My first experience with this friendly town was when visiting Drye’s Pharmacy to have medication filled for Dad after chemotherapy.
Not only was I greeted with a smile and ‘hello’ when I entered, I was asked with such sincerity and concern how he was doing, etc. I was even told that if he needed anything delivered to him, to please let them know.
During the months of bi-weekly visits, they recognized me and always took the time out to ask about my father and his condition.
My second interaction experiencing Zachary’s warmth was taking dad to his barber of 10+ years. We went one Tuesday after a chemo session. While patiently waiting his turn and while chatting with all the men in the barber shop, he stepped into the chair. When asked: ‘How much do you want off?’ - Dad was blessed with a head full of hair - he told "Joe" to shave it, as it was falling out anyway. The entire barber shop went quiet as we all sat and watched all his hair disappear.
When we were ready to leave, dad pulled out his wallet, and was told ‘no charge.’
My third interaction with Zachary folk/businesses was when we visited Charlet Funeral Home to pre-arrange his funeral two weeks before his passing. We were treated with such sincerity, compassion, concern and genuine kindness, that it all felt like a dream. We almost felt like the Charlet family were distant cousins, as they took the time to listen and fulfill all our wishes for services.
Upon his passing, we contacted Ric Smith at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, and there again, we received outstanding compassion and kindness. From the visitation at Charlet, the beautiful service at St. John and the most touching service given by Father Jeff Bayhi, to the food provided by the Bereavement Committee, the kindness somehow helped us get through those days.
And to those who chose to STOP in the oncoming lanes of traffic as the Patriot Riders rode with their flags, leading the funeral procession to Port Hudson Cemetery to pay our respects, was an awesome and heartfelt sight to witness.
And again, 11 weeks later, when Dad’s bride of almost 58 years passed away, we repeated the same ritual we endured during my father’s passing. While we were still grieving our father’s death and trying to handle the arrangements for our mother’s passing, we were always treated with respect, kindness and compassion.
I felt like I was back in Mayberry, back in a time when things were slow and uncomplicated, where everyone helped in any way they could because they wanted to. It wasn’t a duty or an obligation.
That’s how I felt with Drye’s Pharmacy, Charlet Funeral Home, Joe the Barber, the folks at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and all the people I visit when I’m in Zachary.
You have cornered a small slice of heaven in the Zachary community, and I encourage you all to slow down and take the time to support the “small guys” and thank them for who they are and what they do.
Also, if you know of a Patriot Rider from your town, please take the time to thank them for their time in the military serving our country and for the time they take laying one of their own to rest.
It’s heartwarming to drive through the Zachary community and reminisce about the stories my parents would tell and know it all for a fact because I’ve lived it. I can’t help but smile from the memories.
Thanks to all who cared, and may God bless.
Wanda O’Neal and siblings Paula Davis, Larry, Bryan and Maureen Gaultier of Denham Springs
(on behalf of their parents, Joseph and Verna Gaultier)