was called ‘Large Large’. (Shoes came in seven size options from ‘Small Small’ to just Small to ‘Small Medium,’ etc.).


A definite highlight of the entire trip was a stop at the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. We certainly did not allot enough time for this experience. At this museum, dedicated to providing glimpses of the future, we saw a humanoid robot hop on one foot (notoriously difficult because of balancing), an interactive physical display showing how the internet works with black and white balls representing 0s and 1s, and an artificial intelligence robot that learned its own name from scientists talking to it. In the Create Your Future exhibit visitors are invited to first imagine a future society and lifestyle that we want, and then to think about how we could make our dream future a reality, for example through recycling to reduce landfills. As the museum website says, “In this exhibit you experience in an interactive game what kind of Earth you can leave to your descendants 50 years from now. By envisioning an ideal future and thinking backwards, we can realize what we are supposed to do at present.” All in all, one doesn’t need cherry blossoms to enjoy an excellent visit to Japan. You might, however, need a plaid schoolgirl skirt if you want to fit in.


31.3254531 N

STORY ELAINE MILLERS PHOTOS PAUL CHAUVIN

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My father would always complain about ‘Sunday Drivers’ when getting stuck behind a particularly slow driver on a narrow English road. The term Sunday Driver is derived from drivers in the 1920’s and 1930’s who primarily used their cars as a form of entertainment, taking leisurely, aimless drives in the country on a Sunday afternoon. These drivers were in no hurry and thereby enraged any driver that was actually trying to get somewhere. The term became a popular epithet. With gas and rubber rationing during WWII, Sunday Drives became a

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thing of the past. In the 70’s the fuel crisis and the rise in gas prices all but killed off the pursuit. Families have found other forms of entertainment, although the term is still used by some today. Being empty nesters, we found ourselves with a rare Sunday afternoon free. With no activities planned we decided to hit the road and go explore something new. I had seen pictures during the summer of friends visiting Red Bluff, near Foxworth in Mississippi. Only an hour north of Bogalusa, it was the perfect distance to drive.


-89.9459161 W

SUNDAY DRIVE Red Bluff is the name of Mississippi’s own version of the Grand Canyon. Although much smaller, it is still an impressive geological formation. Created by the natural erosion of the west bank of the Pearl River, the Bluff is an exposure of red clay, soil, sand and other colorful sediments. The rise of elevation from the riverbed slopes sharply about 200 feet into the Pearl River floodplain. The natural erosion process continues and has forced nearby Mississippi Highway 587 to be moved twice. You can clearly see the remnants of the road from the rim of the canyon.

We arrived at Red Bluff following limited directions. This is not a tourist site, and there is no signage since it is not developed on any level. There are no rails or facilities. I have the feeling that is how the owners want it to remain, as it sits on private land. However, the area has clearly been discovered, photographed and written about. Parking in a dusty lot on the side of the road, we made our way to the edge of the bluff to see an impressive view. The remnants of fires littered the rim; I could imagine that this is a popular spot for teens to hang out, sitting on the ground and enjoying EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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Attached is a proof of your ad that will run in the June/July issue of EDGE of the Lake magaz unless we receive changes by ( 1 1 . 1 4 . 2 0 1 9 ) a t 5 : 0 0 P M . Please make any changes or approv

the spectacular views of the dramatic canyon. The sound of a red headed woodpecker pecking away at a tree and the sound of the river flowing below were the only sounds interrupting the afternoon’s peace. There are a number of paths that led down to the bottom of the canyon. The roots of trees formed steps to help navigate the slopes. We stayed awhile, took some photographs, dusted off the red dust and left everything as we found it, taking our empty water bottle with us. Yes, this was worth the Sunday drive.

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starcla.org • 985.641.0197 Mandeville - ext. 410 / Slidell - ext. 310


Christmas Under the Stars December 6- 7 & 13- 14, 2019 • 6- 9

pm

• G r i f f i t h Pa r k i n O l d e To w n e

Holiday Lights & Decorations • Santa’s Magical Mailbox • Parade of Trees • Slidell’s Nativity Life-size Christmas Cottages • Visits with Santa & Mrs. Claus in the Gazebo, 6 - 8:30 pm All in the Family: The Works of Keith & Kelly Dellsperger exhibit in the Slidell Cultural Center And be sure not to miss these other festive holiday events in Olde Towne Slidell: 5th Annual Spirit of the Season Olde Towne Light Display and Decorations Contest

Olde Towne Slidell will be decked out with festive lights and decorations, Dec. 6, 2019, through Jan. 2, 2020.

Christmas in Olde Towne Slidell • Saturday, Dec. 7 • 6-9 pm • Free Admission

Come for the innaugural Community Christmas Parade iand stay for Christmas Under the Stars and festivities in Olde Towne Slidell. Sponsored by the City of Slidell, Olde Towne Slidell Main Street, Olde Towne Slidell Association and the Slidell Historic Antique Association. Held in conjunction with Louisiana’s Shop Local Artists Week. For more information and to view events, please visit: ShopLocalArtistsWeek.com.

Holiday Concer t with the Nor thshore Community Orchestra Thursday, Dec. 19 • 7 pm • Free Admission Slidell Municipal Auditorium • 2056 Second Street

Slidell Movie Nights at Slidell’s Bayou Christmas Heritage Park • Saturdays, Dec. 21 & 28 Movies starts at 7 pm • Free Admission

Christmas Under the Stars is brought to you by the City of Slidell’s Dept. of Cultural & Public Affairs, the Commission on the Arts and the 2019 Cultural Sponsors: Renaissance • $5,000 Sponsors:

Sophisticated Woman Magazine

Baroque • $2,500 Sponsors: Acadian Ambulance • C. Ray Murry, Attorney At Law Jazz on the Bayou/Ronnie Kole Foundation • Silver Slipper Casino Neoclassical • $1,000 Sponsors: Councilman Bill & Laura Borchert • Lori Gomez Art Lowry-Dunham, Case & Vivien Insurance Agency • Purple Armadillo Again

Impressionism • $500 Sponsors: Chateau Bleu • CiCi’s Pizza • Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer • Flatliners Entertainment Old School Eats Food Truck • Olde Towne Print Shop • Pontchartrain Investment Management • Roberta’s Cleaners Semplice’s Pizza • Sirocco Coffee Company • Slidell Historic Antique Association • Terry Lynn’s Café & Creative Catering Weston Three 19 • Tanya Witchen - Engel & Völkers Real Estate Supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts as administered by the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs.

(985) 646-4375 • MySlidell.com • “City of Slidell” on Facebook & Twitter


My turn:

by Brian Bosarge

ABOUT BRIAN BOSARGE In every issue, EDGE of the Lake invites a local chef or restauranteur to visit another eatery on the Northshore. Brian Bosarge of the Beck-N-Call CafÊ in downtown Covington tells people that he comes from a family that would talk about their previous or next meal at their current one. He used to be a structural designer for an architect, but a chance catering event put Brian on a different path. He has owned the Beck-N-Call since 2003. They offer a daily hot plate special and serve Panini sandwiches, soups and salads. They’re open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, and for breakfast Saturday mornings.


DUMAN 821 Girod St., Mandeville 985.231.7663

This was our first time at Duman. My wife, Suzan, and I took a friend with us because we do Keto, and we wanted to get his opinion about what we could not eat due to our diet. But with the Duman menu, we found plenty of things we could eat. It was Happy Hour, so we ordered martinis. I knew mine was going to be mixed well when I told the bartender I liked my martinis brackish and she knew exactly what I meant. Not overly dirty, but like the brackish water in the swamps. In fact, once we settled in at the bar we decided to just take our meal there. We started out with the cauliflower steak; it was good, with pine nuts and an asiago sauce to dip it into. Then we went to the charcuterie board. Nice portions on it. The cheese and prosciutto were excellent, and it came with walnuts and pickles. After that we each ordered a pizza. The reason my wife and I could have the pizza was because they offered a cauliflower crust, which is lower in carbs. I had the garlic shrimp which I really enjoyed. I mean it had great flavor, and I even took my leftovers home. My wife is a little bit pickier about what she gets on her pizza, so she got pepperoni and black olives. She said hers was great. My friend had a traditional crust pizza with Italian sausage. He pretty much ate the whole thing while we were sitting there, so obviously his was really good. The wine selection was also good. I had white wine to go with my shrimp. My wife had a Pinot Noir. I really liked the room we were in. A lot of open space, not overcrowded, with oversized black and white photos of musicians on the walls. The space leans toward modern. The people working at Duman were well trained. The staff was attentive and interacted with us back and forth. The owners came out for a moment and we enjoyed chatting with them. Of course, they are usually in the back since they actually do the cooking. If you are looking for a good meal, with prices that are spot on, Duman is a great place to eat and we enjoyed it very much. Duman is located 821 Girod Street in Mandeville. Happy Hour is from 4-6 PM. They are now open for lunch as well.


THE COVINGTON THREE RIVERS ART FESTIVAL took place on the streets of Covington where 200 artists from around the country displayed their work. Visitors also enjoyed live music on the EDGE of the Lake stage, a food court and children’s activities. On Saturday night after the award ceremony Johnny Hayes performed at the Trailhead.

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Acquistapace’s hosted their premier event, ACQUISTAPACE’S ANNUAL CHEESE EXTRAVAGANZA’S WINE AND CHEESE EXPERIENCE, at the Southern Hotel. It featured fine wines, Champagne, a bourbon bar and an amazing cheese and charcuterie selection.

JOEL TREADWELL AND SUSIE O’MAHONEY picked up the latest issue LAUREN BENSON took a copy of

Mrs. Walker’s students at LEE ROAD SCHOOL

of EDGE at the monthly Covington

EDGE on her trip to Venice, Italy.

studied the artist George Rodrique.

Business Association meeting.

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Tim and Jan Lantrip hosted the ST. TAMMANY ART ASSOCIATION ARTIST PARTY for the Fall Show, the Northshore Invitational, curated by Don Marshall. Guests included Bill Binnings, Jose Maria Cundin, Bernard Mattox and Phillip Sage.

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THE NORTHSHORE HOMEBUILDERS ASSOCIATION held their 2019-2020 Installation Banquet at the Greystone where they announced the 2019-2020 Board of Directors.

The Children’s Museum of St. Tammany held their annual event CELEBRATION THE GREAT EXPEDITION on the grounds of the museum; guests enjoyed food provided by local restaurants, music, a silent auction and fun activities.

The Artwalk/Kelly Fortier hosted an opening reception for their show ‘OUR ENDURING ARTIST’ featuring Bernard Mattox and Steve Hasslock. Ronnie Cole performed along with dancers from Ballet Apetrei.

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St. Tammany Hospital Foundation’s GALA took place at the Southern Hotel. The hotel was transformed into a tropical paradise with mermaids in the pool, themed drinks and beach themed dÊcor. Money raised supported the St. Tammany Cancer Center.

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Hospice House hosted their 11th Annual WINE AND DINE at Benedict’s Plantation. Guests sampled wines from select brands and Acquistapace’s. A silent and live auction helped raise money for the Hospice Foundation of the South.

SAINT SCHOLASTICA ACADEMY’S

SAINT PAUL’S SCHOOL petroleum engineering class visited the Louisiana State

Color Guard celebrated Veteran’s Day.

University Petroleum Engineering Department for a day of exploration and activities.

The Southern Hotel hosted their annual SOUTHERN CUP at Summergrove Farm. Guests enjoyed an afternoon of polo while enjoying complimentary champagne.

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KELLY KICKING CANCER hosted their fifth annual Gala. Comedian Michael Dardant entertained the guests and helped raise money for brain cancer research. The event honors the memory of Kelly O’Mahoney who lost her battle with brain cancer.

Children’s Advocacy Center - Hope House hosted its seventh annual MEN WHO COOK fundraiser. It featured 23 celebrity teams – a local business or community leader paired with a top restaurant from the Greater New Orleans area – who went head to head in a competitive cook off to raise money for Hope House. The event raised more than $294,000 for the organization! cancer.

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KICKIN’ PARKINSON’S took on a Derby theme this year at their annual event at Stone Creek. Guests dined on food from local restaurants and enjoyed a Bourbon Bar. Money raised went to fund Parkinson’s Disease Research and programs.

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HERITAGE BANK hosted a First Responders Appreciation Lunch with food cooked by Randy Ponthieux.

BOGALUSA BLUES AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL held their 8th annual festival set in Cassidy Park. During the two day festival visitors enjoyed live music on two stages, crafts and festival food and beverages.

Photos by Casey Varnado

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Cathy and Rick Hood opened up their historic home to host the WYES LOUISIANA HAYRIDE. Guests were treated to food from The Lakehouse, music by the Charlie Rivers Band and wine and specialty drinks from Acquistapace’s. Money raised helped support public television.

The ST. TAMMANY YOU NIGHT CLASS OF 2019 took to the runway as friends and family watched and celebrated with an after-party. The event is a celebration of their program that helps woman embrace life beyond a cancer diagnosis. The theme of the event was Turn The Beat Around and featured a VIP area sponsored by Diagnostic Imaging Services, music, elaborate decorations and food provided by local restaurants.

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The Season’s First Christmas STORY CHARLES DOWDY

Charles Dowdy is a broadcaster and writer living with his wife and four children on the Northshore. You can hear him each weekday morning from 6 to 10 on Lake 94.7.

People like my father are the reason the Christmas season takes up one third of the calendar year. He becomes obsessed with proving he has the most Christmas spirit. For my father there is one simple standard for measuring that spirit: how early someone puts up his or her Christmas tree. Starting sometime in October my father will hide behind drawn shades in his house, staring into the dark winter night for the slightest indications of twinkling lights. He spends every Saturday walking around the block with his neck on a swivel, under the pretense of exercise, looking for the telltale signs of Christmas spirit. And he absolutely hates the neighbors with fake trees. They are the bane of his Christmas spirit efforts, since they keep their fake trees in the attic and show few signs of their intentions until their blinking lights actually come on. One twinkling light sends him scurrying for an ax, lest he face defeat in the contest of Most Christmas Spirit. As Christmas gets closer and closer my dad gets more and more excited; you’d think all those presents under the tree were for him instead of the tie/socks/ gardening tool he gets each year. And then there is this sad routine Mom and Dad play out each Christmas morning. She’ll open some gift from him – and this is the “ok” gift – and she goes on and on about it like it is the one thing she always EDGE Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

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wanted, and he’ll mumble something about “being practical this Christmas.” Then after everyone has opened their gifts, he’ll find this one gift that was “missed” and give it to her, and it’ll be some outrageous ring or necklace or whatever, and Mom starts crying and Dad starts walking around the room with this melancholy look on his face because from that point forward he knows the next Christmas season is now 279 to 294 days away. Dad got into lights shaped like white reindeer a few years ago. They were on sale, and now he has a small manageable herd in his yard. Last year some joker sent Dad into orbit when he rearranged the animals in a suggestive manner. No one noticed until my son said, “Look Daddy, those reindeer are giving each other piggy back rides.” Dad is also starting to lean toward white lights on the tree. White lights are such a sellout. White lights say we’re in the Christmas spirit in a very clean and peaceful way. Who attached the word “peaceful” to Christmas? Everyone sings “Silent Night” or “O Holy Night.” All Christmas carols have that same peaceful and holy sound. For realism sake they ought to resemble a heavy metal band playing out of a garbage can. There was nothing peaceful about that first Christmas; it was childbirth in a barn full of animals. You can’t tell me that was a lot of fun. And don’t give me some hocus-pocus thing about God calming the animals down. If God was going to get directly involved, then it would have made a lot more sense to magically kick that goat herder Balthababzar and his sorry excuse for a

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wife out of their room at the crowded inn. Since then we’ve substituted the shrieking of farm animals with the screams of over sugared, over stimulated children tearing open packages containing small, sharp toys scientifically designed to break under the foot of a sleepy father stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Again, not real peaceful and certainly not clean. So, while I don’t have this hang-up about being the first to put up decorations, I am all about exercising realistic Christmas spirit. Last year I tried to inject some reality back into the holiday for the benefit of our children, making great efforts that were met with nothing but resistance by my wife. My point remains a simple one: Why do we have a Christmas tree if we are celebrating the birth of Jesus? Why not a Christmas manger? So instead of a tree I built a manger in our living room. I brought in hay and my wife complained about the smell and dust. The dogs and the cat graciously allowed themselves to become a camel, a cow and a chicken respectively. And my wife went on and on about the germs, but it was only fertilizer that I’d molded and shaped to resemble the animal droppings. Like I’m going to take my efforts at realism that far. It was, admittedly, unfortunate the kids thought it was chocolate.




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