Hemelt: Discover the River Region’s amazing stories in 2019 Profile, available now

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Our community gumbo continues to amaze. I was born and raised in and around Lake Pontchartrain but only lucky enough to join the River Region when accepting a job with L’Observateur five years ago.

To learn about our community and raise my children — 8-year-old Mallory and 10-year-old Dominick — in St. John the Baptist Parish in the years since has been a blessing.

Everyday we learn more about the backstories of neighbors and their paths to triumph, which give us so much to celebrate. That’s why one of our favorite projects at L’Observateur is our annual Profile edition, which is available now.

The 2019 edition, “This Is Us – Celebrating the River Region’s People & Traditions” highlights five profiles you don’t want to miss.

We have copies at our LaPlace office and issues ready to share — available at community partners across the River Region. If you’re looking for a copy, give us a call at 985-652-9545.

Here is a taste of what’s inside:

• Jayesh “Jay” Patel stepped foot into a hotel for the first time at 19 years old.

Jayesh “Jay” Patel

A recent immigrant to the United States from India, he was a busboy at the Mark Hopkins San Francisco hotel.

Today, he is board chairman of prominent family business QHotels, which operates Best Western Inn, Towneplace Suites by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Suites and Hampton Inn in LaPlace.

• Impressive LSU football signee John Emery Jr. stands 5’11, 202 pounds.

John Emery Jr.

Emery had the spotlight as a senior, never more so than when he re-opened his recruitment in November.

He didn’t shrink from the crowds of reporters any more than he refused to shrink from the on-field pressure he faced as the offensive centerpiece of a major 5A power in Destrehan, turning in his most prolific season in his final year.

“I always want more, always so hungry,” Emery said. “I’m never satisfied with where I’m at, and I still have a lot of goals I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s what keeps me going.”

• Merlyna Valentine found her inspirational speaking voice in the depths of medical adversity as she readjusted to life as a quadruple amputee.

Merlyna Valentine

She’s shared her story locally and across the nation for the past 10 years, reaching children and adults from all walks of life. Her favorite keynote presentations, however, are those she delivers to educators.

Valentine is a Lucy native, LaPlace resident and a retired educator of 30 years.

• It wasn’t a surprise when Jhontre Green delivered his first sermon at age 13 and became the youngest licensed youth minister in the River Parishes at age 14.

Jhontre Green

Jhontre, now 19, looked up to great grandfather Arthur Brown, a well-known Sunday school teacher and deacon in St. John the Baptist Parish. Arthur passed his love for God down to Jhontre, with reminders to always stick to sound doctrine and be mindful of personal connections, because not every friend would have his best interest at heart.

• Justin Jefferson didn’t see much playing time for the Destrehan Wildcats until his junior season, when the then-155-lb. player converted from quarterback to wide receiver.

Justin Jefferson

The rest is local high school and, now, LSU football history.

As the third sibling in his family to attend LSU, the silky smooth wide receiver is coming off a sophomore campaign that included  54 catches, 875 yards and six touchdowns. That yardage number more than doubled that of the Tigers’ next best total.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.