By Vance Perkins
I have always believed our veterans deserve our honor and respect. In commemoration of Veterans Day 2020, I sat down and visited with one of DeQuincy’s own. He may be the oldest veteran in town. In January, Mr. Allen Joseph Landry will turn 98.
He was born in 1923, when the United States was in the beginning of the decade known as the roaring ‘20s. In April of ’23, Yankee Stadium opened. In August, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became President upon the death of President Warren G. Harding. Prosperity was supposedly taking hold in large cities, but along the banks of Bayou Teche in south Louisiana, the residents hadn’t been told of this prosperity. It still took a lot of hard work to make ends meet and sometimes they didn’t meet.
Mr. Landry was born to Honore’ and Matilda Landry in Iberia Parish. He was the 5th of seven children. He had two brothers and four sisters. His parents were sharecroppers on a sugar cane farm. Life in rural America entailed a lot of work. Water hand pumped from the well. Wood had to be gathered, chopped and stacked to be used for cooking all year long and for heat during cold weather. Gardens tilled, planted and weeded. Cows, chickens and horses or mules had to be tended.
While he was just a young boy, his parents purchased a home on three acres at a tax sale in Jeanerette. It was a small town of 2,500, on Bayou Teche. His father started working in sawmills. In the late ‘30s, Allen remembers when the luxury of electricity reached their home. He was the one who wired their home with a pig tailed light bulb fixture in each room.
He dropped out of school during the 10th grade. He began attending trade school to learn how to weld. He finished trade school and moved to New Orleans to work for Higgins Shipyard. One weekend, he came home to Jeanerette.
On a Friday evening, he ran into two friends who had decided to join the Marines. They discussed it and said they should enlist together so they would get to stay together. He asked them to wait two weeks, so he could give notice to his employer. They said, no, they were joining now. On Monday, all three of them went to New Orleans and joined up. The year was 1942, when 19 year old Allen, found himself in San Diego for boot camp. Unfortunately, the Marines did not care that he and his two buddies had planned to go through their hitch together. They were all separated.
Mr. Landry was trained to be an aviation mechanic. He served in Marine Air Group 61 Transportation Squadron in the South Pacific Theatre. His military travels took him to the Philippines, China, Okinawa, the Solomon Islands and many other familiar places in the Pacific. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. He was stationed on Bougainville Island when Fat Man and Little Boy ended the war. He has many stories to tell of his experiences while in the Marines, including a tale of providential protection while landing in an airplane with only one tire. The other had blown out on takeoff.
After his discharge, he returns home to Jeanerette. He marries a hometown girl, Royce Hebert. He started working for the U.S. Postal Service. They have four children, Joel, Leah, Lynette and Tim. After 22 years, he quit the Postal Service. He went back to welding, working for different oil field construction companies. He welds on off shore rigs for a while also. He eventually started his own welding business. Towards the end of his working life, he went to work for his son, Joel, who has a freight company. He delivered goods to all four corners of Louisiana.
He retired in 1991 at the age of 68. He and his wife moved to DeQuincy in 2003 to be near his children. Royce, his wife of 62 years passed away unexpectedly from medical complications in 2011. His daughter, Lynette lives with him now.
When asked, what advice he would give those entering adulthood, he replies, “love”. Love God, love your parents, love your family and friends. He also emphasizes the importance of education. Though small in stature, this humble man stands tall. He is the patriarch of a family of four children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. He is very active and healthy. He does not have to take any kind of prescription drugs. He still drives himself anywhere he needs to go. He still mows his lawn. Most days you will find him outside doing something. Lately, he has been cleaning up from our two hurricanes, Laura and Delta. He is proof that hard work won’t kill you.
After visiting with him, it is easy to see why he and others of his generation have been called “The Greatest Generation”. I truly believe, they were and are. He willingly volunteered to leave the sugar cane fields in south Louisiana and travel 7,500 miles away to unknown places to battle against evil. He deserves our honor and respect.
It was my distinct pleasure to sit and visit with Mr. Landry. When I first asked him if he would sit for an interview, he said he would be glad to visit but that he really didn’t do anything special. I beg to differ. He served his country well. As I was leaving his home, he asked Lynette to get a bag. He told me to follow him. He filled the bag with fresh picked satsumas from his small orchard. I have enjoyed partaking of the fruit of his labor. I look forward to interviewing him again in two years when he reaches the century mark.
If you cross paths with a veteran of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, or anyone who has served during any other conflict or during peaceful times, make sure you thank them for their service.