A Life Celebrated: A legacy in newsprint

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 27, 2002


LAPLACE – For nearly 30 years, Joseph Anthony Lucia Sr. guided the fortunes of L’Observateur, bringing a tiny local weekly published half in French to the latter quarter of the 20th Century, while ensuring its continued success through his legacy. At the same time, he covered crime and court stories for the Times-Picayune during a career which lasted 40 years.

“He was probably the fairest man I ever knew,” long-time friend and former St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff, Lloyd B. Johnson, said. “He was a real gentleman.”

Lucia, 88, a native of Lutcher and a resident of LaPlace, died Aug. 21. Services are today at 11 a.m. at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church, LaPlace and interment will be at St. Joseph Mausoleum in Paulina. Visitation starts at 8 a.m. at Millet-Guidry Funeral Home.

He was the husband of Eula Vedros Lucia and father of Patricia Austin, Ellis and Joseph “Tardy” Lucia Jr., the latter of whom succeeded him as owner of L’Observateur.

He was the son of the late Vincent and Josephine Milazzo Lucia of Lutcher, and brother of Madeline Sexton of Gramercy, and the late Concetta Lambert of Prairieville and Morris Lucia of Baton Rouge.

Lucia graduated from Lutcher High School in 1931 but already had ink in his blood, having worked as a news and sports reporter for the River Parishes Journal at $10 per week. He also played semi-pro baseball during his high school and college years with the Union Grays.

In 1936, Lucia lettered in baseball as a secondbaseman at Tulane University, where he also worked for the student newspaper, Hullabaloo. Fellow staffers included Hale and Lindy Boggs and Howard K. Smith. He graduated in 1936 from the New Orleans university with a journalism degree, then briefly worked as city editor for the McComb (Miss.) Daily Journal. He joined the Times-Picayune staff in 1937 at a salary of $30 per week.

Lucia married Eula Vedros in September 1942, a marriage which lasted nearly 60 years. He also published a historical quarterly magazine, The St. Jamesian, during 1945 and 1946.

While remaining on the daily newspaper’s staff, covering major crime and court stories in New Orleans, he and two partners, Milton J. Landry and Arthur J. Louque, purchased L’Observateur in 1949 from its founder, Wallace Lasseigne. Before long, Lucia owned it outright. In 1959, L’Observateur relocated from its original office in Reserve to a LaPlace office.

In 1964, after being honored by the New Orleans Police Department as an honorary captain and by Mayor Victor Schiro as an honorary citizen, he shifted to launch coverage of the River Parishes for the Times-Picayune, all the while continuing to edit and publish L’Observateur.

He also authored “50 Golden Years,” a biography of Msgr. Jean M. Eyraud, and “Catholic Education in St. James Parish.”

He retired in 1977 from both newspapers, turning L’Observateur over to his son, Tardy Lucia, and he was honored in 1982 by the Louisiana Press Association with the President’s Award for his lifetime contributions to journalism.

Lucia is also survived by eight grandchildren (Laura Wear, Leigh Hoover, Rebecca Reed, Rachel Austin, Kacie Mendoza, Charles, Dominick and Joseph Lucia III), and six great-grandchildren (Brock and Blaine Wear Jr., and Adam, Noah, Joshua and Ryan Hoover).

Under his leadership, Lucia championed the establishment of volunteer fire departments across St. John the Baptist Parish and the River Parishes Hospital. He also helped co-found the Andouille Festival in LaPlace.

Editor’s Note: As a regular feature, as often as we can, staff reporters will highlight the life of a local resident who recently passed away. It is meant as a gesture of respect and a nod to the adage, “Every life is noteworthy.” Let us know what you think by calling 985-652-9545, or e-mail lobnews@bellsouth.net.