L.J. and Chee Chee Gielen (front) and Kim Gielen Gattle, 83rd International Rice Festival Grand Parade Marshals
Gielens, Gattle named 2019 IRF Grand Parade Marshals
Lazar John “L.J.” Gielen, Carol “Chee Chee” Breaux Gielen, and their youngest daughter, Kimberly “Kim” Gielen Gattle, have been chosen as the 83rd International Rice Festival Grand Parade Marshals.
Selected by IRF President, Deborah Nutt Whiting, L.J., Chee Chee and Kim were chosen for their continuous contributions to the city of Crowley, the city in which they were born, raised, and reside and the city that they truly love.
They are most recognized for their involvement in the renovation and restoration of The Grand Opera House, the historic 1901 second-story opera house that was brought back to its glory after nearly 60 years.
The family purchased the building in 1999 and then in 2004, donated the opera house building to the not-for-profit organization so that state funding could be awarded to the entity to assist in the $4.5 million dollar project. Since then, they have purchased and renovated many historic buildings in downtown Crowley, discovering a true passion for preservation and assisting in bringing this special part of Crowley back to life.
L.J. Gielen was born in 1945 to Julia John Gielen and John Daniel Gielen Jr. He graduated from St. Michael High School in 1963 and from LSU in Baton Rouge in 1967.
During his 74 years, he ran several successful businesses which include Shop Rite and Tobacco Plus (along with his brother, brother-in-law and two cousins) as well as Rice Palace and L.K. Breaux and Associates.
L.J.Gielen has served on many committees and boards of trade and civic organizations. He served his church, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, by being on the parish council for over 20 years. He also served on the St. Michael School Board and was also a board member of Community Foundation of Acadiana.
Married to “Chee Chee” for 53 years, they have four children, Rachel Bacilla (Chris) of Hong Kong, Bryant (Elizabeth), Chad (Dena) and Kimberly G. Gattle, all of Crowley; 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Chee Chee Gielen was born to Agnes Baronet Breaux and Eli Louis Breaux in 1946. She attended St. Michael High School as well as the University of Southwestern Louisiana.
While her children were young, she was a stay-at-home mother and was a charter member of the Child Activity Club and the Plant & Pray Garden Club. She was also an active member of St. Michael’s “Hi-God” program and St. Michael Altar Society.
She, too, was a member of many civic, school, and city organizations throughout her lifetime.
Once her children were of school age, Chee Chee Gielen worked alongside her husband as secretary with Shop Rite for nearly 25 years. She then “retired” to work again as the owner of Dixie Hardware before transforming the first floor of the building into another family business, Le Grand Hall.
Still involved in the family businesses, she currently devotes most of her free time to Miss Helen’s Soup Kitchen as well as the St. Michael Rosary Group and also serves as a Lay Eucharistic Minister at Acadia General Hospital.
Kim Gattle is L.J. and Chee Chee’s youngest daughter and is the mother of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth. She attended St. Michael Elementary, Notre Dame High School, and was a graduate of LSU in Baton Rouge.
After teaching in the public school system for three years, Gattle joined her parents in their quest of helping to revitalize downtown Crowley.
She played an integral part in the renovation and restoration of the opera house and has served as the executive director of The Grand Opera House since 2001. She continues to oversee all aspects of day-to-day operations. She also manages Le Grand Hall, which is used quite often for public and private gatherings.
In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at Miss Helen’s Soup Kitchen, either alone or with her children.
Always generous, L.J., Chee Chee, and their family know the value of sharing with the community that blessed them in so many ways. They proudly support parochial and public education as well as the arts, youth, and civic organizations. They also believe that in order for the upcoming generations to prosper, we must preserve the past, appreciate the present, and invest in the future.