Joel McTopy – a tribute by friends and family

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Long-time St. John parish councilman, community leader remembered


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — A leader, a friend, a husband and a father will be missed in the days and years to come.

Joel McTopy served on the St. John the Baptist Parish Council since 1984, but being on the council was not the only thing that made him stand out. His dedication and compassion in more areas than just on the council made him a great man.

“He was an English major,” said Joel’s wife Sherry. “His passion was teaching. He would always say there were so many minds to influence.”

In 1997 Joel answered a series of questions to help others know him better. One of the questions was what is a dream you have? He answered, “A dream I have is to be remembered and respected by, first of all my family, and friends as a person who continuously showed up to do the hard jobs.”

Sherry said Joel did not like to do yard work; he would rather be in the kitchen she said. People would be surprised to learn that he was a gourmet cook.

“He was such a wonderful cook,” Sherry said. “The breads he would make were incredible. He did everything with a passion, regardless how big or small the task.”

Sherry said one of the funniest things she remembers is when their youngest daughter was born.

“There is about 10 years difference in our ages,” she said. “When she was born, Joel was carrying her into the grocery store and someone came up to him and said what a cute grandbaby and he got upset and said this is not my grandbaby, this is my baby, baby.”

Other surprising things about Joel are, his favorite sport is football, every morning he read The Wall Street Journal, the local newspapers and a few prayers. His pet peeve is lack of order and he is most proud of the fact he was successful in raising six children, “who have turned out to be good, upstanding, hard-working citizens,” he once said.

One of Joel’s life long friends, Councilman Allen St. Pierre said he has known Joel since 1957.

“I met him when he played football with my brother-in-law,” Allen said. “They were the 1958 State Champions, he played center and made all-state. Even when he went to college we maintained our friendship. I was working at Shell when he came on board and our friendship continued.”

Allen and Joel were elected to the Parish Council in 1984.

“He was an outstanding, smart person,” Allen said. “You could tell him something now and five years later he would still remember the exact conversation. He was truly a good friend. He will be missed. I just can’t say enough about him.”

Councilman Sean Roussel knew Joel through his family and remembered how Joel helped him when he came on board to the Parish Council.

“Genuinely concerned about the Parish as a whole,” Sean said. “He loved serving as a councilman. Everything he did was with consideration of the residents. He was a caring and giving person. Very knowledgeable.”

Council Secretary Audrey Millet said she would not have made it as far as she did, if it weren’t for Joel.

“Joel guided me through all the difficult times I encountered with my position,” Audrey said. “The teacher in him shone through. He put me under his wing and supported me all these years.”

Audrey said she remembers when Joel first presented her with a computer and she told him there was no way in the world she could learn to operate it.

“Not too long ago, Joel and I talked about that,” Audrey said. “We laughed at the way I would curse at the computer when something went wrong. I bet there were many times Joel would have liked to bash my head in, but he didn’t. He overlooked many mistakes I made. He patiently pointed them out and we went forward. He never raised his voice or chastised me in from of others. He realized that we all make mistakes and we just have to learn from them. I was fortunate to have had him as a mentor.”

Another good friend of Joel’s was Parish Engineer C.J. Savoie who started a business relationship with Joel at first that became a friendship in the end.

“He was a very good friend,” said C.J. “He helped me get a position with the Parish. He was very articulate, very educated and had a great sense of humor. He was a dedicated man and very conscientious about his family, the council and the community. He had a big heart for the underdog. He was a mighty fine gentleman.”

“If you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.”

-Joel McTopy