Pageant Success: Joan LeBouef takes unique path to Ms. Classic Ray of Life

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

GARYVILLE — Growing up in Garyville, Joan LeBouef never was much of a pageant girl.

“I was a tomboy,” she said. “I was always playing baseball or some kind of sport, running around.”

Well, there was that one Miss Legionnaire Pageant back in the 1960s she, her sister, Christy, and a couple of friends entered on a whim.

“I said, ‘Oh, we can get our hair and makeup done. Let’s do it,’” LeBouef said. “I think I finished about tenth but Christy, she was the first runner-up. My daddy used to tease me. He said, ‘She just floated across the stage.’ I still don’t float.”

That may or may not be true, but at 61 LeBouef had enough courage and grace to enter and win the Ms. Classic Ray of Life pageant held last week at St. Peter School.

“Can you believe it?” she said. “At my age. I’m the MawMaw Queen.”

LeBouef, who has been married 44 years to husband Terry, is the mother of three sons and the grandmother of five boys and one girl, entered the pageant at the urging of her Goddaughter, Jaycee Bennett, who was to be a contestant for the Miss Ray of Life title.

Jaycee Bennett, Joan LeBouef

All Jaycee had to do was tell LeBouef it was to benefit the St. Baldric’s Foundation, which helps fund research to cure childhood cancer.

With the help of Jaycee’s older sister, Baylee, Joan prepared an introduction and even memorized it for the stage.

She couldn’t get through it, however.

“As soon as I said the words ‘childhood cancer,’ I lost it,” LeBouef said.

“I couldn’t get through it. I didn’t ugly cry, but I came close.”

LeBouef and Jaycee were going to do the 2014 pageant together but LeBouef had to back out at the last minute.

“I had a sequined dress and all,” LeBouef said.

Queens include Joan Frederic LeBouef, Classic Ms. Ray of Life V; Grace Vicknair, Teen Miss Ray of Life V; Tori Jones Miss Ray of Life V; and Kristen Levron, Ms. Ray of Life V. (Photo courtesy of Norman Alexander)

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, LeBouef is in remission, but she had a rough time in the summer of 2014.

Her doctor found another tumor, which turned out to be benign, but LeBouef was beset with vicious migraine headaches for several weeks.

“I finally had to call her and say, ‘I just can’t do it,’” LeBouef said.

She had no such obstacles this summer, though.

The retired Garyville Post Master has become a tireless advocate for other cancer sufferers.

She is one of the leaders of Perry’s Posse, the volunteer group, which offers financial, emotional and spiritual support to cancer fighters throughout the River Region.

She and the group have organized several fundraisers to support the cause, including a huge annual garage sale and the ongoing raffle for LSU season tickets.

LeBouef also is actively trying to revive the Garyville Recreation Organization and renovate the gymnasium that once was a hub of activity. She helps organize the annual Fourth of July celebration at St. Hubert’s.

She also recently attended her first Post Master’s convention as a retiree and wrote a moving article about her life’s tumultuous journey for the newsletter.

“Life’s a journey,” she is fond of saying.

Now LeBouef is reading her contract and learning about all the rules for pageant queens.

“You can get demerits,” she said.

“And if you get too many, they can take your crown away.”

The rules explicitly state where she can and can’t wear her crown, as well as how she’s supposed to handle it.

“They tell you don’t put it down like this or that,” she said. “That night after I got it, I came home and said, ‘Now where am I going to keep this thing?’ I walked in my bedroom and found the perfect spot — the mannequin I kept my wig on from my cancer. That’s were I put it.”