LaPlace man celebrates 105 years watching growth of River Parishes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2010

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – So much can change in 105 years. Just ask Felix Simoneaux Jr., who marked his 105th birthday Monday.

He has seen LaPlace grow from a rural area strewn with fields to the bustling suburban center it is today. He has even seen his childhood home get swallowed up by the federal project that is the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

Simoneaux settled in LaPlace in 1930 after the government bought up the land along the line dividing St. John the Baptist Parish and St. Charles Parish.

“We were still doing farming mostly. There were very few jobs you could get,” he said.

Back then, Simoneaux explained, there were very few houses along Main Street. Most of those were inhabited by other family members. The rest of the area was open field.

“We used to travel on Main Street with a mule-drawn cart,” he noted.

They were simpler times to be sure.

Simoneux only attended school until he was 13. When he was in the third grade, his father began pulling him out of school occasionally to help with the work that had to be done.

“I was good at spelling, good at reading, but they wouldn’t promote me because I missed a few days,” he said.

Frustrated, Simoneaux stopped attending regular schooling, but that did not stop him from learning.

While working one of the temporary jobs he held in his younger days, a job in Reserve, the carpenter quit, and Simoneaux was thrust into what would become his lifelong vocation.

“I taught myself,” he said, adding, “What little schooling I had, I used it.”

Simoneaux eventually taught himself so well he was promoted to foreman. While he was still learning, Simoneaux worked for $1.25 a day. That would soon change, however.

“After that, I got into the union, and we started getting paid good money,” he said.

Of course, in those days “good money” was 60 cents an hour. Still, that extra money would come in handy as Simoneaux had gotten married a few years earlier.

“That’s how I raised my family,” he said.

Simoneaux’s family, though not quite as large as the one he grew up in as one of nine children, would eventually include five children, 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

“We had a good family life,” he said. “Me and my wife lived together for almost 70 years.”

He continued to work as a carpenter until retiring at age 70. He also began growing tomatoes, turnips, carrots, mustard greens, shallots and musk melons.

“I was raising a garden and going to the French Market,” he said.

Simoneaux also enjoyed the odd game of cards at a local watering hole.

“I used to like to play cards,” he said, “but I was never a gambler.

Life has slowed somewhat for the 105-year-old. Although he is still able to live alone and take care of himself, Simoneaux is now content to spend his days watching television and looking out the window at the ever-changing world.

Not everything has changed, however. The principles that have kept Simoneaux healthy throughout his more-than-a-century on this planet remain true as ever.

Simoneaux credits his good health—his only real health problem is a bit of sciatica in his right leg—to a life lived cleanly avoiding tobacco, alcohol and spicy foods.

Said Simoneaux, “A young person can ruin their life by not living a clean life.”