Reserve couple celebrate 70 years

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2013

By David Vitrano

RESERVE – Dec. 21 marks a major milestone in the lives of a couple who have been fixtures on a three-block radius of Reserve since the days when German POW camps dotted the area.
Today, Clarence “Blackhead” Perrilloux and Celeste Perrilloux celebrate 70 years of wedded bliss, and although the couple has slowed down quite a bit as they approached this milestone, there is still an abundance of bliss.
“Me and my wife live a good life,” exclaimed Clarence on a recent afternoon.
And despite the fact that Celeste has suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for the past 10 years, the constant smiling and hand-holding display the feelings in her heart.
And while their story is far from a fairy tale, no one can deny its happy ending.
Clarence met his wife when he was just 18.
“When I looked in her eyes, I fell in love,” he said.
If she felt the same way, though, she kept that to herself, at least initially.
Clarence said when they first met, he would visit her in New Orleans and make a long trek on foot to buy her a sandwich. But the first two evenings when he did this, the reward he was waiting for — a kiss — eluded him. So on the third evening he changed his strategy and made her accompany him.
“When I got back, I got the kiss,” he said with a smile.
Well, that kiss apparently led to more, and a short while later Celeste told Clarence that she thought she was pregnant.
“When my wife told me she was pregnant, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Clarence.
Wanting to do the proper thing, Clarence said he hopped in a flatboat that day and crossed the Mississippi River to obtain a marriage license in Edgard. The couple was then married by a justice of the peace behind a bicycle shop in Reserve.
Although Clarence had just married the love of his life, he was understandably reluctant to spread the news. His best man had other plans, however, and by the next day the news had spread to several in the community, including his mother.
Despite the somewhat shaky start, the Perrillouxs were eager to begin their life together and soon moved into a house on East 30th Street a couple of blocks from where Clarence grew up. But as their family began to grow, the need for a new dwelling became apparent, and that’s when Clarence did as he has done so many times in his life — he used his resourcefulness to overcome the obstacles and built a new house for his family.
While many can lay claim to such an accomplishment, few can say they actually made the very bricks from which their home was built. But Clarence built a machine to do just that, and one by one he produced the blocks that would eventually become his family’s home for many years.
Eventually he would add to the home a shop where he utilized his self-taught welding skills to repair automobiles. Celeste, who Clarence described as the “money saver,” handled the books.
According to oldest child Clive Brown, “She waited on him hand and foot.”
It is a favor Clarence is now repaying as Celeste’s primary caregiver.
Five years ago Celeste was given just a short time to live and returned home under hospice care. After her children took her off all the medication, however, Celeste made what can only be described as a miraculous recovery, and by the end of the three months, the once-bedridden woman was now escorting her caretakers to the door.
The couple had five children — Brown, Sylvia Clayton, Steven Perrilloux, Dwight Perrilloux and the late Jeffery Perrilloux. Tomorrow, Steven Perrilloux and wife Rita Perrilloux will hold a special celebratory service at Riverlands Christian Center, where Steven is pastor. Rita Perrilloux has invited the entire community to the 1 p.m. service to celebrate the lives of this remarkable couple.
The couple itself is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and truly demonstrates why wealth cannot always be measured in terms of money.
Said Clarence, “Ain’t nobody in this parish lived like me and my wife.”