Portrait of a Grandmother
Lilly Bouillion Hebert
February 13, 1916 – July 31, 2002
For many of us, having a framed picture of our grandmother or our grandparents is considered a treasured item. It’s strange to think how the simplicity of a single photograph placed behind a piece of glass is considered a treasure. However, for those of us who grew up with loving grandparents, the reality of a portrait is essentially priceless.
In her lifetime, our grandmother truly touched the hearts of her twelve grandchildren. From Brian, all the way to Alaina, she made us each feel special. Despite the age differences, which lie between our even dozen, there is also a commonality. Individually, each of us has been blessed with wonderful memories of MawMaw Lilly that we hold dear in our hearts.
As with a large patchwork quilt each representing a different square, twelve personalities exist, each possessing a different vision in life. However, the single common thread running through our quilt is our grandmother. Unlike many people who never had the opportunity to experience their grandmothers, we were blessed, to not only know, but to love ours, as well. Today we each hold close to our hearts, memories and stories, which have affected our lives. It is often said, that grandchildren are a God’s gift to grandparents. With us, that love came full circle because we feel that Mawmaw Lilly was God’s gift to us. With the unconditional love lying deep within her, she shared her heart through laughter, stories and at times, tears. In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Psalm of a Life”, there is one specific passage that states,
“Life is real,
Life is earnest
And the grave is not it’s goal.
Dust thou art
To dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.”
Mawmaw Lilly never tired in sharing her soul in life, nor will she in death. Her faith of God, as well as her love of life and family was real. Without a doubt even in death, that love will transcend boundaries to be with us.
Now I ask you again to focus on the frame sitting with a grandmother’s picture and the attached memories. Once you envision the image of a grandmother’s entire existence, the picture somehow changes. For us, the transformation of a simple photograph into a portrait is captured in the giving of her heart and soul. It is an image all twelve of us will forever cherish. We do have a number of pictures of her, however, God in his glory, graced us with her portrait as well. She was indeed, a true portrait of a grandmother.
Written for Lilly Hebert’s Funeral Mass by Stacy Bodin
Can you name the first Professional female umpire?
Well, here are a few clues… she was an avid baseball lover, as well as a pioneer for women’s rights. This is a woman who lived in a time when women were not accepted as umpires in the Professional Baseball League. That is… until this baseball lover stepped up to the home plate with a dream deep in her heart. The name of the 1st female Professional Baseball Umpire was Bernice Mary Shiner Gera, and she was a 1949 graduate of Erath High School.
The Shiner family was originally from Ernest, Pennsylvania. Four members of the family were connected to the Erath Community.
During World War II, Betty “Liz” Shiner met Pervis “Bill” Mergist, a native of Erath. They met in Brooklyn, New York and were married. At that time, they moved to Erath.
Later, Betty’s sister Helen “Helk” Shiner came to Erath as a visitor. She met Edward Suire of Erath. They too fell in love and were married.
Soon, a third sister came to Erath. Her name was Bernice Mary Shiner and was born on June 15, 1931. Bernice remained in Erath and attended school here. She graduated with the Erath High Class of 1949.
(Note: Only three graduated from Erath High that year due to the “new” twelve year curriculum which was implemented in 1950. In 1949, there were still eleven grades. Students that year were offered the option of graduating in 1949 with an eleven year curriculum, or they could choose to remain and graduate with 12 years under the belt. Three chose to graduate in 1949. The 1949 class graduation was held with the 8th grade ceremony that year with three 11 year curriculum EHS graduates).
While in Erath, Bernice met Louis Thomas Jr. whom she later divorced. She remarried Stephen Gera.
The girls’ brother Edward “Eddie” Shiner also came to visit and met his wife Erath native Judy LeBlanc. Judy LeBlanc is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George LeBlanc. George Leblanc was the mayor of Erath at that time. Ed and Judy married and had three children (Richard, Mary and Karl).
The final Shiner sibling Henry remained in Pennsylvania.
Bernice Shiner Gera graduated from the Jim Finley Umpire School in 1967. Unable to voluntarily be accepted by professional baseball, she filed a lawsuit. Bernice Gera waged a six year legal battale to get into organized baseball as an umpire. A New York Court of Appeal ultimately ruled in her favor and and on April 12, 1972 she signed a contract.
Gera officiated a Class A Professional Baseball Game in Geneva, New York on June 24, 1972. After umpiring only one game (breaking the long gender of prohibition against women participating), Bernice resigned from baseball.
Bernice Shiner Gera died on September 23, 1992. She is buried in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Her tombstone reads “Pro Baseball’s First Lady Umpire.”
In Cooperstown, New York, there is an exhibit at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame that was erected in her honor.
Bernice Shiner Gera traveled a long road since her days back at Erath High in the latter part of the 40’a. With an intense love of baseball in her heart, she fought for something she believed in and was able to leave her mark in baseball, as well as for women everywhere.
Who was the 1st female Professional Baseball Umpire? Well… it was an Erath High graduate from the 1949 class named Bernice Shiner Gera.
A familiar and memorable sight for many Erath residents is the grotto located near Erath’s Catholic Church. The Church grotto built as a memorial honoring Our Lady of Lourdes, has captured the hearts of many children and adults through it’s forty seven year life. The blue and white Our Lady of Lourdes statue, stands encircled within a wall of large stones, above the small pond of water with its tiny bridge. Through the years, the grotto’s legacy has won the hearts of many area children. With fond embedded roots, it has become a memorable landmark in the Erath community. Many are able to testify to the excited squeals of children heard after each weekend mass. Echoes of excited young voices asking parents or grandparents, “can we go see the fish now?” Though the grotto’s statue, small bridge and goldfish captured the attention of the youngsters, it’s the bond of sharing cherished moments with friends and family that gently touched souls. In the mid fifties, Mrs. Edward (Helen) Suire Sr. was responsible for the promotion of building of the grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Upon completion, the grotto was then dedicated in honor of Father Justin Mirat, the Pastor at the time. Father Mirat, a native of France served the Erath Catholic Church from 1932 unti11956. An inscription stone located near the Virgin Mary Statue reads:
PASTEUR-PERE JUSTIN MIRAT -SES PAROISSIENS”
LE 9 0CTOBRE,1955.”
(To Our Good Friend, Pastor Father Justin Mirat Your Parishioners, October 9, 1955)
Still located on church grounds, four and a half decades later, the grotto has become a memorable structure for many Catholic Erath residents. With memories still alive in many sacramental photographs, as well as in hearts, many find themselves returning as parents now, sharing memories with their own children. Though just a simple small replica of the Lourdes Structure in France, this tiny grotto somehow, seems to own a part of the heart, of those who grew up in the Erath Catholic Church community. It’s a place located just outside the doors of Erath’s Catholic Church. It is a place which memories of family and tradition solidified through the years. A place which is truly embedded in the heart of Erath….
Melanie Quirk Alleman was recently named the 2013-14 Vermilion Parish Middle School Teacher of the Year. The current Erath Middle teacher is a 1987 Erath High graduate who also graduated from ULL in 1989. Upon certification, Alleman then became a legal secretary for nine years. After returning to college, she received a BA in Education in 1997.
Her career began when she taught half a year at Seventh Ward. She then moved to Herod where she remained for 6 years. At that time, she transferred to Dozier Elementary where she remained until 2011. In August of 2011, she transferred to EMS.
This is her 2nd Teacher of the Year award. Alleman was named the Dozier Elementary Teacher of the Year during the 2009-2010 school year.
She is married to Jason Alleman and together they have two daughters, Morgan and Emily.
Alleman is the daughter Jimmy and Pat Quirk. She comes from a family of educators. Her father Jimmy Quirk was a teacher and principal for thirty one and a half years. Her sister Charlotte Quirk Domingues was also a long time educator who recently retired in Vermilion Parish. She has two brothers Tom and Tim Quirk.
On Friday, March 15, 2013 Elementary Principal Dawn Amy announced to a surprised Shana Bernard LeBlanc, that she was the “LeBlanc Elementary 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.” With family present, LeBlanc was greeted with flowers and balloons.
The current 2nd grade teacher is a 1996 graduate of Erath High, and a 2000 UL graduate in her 12th year of teaching. In December 2010, LeBlanc earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from McNeese.
LeBlanc began her teaching career at Eaton Park in 2001 and moved to LeBlanc Elementary in 2009.
The dedicated teacher states on her school faculty page “I teach because each moment is a new adventure. No two days are alike. Each morning you are met with new obstacles; new challenges; but you are also greeted with the best reward; children.”
LeBlanc comes from a family of educators. Her mother Margaret Viator Bernard retired from teaching in 2007 with more than 30 years of teaching experience. Her godmother (and Aunt) Telisa Bernard Lege, taught at Dozier Elementary two decades until she accepted a job in the Special Ed Department for Vermilion Parish several years ago. Shana LeBlanc’s younger sister Ashlie Bernard Landry is currently a teacher at Dozier Elementary. The two sister duo taught several years together at Eaton Park Elementary.
The next level of competition for the LeBlanc Elementary teacher will now be at the parish level.
Shana Bernard LeBlanc and her husband Nathan have two sons, Griffin and Pierce. She is the daughter of Kevin and Margaret Bernard of Erath.
2013 Dozier Elementary 5th Grade Band
On Wednesday March 13, 2013 the Dozier Elementary Band traveled to UL Lafayette to perform in the District Concert Festival. Though District Festival is a normal occurrence for middle school and high school bands in the parish, it is rare for 5th grade elementary bands to participate. So much so, that the Dozier Elementary Band was the first 5th grade band in Vermilion Parish to ever participate in a District Festival event, making history for the school and the parish.
Upon hearing Dozier Elementary’s first band concert for Christmas, Vermilion Parish Music Supervisor Madeline Dehart approached DES band director Kylie Veazey to consider taking the group to this year’s District Festival. Veazey, a 1st year band director admitted she was a bit apprehensive, but decided take a leap of faith with her young musicians and it paid off. Veazey shared, “if nothing else I felt, this could be a great experience for the students.”
Though Veazey had never participated in a District Festival as an actual band director, she had indeed participated many times with the Erath High band under the direction of her (former) EHS Band Director Kenny Broussard. Broussard, who has a daughter in the 5th grade band, was on hand to experience the event, not only as a parent, but as a proud band director watching his former student, who is now a band director herself.
The festival is used as an assessment for bands in District III. Ratings for assessment are on a scale from 1-5. A rating of “1″ is the highest level of performance, and a rating of “5″ is the lowest. Though it was their 1st district concert performance, the Dozier Elementary Band managed to receive all superior ratings (1’s), as well as receiving a plaque for making “Sweepstakes,” for all superior ratings.
The DES 5th grade band consists of sixty five 5th grade students who have been playing their instruments a mere six months.
As a 1st year band teacher an excited Kylie Veazey shared “Not only did everyone comment on how well the band performed, but also on the discipline and manners of our band member. I am extremely proud of the students!”
On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, Kylie Veazey and her DES 5th grade band participated in a “practice run” at 6:00 for the District Concert for the parents and community in Dozier’s cafeteria as well.
Jordan Lange, an Erath High School Senior was recently named the 2012-13 Vermilion Parish High Student of the Year.
As a member of the Erath High Student Board for three years, he has served as Student Council President, Student Council President Elect, Senator and Representative. In other leadership school roles, he served as Class President and on the EHS Advisory Board for four years. He is also involved with the school’s Math Club as treasurer, and is on a number of school wide committees.
Lange’s active Beta Club roots go back to his middle school years. He served as the Erath High Beta Club treasurer for three years. During 2012-13 he was elected and served as the Louisiana State Beta Club President.
This past January, he presided over the 2013 Louisiana Beta Convention and was also a Keynote Speaker, held at the Cajundome. As state Beta President, he implemented the Louisiana Leukemia and Lymphoma Drive to raise money for the Louisiana Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Also at the state level, Lange was an active participant of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) which is a program ties the Louisiana Legislature with 21 students selected from across the State of Louisiana. The program was created by state lawmakers to facilitate the communication between teens and the legislature, as well as to give students an opportunity to become involved in state government. He served on the Student Recognition Committee, as well as the Student Service Project Committee.
At the National level, in the summer of 2012, Lange participated in the National Beta Convention as a Candidate for National Office, as well as in the National/State Officers’ Training held in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He has been also been actively involved with top national programs such as with Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Program and Broyhill Leadership Program during past summers.
Lange participates in various sports. He plays football, basketball, tennis, and is on both the cross country and track teams. In the fall, he was recognized at the Superdome for being on the All State Team Composite Team for both football and cross country. The school recently received news that he also made the All State Team Composite Team for basketball, as well.
The active teen also participated in A-HEC Summer Medical Internship Program this past summer. He was one of ten students from across Vermilion Parish selected to participate in the summer intern program. This program allowed him to spend time in each of the departments at Abbeville General Medical Center and job shadow professionals in different medical specialties.
His community service activities include Make-A-Difference Day the past three years and the implementation of a community drive to recycle Mardi Gras beads and throws for the Bares Ranch. Over 1,500 pounds of beads and throws were collected over the past years. In 2012, he helped implement Toy Drive for Tulane Medical Center to bring new toys to sick children at Tulane’s hospital in New Orleans.
Other events involved him in participating or facilitating community drives to collect supplies and donations for area charities such as, Toys for Tots, Bares Ranch Newspaper Drive, Food Net Canned Food Drive, Stuffed Animals for State Troopers, United Blood Services Drive, Book Drive, St. Jude’s Rally Drive, and local Nursing Home Supply Drive. He has also served as Fantasy Flight Volunteer, Erath 4th of July Volunteer to help in various capacities. He has also been involved in activities for Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church through the years as well.
Has been accepted into the honors programs and received scholarship offers at Tulane University, LSU, and UL Lafayette Plans to attend college with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in History.
He is the son of Keith and Angela Lange of Erath
Dozier Elementary’s Kelbi LaShare was named the Vermilion Parish 2012-13 Student of the Year. Dozier Elementary Principal Karla Toups made the announcement on February 8, 2013 at the school’s annual Mardi Gras parade, with her family present.
Although she is an elementary student, her school activities keep the 5th grader busy.
The Dozier Elementary student is currently 1st chair clarinet in the Dozier Elementary Band and last year was one of the 4th grade Student Council Representatives.
She has been an active member for 4-H club member the past 2 years, and was named the 2012 Vermilion Parish 4-H Outstanding Club Member.
The energetic Dozier student placed 1st in monologue both at the Dozier and Vermilion Parish Elocution level contests last year, and was this year’s 2012 D.A.R.E Essay Winner.
The 4.0 student has been in Talented and Gifted Program for 5 years, she also has been in top AR reader categories at the school the past few years.
Her involvement in the community is equally impressive. She is an active member at Our Lady of Lourdes church as an altar Server and volunteer. She has been helping recycle plastic since 2010 and she raises money annually for St. Jude, Little People of America, and Cystic Fibrosis.
In sports, she participates in the community’s basketball, soccer, softball leagues. The pre teen has participated in the Iberia Performing Arts League in “Mulan Jr” and “A Christmas Story.” She has been in dancing for the past seven years. She is currently serving as the 2012-2013 Deb Miss Swamp Pop Music Festival Queen. LaShare also won the Winner of the “Best T-shirt” design in 2012 Erath Volunteer Fire Department Chili Cook off.
The active 5th grader is the daughter of Joni (Milliman) and Scott Hebert.
Loretta Mergist Milliman was named the 2012-13 Dozier Elementary Support Person of the Year at the recent Spring Band Concert held Friday, March 22, 2013.
Milliman is a 1976 Erath High School graduate. She was a Daycare Director from 1985-1993, and then worked for eight years as a paraprofessional at Eaton Park Elementary. She has been at Dozier Elementary for more than a decade now and works as a Pre K paraprofessional in Angie Detraz’s class. Mergist now moves to the district competition.
In our academic world today evident is our constantly evolving educational system. However, the one constant that remains in place, lies with seamlessly meshing academic growth and nurturing our youth.
Since the implementation of Cecil Picard’s Pre K program more than a decade ago, the majority of children now begin their educational journey at an earlier age. Pre K classroom teachers and their aides truly play a defining role our system. It has always been my opinion that it takes unique educators and staff members to embark on a path of educating four and five year old students as they enter classrooms for the first time. As tiny beings, these students are traveling into unchartered territory in their young lives. Without their knowledge, the goal is to mesh academics with a caring and nurturing environment. Though lessons and skills are at hand, their young eyes however see first and foremost, the loving adults at hand. Without a doubt, Dozier Elementary Paraprofessional Loretta Mergist Milliman possesses what is needed in a classroom, and in my opinion is the epitome of a caring and successful Pre K Paraprofessional. Though it is hard to put into words her effect on her students, at best, I can say that her knowledge, heart and smile seemingly radiates around young children. She knows it, our staff and parents know it, but more importantly, our students know it.
In my opinion Loretta Milliman has the heart of a true educator with a God given role to work with children. Her students love “Ms. Loretta” and feel the obvious love of children that is embedded in her heart. Not only she is always up for any task involving the school, she always brings her personal best. In addition to doing what is required or asked of her, she also is always willing to go the extra mile whether asked or not. She is a rare worker who recognizes when something needs to be done and offers her time for whatever is needed. Whether it is for her students, supporting teacher Angie Detraz, school leaders and colleagues alike, she is there. Then to top it off, she always brings with it, her professionalism coupled with the warmth of her ever present smile.
She has worked for Vermilion Parish Schools for the past twenty years. She began her journey with our district after having her own personal and successful day care from 1985-1993. At that time, she decided to move into our school system, which undoubtedly has been an asset to our parish. She served eight years as an aide working with teachers at Eaton Park, and has been at Dozier Elementary since Pre K opened at Dozier.
Ms. Milliman is also an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and has volunteered her time with youth programs such as Hi God and other religious programs as well. As a mother of three, she also spent much of her time, assisting in many school and sporting events. She is a born leader as well. Since her high school days as Class President and a Day Care Director, she brings her leadership abilities to the classroom as well.
On her staff page on Dozier’s website she states “God blessed me with the patience it requires to work with children. They are truly blessings in my life.” Anyone who spends five minutes with Ms. Milliman around any child knows no words word could be truer. She truly is a blessing to our school, Erath community and more importantly, to her students the past two decades.
On her staff page on Dozier’s website she states “God blessed me with the patience it requires to work with children. They are truly blessings in my life.” Milliman three children are, the late Chas Milliman, Jed Milliman and Joni Milliman Hebert. She has one grandchild Kelbi LaShare (who was named the Vermilion Parish and Dozier Student of the year recently) and another one on the way. She is the daughter of Benny and Dot Mergist of Erath.
Board members of the Erath 4th of July Association visited Dozier Elementary on Thursday, May 2nd with a dual purpose in mind. One was to present grant money to the school and the other was to announce who had been selected to serve as the Grand Marshal for the 2013 Erath 4th of July Celebration to the assembled student body, faculty, and staff of the school.
With several board members with him, Erath 4th of July President Robert B. Vincent present Dozier Principal Karla Toups and Assistant Principal Natalie Hebert with a $2,500 check for a technology grant the school applied for earlier this year.
In 2009, the school began a quest to improve their school’s technology program by upgrading digital tools, Promethean Boards, and computers. With the help several grants and donations, coupled with hard work, the school has been successful in bringing new technological resources to their students. The Erath 4th of July Association has played a vital role in that quest since that time.
Each year, the school submits a new grant proposal stating their needs and what technology they would like to purchase. With the school’s technology plans written in 2009 and again in 2012, the school as a whole stated their vision and what they felt was needed for continued growth.
Using the technology plan, Dozier’s grant writer and leaders have defined their technological needs, how they plan to use the desired technology, and how this technology, along with professional development, can be used to enhance the education received by Dozier’s students. This year’s goal for grants submitted at all levels (national, state and local) all sought one thing, the purchase and implementation of iPads and tablets.
Upon review of the 2012-13 grant proposal submitted by Dozier Elementary, the Erath 4th of July Association’s Board of Directors met, reviewed the application, and voted to grant $2,500 to Dozier Elementary’s technology program in order to bring more tablets into the classrooms. Through this grant, the school will be able to purchase approximately 4 or 5 new iPads for classrooms.
The second announcement that day was to surprise Stacy Bodin, and the entire student body, by announcing that Stacy was chosen to serve as 2013 Erath 4th of July Celebration’s Grand Marshal.
Robert B. Vincent, president of the organization, shared that “Bodin, who works to with school as a part time tech support person, as well as a volunteer, was clearly stunned and humbled with the announcement.” Vincent also shared that they “chose Dozier as the venue for the announcement because the school has been a part of Bodin’s heart for more than three decades now.” Bodin taught 25 of her 26 year career at Dozier Elementary, teaching 2nd grade there until her retirement in 2007. Her service to Dozier continues today, where she serves as the part time tech specialist and the school’s webmaster. Her face is one that is still seen often in the halls of the school with her camera in tow, or helping with technology in the school. Bodin jokingly laughed and stated “the students have two titles for her still today… she is known as Ms. Stacy the camera lady and computer lady!”
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