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68 years together and counting

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / July 6, 1998

LAPLACE – Life for Arthur Fernandez Sr. and Gertie Fernandez hasn’talways been easy. There were the long, late hours he used to work and thetwo years he served in World War II. But through 68 years of marriage, theFernandezes have always had each other.

Arthur and Gertie, 90 and 91, respectively, have been bonded in love since they met in Norco when they were each 11 years old. “She’s just alwaysbeen around,” he said.

The couple celebrates their 68th wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

She was born in Donna, near Morgan City. He was born in McCall, nearDonaldsonville. His family was living on Diamond Plantation near Norcowhere his father, Charles Fernandez, was a labor foreman for New Orleans Refining Co., the namesake of Norco.Her family moved to Norco in 1918 where her father, Robert Schexnaildre, was a blacksmith at the refinery. They were living four houses apart.”Shell was just beginning,” Gertie said. “It was fun watching the plantgrow with us.”The couple married on July 7, 1930, at St. Charles Borromeo CatholicChurch in Destrehan. He had left Shell two years before, and she worked inShell’s payroll department until two weeks before the wedding.

The reason she quit was simple – she was going to be a wife and mother and women had no place taking jobs from men.

“Women are too meddlesome,” she said. “Women should stay in theirplace.”After a while, the couple moved to Good Hope, where they raised their four children, Arthur Jr. (now living in Tucson, Ariz.), Jane Faucheux ofLaPlace, Richard Fernandez (now living in Marietta, Ga.) and TommyFernandez of LaPlace.

The couple quietly raised their children, enjoying the fishing in the area and working hard.

When World War II came along, the couple were shocked in 1942 when he was drafted.

“We heard they weren’t taking men with families, but they took him,” Gertie said. He served two years in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army inGermany, earning a Purple Heart along the way.

After the war, he worked at the Club Forest casino in New Orleans for 10 years, “first as a boxman then as a chair man.”He added he sat on a high chair and supervised the tables.

“I was never a dealer,” Arthur said.

After Club Forrest closed in the mid-1950s, Arthur opened Club 99 on River Road in Norco, as a private club for men to enjoy a few drinks and play bourre’. The business was successful and still remains in operation.”I’d never go in there,” Gertie said, smiling. “Women have no business inthere.”He retired after 10 years there and, in 1981, moved from Good Hope to LaPlace when Good Hope was being bought out and closed down.

“I’m not sorry to see Good Hope go,” Gertie commented. “It was time for itto go.”But the couple looked forward to their new home at Place du Bourg. “Weused to come out and watch them build it,” Gertie said. “I wanted to beable to look out of the window and see the children.”The Fernandezes, the first residents at Place du Bourg, have been happy there. They still live in a prime location on the second floor.”This place here has been very nice,” Gertie pointed out.

“They couldn’t give me a room at the Waldorf-Astoria,” Arthur added. “Isaid when I came here, I’d leave feet-first.”And now, they enjoy their golden years in comfort and security, surrounded by their friends and frequently visited by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“When he’s angry, I walk off and count to 10,” she said. “When I comeback, I ask him about it and he’s usually forgotten.”Asked what their secret to a long life is, Gertie replied, “I never sit idle. Icook, I clean, I do needlework. I see a lot of people here a lot more feeblethan us.”Asked about their 70th wedding anniversary in 2000, Gertie smiled and said, “We’ll be here!”

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