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A short man with a big laugh … and even bigger heart

In praise of Duane Honea

 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Duane and Altha Honea. My mother reminds me that they drove me home from the hospital after my birth in 1956. Their daughter, Diane, held me on her lap. The fact that my parents entrusted their first child to the Honea family speaks volumes of the unique relationship our families shared.

Duane, who died this past weekend, was a lifetime friend of my father. They began working together as teenagers at the DeRidder Ice Plant.*

Their close friendship lasted until my dad’s death eleven years ago.

Our families spent lots of time together. Duane and Daddy bowled together on Monday nights on a team called the “Rebels.”

Many nights, featured the four adults played Moon or Rook while the kids (twins Larry and Gary plus Diane with my sisters Claudia and Colleen and me) played outside. We traveled many miles going to basketball games all over the state of Louisiana.

My favorite thing about Duane Honea was his laugh. I call it “The Honea Laugh.”

He and Altha shared the unforgettable laugh that is an icon of this family.

Everyone in eastern Beauregard Parish knew where the Honea home was.

There were three reasons why their modest home on the corner of Hwy 1147 and Hopewell Road was well known:

  •  Their Christmas decorations.
  • Halloween candy.
  • And Duane’s garden.

Four generations of my family have made Christmas and Halloween visits for candy, hot chocolate, and thousands of lights.

My favorite thing was Duane Honea’s garden. I drove by often to just to see it. It was the neatest and greenest garden in all of Ward 7 and 8.

I also loved the sweet relationship between Duane and Altha. They were as committed as any couple I’ve ever known. My heart breaks thinking of Mrs. Altha without Mr. Duane.

I also was with them during some of the worst times a family can have. We walked beside them as they buried two grandsons and a grandson-in-law.

Losing Gary, David, and Arnold was a blow to this family. They walked through this deep valley together.

Together.

Holding onto each other.

Hands and hearts intertwined.

Past divisions forgotten.

Because that’s what families do.

It was during these dark days that I began to understand the deep faith that both Duane and Altha had. It was a deepening faith forged in the fire of great trials.

During the years preceding these tragedies, Duane and Altha became active in our church at Dry Creek. Even from 8000 miles away, I can pinpoint the spot on the middle section where they sat each Sunday.

That spot will be a little lonelier now.

My heart is a little lonelier tonight.

It is when icons of my life and our community pass that I miss being home the most. It’s hard to really believe they’re gone.

When I come home for a Christmas visit next month, I know I’ll look at Duane’s seat at church and expect to see him.

Goodbye great fisherman.

A short man with a big laugh.

A steady man in the uncertain currents of life.

Absent from the body.

Present with the Lord.

 

We grieve not as those who have no hope.

Our hope is in Jesus.

 

 

 

* I barely remember the DeRidder ice plant. Does anyone remember its location?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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2 comments

  1. As per my husband Ed, the DeRidder Ice Plant (Crystal Ice Company) was located where the shop for O’Neal’s Feeders Supply is presently located, at the corner of Hall and 4th Street. Ed says there is a lot of historical information about it. It supplied all the ice to numerous saw mills, and it operated until sometime in the 1950s.

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