The Best Is Yet To Come
02/13/2017 01:39PM ● Published by Robert Frey
Gallery: Lasting Celebrations Of Love [2 Images] Click any image to expand.
Lasting Celebrations Of Love
By Anne B. Minvielle
Stories of romance often begin with “once upon a time.” I daresay you have heard many a love story, and if you are very lucky, have lived one. All such stories deal with relationships, and literature throughout the ages has described how such relationships, if they last a long time, are to be treasured. Such tales often involve a happily married couple who have shared life’s best moments and stayed the course through all of its challenges.
There is a great myth about these relationships, and that is the belief that good relationships should or must be easy. The myth is easily disputed when we hear stories of couples who have experienced the truth that relationships require attention and work. It was the tiny philosopher, The Little Prince, who in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic, voiced one of life’s greatest truths: “It is the time you spend on your rose that makes your rose so important.”
Many married couples have learned just what that means. They spend time on their children, their extended families, their friends. They agree to celebrate moments of achievement and joy. In many “once upon a time” stories, couples are married for many years and do not forget their wedding anniversary. They remember; they take the time. They reflect on the importance of respect, a sense of humor, communication, commitment and all the time it has taken to make a partner important.
New Iberia is the setting for many “once upon a time” stories of couples who have been married 40, 50 and even over 60 years. All of the plots involve “seeing rightly,” another bit of advice from “Le Petit Prince:” “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Several of these couples are willing to share what they have found in one another’s hearts.
Flo and Leo Fremin, married 63 years, have seen rightly, with hearts filled with love for their 2 children, 7 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren. Their story involves many days spent apart. Leo met Flo when she was still a student at New Iberia High School, and he left her to join the service during the Korean War.
Recalling the entertainment of her high school years, Flo says, “My mother would take a group of girls out to a dance club on Saturday and sometimes Sunday night. My sister was a friend of Leo’s cousin; so his cousin told Leo he needed to meet her friend’s sister. So we met a about mid 1951 at the Jungle Club, a popular dance hall on Center Street.”
The two dated for about 18 months. They were engaged in 1952 and married on December 27, 1953. Seeing each other during their engagement years was not easy, they both recall. “It would cost me $5 to get a ride home from Fort Polk, and I had to pay someone to do my KP or guard duty. The only other way was to hitch hike. When we did date, the only thing I could afford was a movie or dancing,” Leo details. As was the norm for these two, they placed their togetherness as a priority and survived his time in the Army. As for Flo, she did her part by writing letters to keep feelings of homesickness at bay. Just imagine, words written on paper. It took more time than email or Face Time, but it’s the time you spend...
Flo and Leo were successful in staying together during their separations. The two worked jointly to assure their relationship could develop. With Leo’s $125 a month, they had to choose how to best conserve those funds to finance their up and coming engagement in 1952 and their wedding in December of 1953. That was a true lesson in sacrifice. “And all that time, we kept writing,” recalls Flo.
Following the wedding festivities, the couple both worked several jobs. When Flo found out she was having a baby, they knew that the marriage would change. After daughter Leslie was born, Leo took off two weeks from his job and did all the things that wives were doing at the time. “I believe that all men should have that experience; cleaning the house, washing cloth diapers and hanging them out to dry,” Leo recalls. “That really gave value to Flo’s work in the home, and I grew in appreciation for her.”
The couple had a second child, a son, Courtney. Eventually, Flo found another job, as a secretary for two companies. Although they thought the day would never come, Flo and Leo retired, 20 years ago.
The Fremins remain committed to arranging for their family to be together. Once a week, Flo cooks a big meal and all generations are invited. The two now have 7 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. She thinks that the work is worth it. It takes time, but those in the family are important and they feel it.
The two are also committed to their faith. Bright and early Monday morning, they are at the office of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, counting the money from collections at weekend Masses. Both have lovely voices, and they have been choir members for many years, finally retiring this year. Leo served as Parish Trustee, and Leo and Flo were honored when they both received the Bishop’s Service Medal at the same time.
Leo recommends that couples anticipating marriage have an honest discussion, considering how each feels about children, as well as how they would deal with a disappointment, like losing a job, something the Fremins learned to cope with by focusing on what they knew were good things to come, things like traveling. The two have seen most of the USA as well as many European countries.
Reminding each other of good times, instead of dwelling on the challenges is made easy with Flo’s scrapbooks. Beautiful and professional, everyone in their family seems to want his or her own memory book. Her work became a tradition that began with the couple’s stories, chronicling their years together both before and after the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren came.
Iberia Parish Tax Assessor, Rickey Huval, and his wife Leona just recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. Like the Fremins, the Huvals chose life partners who are honest, reliable and responsible. Both couples have large extended families, and that requires a sense of adventure, cooperation and flexibility.
Rickey and Leona’s love story has many of the plot elements of the Fremins’ story, and it lends credence to the theory that if you are looking for companionship, go where there is action. In June of 1966, Rickey moved in with his mother and stepfather in Port Arthur, Texas, with the intention of going to college nearby at Lamar University. He was born and raised in Cecilia, so trips home on weekends to see his grandparents were common.
For both Rickey and Leona, a weekend of dancing and socializing meant a stop at a popular nightclub. A common friend introduced the two, and then many dances followed. Leona actually asked Rickey to dance the first time in an effort to declare her availability for a friendship. “The first song was a slow dance,” recalls Rickey, “and when I put my arms around her, my heart was turning flips.” When the next song started, a jitterbug song, Leona says he continued to hold on to her. Rickey says he asked her for a date for the following month when he would return to the area.
As is often the case when there is “space in their togetherness,” the two began to exchange letters. It didn’t take long before Rickey decided he was not going to Lamar University after all. He announced that he was moving “back home.” Then followed their first real date. Leona remembers quite well. ”We met August 25, 1966, and we had our first date September 25, a month later.” The memory of both is astounding; Rickey even remembers the first song that the band played that night.
What followed was a series of meetings, without the dancing. Rickey, convinced that he had met the right one, began seeing Leona every day. During the first week of November, he asked her to marry him, and the rest is quite a history. They married on January 8, 1967.
The couple had seven children, five of whom were boys. Leona says she loved being a mother and never felt she was sacrificing anything. Rickey adds, “That period of time is often hard for a couple when they don’t really know each other. That’s when you really get to know your wife or husband. Sure there were struggles, but couples need to learn that you don’t give up.”
Leona says, “Marriage is not perfect. You will often disagree, but we have learned to agree to disagree. You can always come up with a solution.” For the two, that meant Rickey got up with the kids and cooked breakfast because Mama liked to sleep late.
Both of the Huvals agree that financial struggles can be challenging. At one time Rickey worked four jobs, and still they managed to have fun with their large family. They recall days spent watching the kids swim at City Park when Leona would pack a picnic, Rickey would meet them on his lunch break, and the Huvals had a day’s vacation.
The couple agrees on one thing that experts feel is critical to a good marriage. They believe that they have to put God first in their lives. “I don’t know how we would have made it without our Catholic faith,” says Rickey. He has lead the Utopia retreat team and ministered to over 35,000 teenagers through the years.
Now, after 50 years, Rickey reflects on the way the two built their family and personal relationships, and at the same time, prayed together. As he looks at Leona, he says, “My heart still melts for her today. Love is something that grows.”
Van and Kerrie Laviolette, a New Iberia couple, married 40 years on January 8, share more with the Huvals than an anniversary date. The two met while having fun with others, and love happened virtually at first sight. Van was a St. Martinville native who was in the Navy and stationed in Baltimore, when he agreed to accompany other sailors in bringing a ship to Oakland, California. He was to fly back to Baltimore in two weeks.
Kerrie was a native of New Jersey, but she accepted a job in San Francisco. Among her free time activities were visits to the local USO to cheer up the servicemen. As Van recalls, “One day I walked into the USO, and I saw her playing pool. Something happened and I knew I had to see her again.” When his days of leave were about up, he asked Kerrie for a date and ended up giving her his graduation ring, his way of making their relationship official.
When Van returned to Baltimore, he called Kerrie and asked if she would fly to meet him in Baltimore if he would buy her an airline ticket. Van says, “Several sailors bet me $20 that she wouldn’t show up. When she got off the airplane, there were shocked sailors waiting, and I pocketed a number of $20 bills.”
Kerrie says that she too knew Van was the one for her. “We met in mid October and were married January 7. It was just something we knew about our future together,” she explains.
The years have not always been kind to the couple. “We had two years of tragedies. I almost lost Van with one blood clot and surgery. He has a clotting disease and he has lost both of his legs. It was my faith that got me through it,” Kerrie says.
Van looks at his experiences and suffering and says, “You just deal with it. We married each other for life. We knew we had to face things head on,” he says. According to Kerrie, “He is still the same man. My spirituality tells me not to question, but to put things in God’s hands. With a marriage, you just go on.”
Now, Van has retired from the Navy, and Kerrie works and prays. Anyone who knows her is always touched by her unique spirituality and joy. She always has a smile to share and a twinkle in her eye. She appreciates all the good times she and Van have had traveling and takes each day as it comes.
“Marriage is a two way street,” Van says, and Kerrie adds, “It’s a matter of give and take.” All couples could profit from trying this attitude toward love and marriage. Both have proved that they believe in the permanence of a marriage commitment and have spent the time that makes it important.
February is the month for cupids and arrows, the perfect month to look to successful marriages that have stood the test of time and challenges. These couples pledged vows year ago, but the celebration continues.