Community suffers talented loss

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 7, 2002


LAPLACE – Ivy Grows of LaPlace had been out earlier that morning and passed an accident scene on Airline Drive, where she saw the fire trucks, wreckers and an ambulance. She never suspected the accident involved her beloved daughter, Neyer.

Neyer Grows, 19, died April 27, apparently drowned after her 1998 Jeep Cherokee veered off Airline Drive near Prospect Road, Norco, and into the water-swollen canal along the north side of the highway.

Services are today at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edgard, with visitation starting at 8 a.m. and Mass at 10 a.m. On display at the wake will be several examples of the art work which made her reputation.

The daughter of Ivy and Walter Grows Jr., Neyer had been driving towards Kenner into work at Burlington Coat Factory, going in early to help out at the store when, for some unknown reason, the Jeep struck the median, traveled across the oncoming lanes and plunged into the water.

State Police investigators received the call at 9:25 a.m., reporting that a vehicle had just gone off the road into the canal. Trooper Danny Naquin requested the assistance of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office’s diving unit to search for the Jeep and the divers quickly found the sport utility vehicle. She was still inside, not wearing a seatbelt. The accident’s cause remains under investigation.

Ivy Grows was at home when two state troopers arrived at her quiet house in Belle Pointe Subdivision, the home filled with Neyer’s paintings, sketches and other art work. She could not imagine why the troopers had come at first, then when they sat her down and told her Neyer was involved in an accident, and “she passed,” Ivy related, “I just started hollering.”

Neyer Grows, the pretty, popular and gifted student at East St. John High School, who was named president of the 2001 senior class and who was a freshman art and business management student at Dillard University, was gone.

“I just didn’t believe it,” Ivy said. “It still doesn’t feel real.”

As she spoke, Ivy examined the contents of her eldest daughter’s art portfolio, overflowing with gorgeous sketches, oil painting, pastels and other art work. Above her head was another painting. In the stairwell is another framed work, done when Neyer was only a second-grader, yet exhibiting far more talent than most average citizens.

Neyer began participating in the Visually Talented Art program, coming under the wing of mentor and friend, Janine Ward. She remembered Neyer as “an incredible artist,” with the drive, ability and creativity sufficient to succeed in anything she attempted.

“Everything she did, she put all her energy and enthusiasm,” Ward recalled.

However, she never took her talent for granted and was annoyed if she saw someone else who was gifted, yet wasted that talent.

From her second-grade art classes, Neyer did portraits of family members, including grandparents and her 12-year-old twin sisters, Keyana and Neyana. Neyer completed her first mural as a student at Leon Godchaux Junior High School and added a huge outdoor mural at East St. John High’s memorial garden. At the talented-art show, her paintings were popular.

“She loved clothes, loved to fix her hair just right,” Ivy said. “She wasn’t a jealous child, always ready to help somebody.”

The close, religious family, especially Neyer, always attributed her talent as a gift from God and used it with that in mind. The memorial garden mural is a group of angels bursting through the clouds. Also a skilled writer, she contributed school news columns and “loved to express herself in her writing,” Neyer’s mother said. “Her life had such an impact, especially on children.”

For her devastated father, Walter, the effect of Neyer’s death was especially hard. “We could sit her all day and tell you things,” he said as he recounted how he used to love to spoil her and give her gifts.

Ivy said, “All her teachers used to tell me about Neyer and would tell me she’s going to make you proud one day.”

Indeed, when she brought home “The Pitcher Boy” from second grade, her mother doubted her word that she had painted it herself. “I looked at it and said to myself, look what my baby’s hands did.”

Never a problem to her parents, Neyer’s own words recall her honesty and morality: “I’m straight as the Way, and if they don’t like it, too bad.”