A little news appetizer, if you will, about Mary Becnel

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

One of the stories I enjoy doing is what I call my “personality profiles” of local people.

These are basically L’Observateur’s version of “Biography” on the A&E channel, but they are about some of our more interesting and successful folks in the River Region.

I spent a couple of hours with one of those “special people” this past Wednesday, when I finally got a time Judge Mary Hotard Becnel was able to fit me into her schedule, not to mention a time that worked for me.

Judge Becnel was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Of course a lot of people want to know what it is like to be married to the famous Danny Becnel, but I certainly saw the judge as her own person in the River Parishes and someone who must have a good personal story to have risen to the somewhat unusual position as a female judge on the bench.

Obviously she is not one of just a few female judges in the state, but let’s face it, the position is still filled mostly by men.

I’ll bet the judge and I must have scheduled and rescheduled a half dozen times over the past year, always having to cancel for my reasons or for hers. I think we both must have wondered if the interview would ever take place.

But this past week it finally did, and I must say it was one of  the more enjoyable visits I have had locally with a “person of special interest.”

Frequently I talk a little more about a person I have interviewed right after, or at the same time, I run the feature story in the paper.

But these stories usually take a bit of time to put together and I know you won’t see the feature for probably close to two weeks. And today I just felt like saying some of the things you probably won’t see in the story.

There are two sides to these “personality profiles. One is the public part of the story you will see in print on the front page one day soon. The second part is my own personal feelings about what I get simply from sitting across a table and talking to someone about their life. For that, I have this column.

As I’ve always said, and I know someone actually said before me, “everyone has a story.” It’s just so true. I can sit down with anyone and guarantee you that I will find some interesting things about that person if I just ask enough questions and listen.

And it didn’t take long for Judge Becnel to get very interesting to me from the starting point of talking about her family. One of seven kids, she was the oldest and first to go off to college, putting herself through all of college until finally getting a law degree.

She told me her parents offered to pay for her college education, but she flatly refused since they just had enough money to raise the seven kids, since it was back in the days when dad was not about to send mom off to work, instead having her stay home to raise the children. So Mary worked all those years through college until getting a little help from a man named Danny Becnel in the few final years after they had gotten married.

After talking with the judge long enough, I came away from the interview with one overwhelming feeling after hearing her talk about this person or that who had made a big impact in her life: Judge Mary Becnel struck me as one of the most compassionate, soft-hearted individuals I had ever met.

Now don’t think that means she’s a pushover from the bench. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But as for more about why I saw so much compassion in the woman, you’ll just have to read the story. And of course since even I don’t know right now when it will come out, you should just buy our paper every day for the next few weeks until you see her smiling face on the front page. Heck, buy a few copies, I won’t mind at all.

And oh yea, about Danny. I had told the judge when we set up the interview that I would naturally want to ask some questions about the mystery man in St. John Parish, and she assured me “I know you will ask the questions, and that is OK.”

So if you want those answers about Danny as well, then you just can’t miss this special story I will be doing soon. Stay tuned!

My good buddy Sheriff Willy Martin in St. James Parish announced that his department will be hosting a 55 Alive Safe Driving Course, for those who are 50-years-old or above.

The class has a charge of $10 per person to cover the cost of materials, but is a great way to keep your driving skills sharpened as you join the Senior Citizen Club. Oh yea, maybe I need to take the course since I’m in that club myself.

The course will be taught on Wednesday, March 12 and is a four hour course to be held at the Sacred Heart Church Center in Gramercy, running from 1 to 5 p.m.

Persons who attend this class may receive a discount on your auto insurance, since the course will be taught by AARP volunteers, and is sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office in St. James.

There is a limited class size, so call early to register. To sign up, or for more information, call Dep. Joseph Samrow at 225-562-221, or by calling 869-4183.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at kchiri@bellsouth.net