He was born in Louisiana and grew up on his parents’ cotton farm. She was born in Chicago and moved frequently from urban area to urban area, depending on where her dad found work. He was the younger of two boys with eight years separating them. She was the third of six children, each born two or three years apart. He wore a leather jacket with slicked back wavy hair and drove a Harley Davidson, the epitome of “cool.” She dressed demurely in modest dresses and sang in the church choir. Their paths converged at Louisiana Tech when he saw her across a room and was smitten. He asked her for a date, which she accepted on one condition: he had to attend church with her. He didn’t have to think long or hard for that was a small price to pay for a date with this gal. Yes, he was smitten. The rest is history.
They married on Nov. 2, 1951 in a small church wedding. He was heading to seminary in North Carolina, and they had stars in their eyes about what the future might hold for them. But whatever it was, together they would forge their path through life.
He became a minister for a while, and church remains a vital part of his life. Even after leaving the ministry, he ponders the deeper meaning of life, its joys and its vicissitudes as any true existentialist would. He wrote the stories of his imaginings, being the creative thinker and writer that he was and is. Eventually he became a bookkeeper at a nearby mission, followed by providing the same services at their church home, the place where they have worshiped for over 40 years. He finally retired during his 80th year.
She was the pragmatic one. In the early years she worked as a lab technician in local hospitals. Eventually she would leave that work to become a middle school life science teacher where she earned accolades for her creativity and enthusiasm in the classroom. When she retired from teaching, she became a naturalist at a state park until her retirement from that position when she was approaching her 80th birthday. Through the years she sewed her own clothes, reupholstered furniture to make others’ discarded junk a piece of art in her home, grew her own vegetables to preserve, and fed the family throughout the year. She sang in the church choir into her 80’s, teaches Sunday school, chairs the mission committee, and continues visiting friends and friendless alike. Today she makes doll clothes for dolls that are given to hospitalized children, hoping to alleviate each child’s fear . . . at least a little bit.
Through the years they relocated many times, reinvented themselves almost as often, raised four motley children, enjoyed the blessings of nine grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren with two more on the way. They traveled extensively and embraced life in all of its beauty and complexity—good and bad.
Camping was a salve for their souls as they hiked through woods, forged mountain streams, spelunked through caverns and repelled down cliffs. As a young family, they began their camping “career” in an old, smelly baker tent (that was often sworn at . . . poor tent.) From that humble beginning, they quickly graduated to a full-scale teepee modeled after the Oglala abodes. They made the teepee themselves. She sewed, wearing out at least one sewing machine. He cut down tall Louisiana pines, then stripped the bark and dried the poles. They hauled the teepee throughout the country, east and west, north and south, on annual family camping trips. When they retired the teepee, back packing became their mode of camping and seeing the country. For years the two traveled when they got the chance, hiking with their packs to places most of the rest of us have only seen in photographs. When the two adventurers and life-long lovers finally hung up their packs, they converted their van into a makeshift camper so that they could continue their travels. The two did not slow down. But even the van eventually became too difficult to “camp” in. Not thwarted however, they bought a small camper trailer to pull behind their van and they continue their journeys, albeit a little slower and closer to home than in past years.
In addition to the adventures of travel and camping, the two spent their lives supporting the downtrodden, visiting the sick, grappling with issues of social justice, poverty, inequality, racism and more. They stood by their beliefs and their love of the human race when others wanted to silence them. They appreciated the simple things in life, were thankful that their needs were met, made do with what they had, and as a result their lives are far richer today than if filled with tawdry material things that eventually wither away and become burdensome objects for their children to dispense of.
You see, L.J. and Pat have spent over 60 glorious years building a life together and inspiring all who know them to be better people, to do better work, and to think better thoughts.
L. J. and Pat, the “he” and the “she”, his motorcycle “Fonzie” to her modest “Pollyana” created a masterpiece with their lives that we, the privileged observers, now celebrate.