Celebrating a Century +5 years of life
Eve Duplantis LeMaire celebrated her 105th birthday Saturday, April 4th.
She was born in a time that, by today’s standards, was almost a back woods camping expedition. There were very few luxuries: you generally cooked all of your meals from scratch, rules and parents were strict, a school education was time away from home chores, the work was hard and it almost never stopped. Families were big and they took care of each other. And, for Ms. Eve, she still has some of her children helping her today.
Ms. Eve was born April 4, 1903. Her Parents were Nelson Duplantis and Avelia Frederick and Acadiana was truly her home. Her father worked for various farmers in the Leroy, Forked Island and Live Oak (Godchaux Plantation) communities before settling down in their home in Abbeville. But, by that time, Ms. Eve was married and raising a family of her own. When people asked her father about moving the family with him when he changed jobs, he replied that “if I can make the bread (money) then she could cook it.”
Hazel LeMaire Decuir and Norris are two of Ms. Eve’s children and were the spokesmen for the story about their mother, their father and the life they shared as siblings. Both Hazel and Norris are into their 80’s and share a home in the Henry community south of Erath with their mother. Their spouses are both deceased, children are grown and living lives with their own families, and, after two years renting in Abbeville, have been able to move back into their newly renovated home following Hurricane Rita.
Ms. Eve’s wedding in approximately 1922 to Noah LeMaire lasted until his death at 87 in 1985. Together, they had five children: Hubert, who died following an accident at age 23, Norris, who’s had three strokes in the past two years, Hazel, Mary Schexnayder, living in Kaplan, and Kenneth, living in Little Rock, AR. She is from a line of “good stock” as the saying goes; her mother died at the age of 90 and a sister lived life through the age of 86 until her death only two years ago.
In the television show “The Little House on the Prairie,” children of farming communities were often pulled out of school early, or attended sporadically, because their help was needed at home. Much has always held true for the farming community in Acadiana, and other farming regions, where children of farmers often learn to drive combines and tractors long before their city friends learn to drive a car. It was this similar situation of being pulled out of school to help at home for Ms. Eve that ended her formal education in the first grade. There were two sets of twins to take care of along with the usual family chores. The twins have been a family gene passed along to Ms. Hazels own daughters who also have twin children in their homes.
Her son Norris described their house as a “fair home for the day. Not like some of the homes being built today all fancy and stuff. It was generally a big house that we lived in and always well kept. The houses were raised much like today and had really high ceilings. And, of course, an outhouse. Our uncle T-Dan Meldon Duplantis wrote for “The Abbeville Meridional” sometime back in the 1940’s or so and he managed to go through the ninth grade for an education. She had another brother that hated school so much he’d leave in the morning and hide in the corn fields all day. He’d come home at the same time the other kids did, and talked about how much he regretted not getting an education.”
Ms. Hazel described their lives as children of Eve and Noah LeMaire as “very simple. We were poor, but we always had food on the table. My dad never neglected us when we were sick either - he was always with us. Mom (Ms. Eve) fell sick when I was about nine years old and I had to start doing mom’s chores. Dad would get up about 4 a.m. and I’d have to be up to make his coffee and clean the house before I could leave for school in the morning. He never ate breakfast before leaving for work until much later in life when he started having health problems.”
The saying goes that lightening never strikes the same place twice. And that phrase held true for Ms. Eve’s life. She was never in the same place when she was struck by lightening - twice. Ms. Hazel said her mom would go through seizures because of the lightening strikes and talked about how she’d have to take care of her by cooling her down by wiping her forehead with a cool, damp cloth. When Ms. Eve’s children did something to get into trouble, she would implore her children to behave so she wouldn’t get angry enough to bring on another seizure.
Both Hazel and Norris described their father as a hard working man and said he expected the same from his children. “He always said do it right the first time so the job doesn’t have to be re-done,” said Ms. Hazel. Norris commented that “dad was a hard man to work for. I dropped out of school in the seventh grade but managed to finish through my eighth grade graduation and, after the service in WWII, drove trucks through about 36 of the states in America. “Dad would butcher a pig in the morning and have it completely ready for cooking before he left for work in the fields.”
And they both talked about how their father saw things different from others. “In 1941, people thought he was a fool for paying $3,000 for 10 acres of land by Frenzel Motors. Back then, there was only a dump where people from the city would bring their big home items to get rid of, and now, it’s Hwy. 14 Bypass. Hazel Doucet Beauty School was the first piece of property he sold off for $20,000 and he gave Hazel the corner lot for her wedding, which now has the convenience store/gas station on the lot. Dad would get out there with a push mower to cut that ten acres. He also bought an old railroad building in Crowley for $500 and paid a couple of men to tear it apart. This was thick Cypress wood and he eventually had enough to build a house for he and mom and the remaining children.”
Eve and Noah lived in that house for better than the next 30 years. Their property had peach, pear, apple and orange trees planted on it. Norris said that about half of the bypass is the property that his dad bought; the same land people thought he was foolish for buying.
Ms. Eve lived on her own after her husband died until she was 98 years of age. Hazel and Norris both described their mom as being hard headed and always wanting to do things on her own. However, seven years ago, climbing to reach for something ended her life alone when she fell and cracked a few ribs. Something the siblings say wasn’t the first time.
It was the last time, though, when Ms. Eve’s doctor suggested to Hazel that she move closer to get a little more help. A trailer on the property next to Ms. Hazel’s home worked fine until mom crossed the century mark and, at 100 years of age, underwent chemotherapy for throat cancer. “Her doctor said that cancer wasn’t going to kill her; old age would do that. He also said that she’s (Ms. Eve) healing faster than a lot of other cancer patients who are no where near her age.”
Ms. Hazel explained that her voice box was removed and she now has a hole in her throat for a voice box. She told the story of a niece visiting Ms. Eve one day and that she asked the niece to show her the voice box. Ms. Eve said it looked very pretty and would the niece please put it on the shelf across the room. “I think it’s more trouble for her to use so she doesn’t very often,” said Ms. Hazel.
“Mom always loved to sew and made all of our clothes while we were growing up. I never learned how to knit or crochet and that was something she (Ms. Eve) was very good at. She also baked home made bread all the time. They had bread in the stores, but it never tasted as good as home made. Mom continued sewing up until about ten years ago.”
Ms. Hazel said that her mom sleeps a lot now, and has probably earned a rest after all the years of hard work she had to do. And, while Ms. Eve did sleep through most of this interview with her children, she did wake toward the end and still had a smile.