Longtime Reserve grocer mourned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – Don Cancienne, the proprietor of Don’s Country Store in Reserve, passed away at his home Sunday.

Don, who was 82, suffered a stroke in March, and his health had been declining ever since.

“He couldn’t eat or drink, and basically his body shut down,” said his son Darren Cancienne.

The store will be closed all day today as family members and friends honor the man.

A wake was held last night at Millet Guidry Funeral Home, and funeral services will be held today at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Church in Reserve. Burial will be at St. Peter Cemetery.

Son Barry Cancienne noted the day of his father’s passing with a bit of irony. “Father’s Day,” he said with an expression somewhere between joy and anguish.

Barry said his father recently decided he did not want to return to the hospital again.

“He didn’t want to get poked anymore,” he said.

Store veteran employee Laura Amedee offered, “He felt like he was a burden — which is something we never saw.”

Although she will clearly miss the man who invited a one-time cashier back to help manage the affairs of the office, Amedee explained, “I knew he had been suffering. God granted his wish.”

She said the affinity she felt for Don was not uncommon.

“There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his workers or his family,” she said.

She commended the man’s patience and marveled at his business sense when it came to running the store.

“He’d give everybody a chance to make a living,” Amedee said, noting he allowed each worker the time necessary to learn the position, a rarity in this day and age.

She added, “He was a very smart man and on top of everything. We probably will never find out all the things he knew about.”

She and Barry said he knew the store so well, he could tell an employee exactly where to place a product, even from his hospital bed.

Don had been in the retail business in Reserve since 1950, when he and his brother-in-law opened the Self Service Mart, a cash-only store on East 10th Street.

The current store on Central Avenue opened in 1963, although the space has undergone a few renovations and name changes since.

In the meantime, Don married Rita Joan Jacob on Sept. 26, 1960. The date also happened to be the birthday of each.

The couple eventually had four sons and one daughter, some of whom have taken over the general operation of the store. Don was very active in his children’s school life, serving on the boards for both St. Peter and Riverside while they were students there.

Through his actions, Don gained the respect of fellow Reserve residents, many who have stopped by the store over the past couple of days to offer their condolences.

“Everybody knew him,” said Barry. “Word travels in a small town.”

After a swimming accident left him temporarily paralyzed and permanently crippled, such a rise to prominence might have seemed unlikely, especially in the earlier part of the 20th century. But Don knew the rewards of hard work.

“Talking to him on the phone,” said Amedee, “you’d never know he had any physical problems.”

Don himself, in a moment of reflection as his life waned, said, “Time and wear-and-tear have taken its toll. Since 1950, the years have consisted of long hours, few holidays, various operations and serious decisions in the home and store. I must say, though, I couldn’t have done anything close to what I accomplished without the people who stuck by me all these years. I guess I never really thought about someone supporting me for the rest of my life. I had the idea that you had to work for what you want. God gave you two ends to use in life, one to think and one to sit. It’s heads you win, tails you lose.”