For 107-year-old Myrle Rivault Hebert Ostergren, life in the mid-1930s was filled with transitions, including an encounter that would change the course of her life.
Myrle commuted daily to Port Allen for work at the state Department of Welfare after she stopped attending LSU due to her father losing his job. At that time, she was also associated with many young people.
One of those men was Roy Anthony Hebert, who lived in Plaquemine. They dated, but she then met Opelousas native Eldred Stelly, who had money and a big car.
“He fixed everyone’s teeth in my family,” Myrle said. “After a while we got engaged and he gave me a ring.
“But one day, my sister Nell said I didn’t love Eldred and I loved Roy,” she said. “I realized she was right and I had to return the ring.”
Myrle said Roy was the love of her life.
They resumed dating after she and Stelly broke up, and it led them down the aisle on June 16, 1938, when she married Roy at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Brusly.
The wedding wasn’t fancy, but she remembers the $25 check she received from the Poydras Fund, a dowry fund that Julien de Lalande Poydras started in 1824 for brides in West Baton Rouge Parish.
“I used the money to buy a couch,” she said.
Roy majored in civil engineering at LSU, but dropped out in 1934, his senior year. He became a registered surveyor and found work with the Kansas City Bridge Co. in her fabrication shop.
They rented a small house in Brusly owned by Cecil Peavy, her boss in the Welfare Department.
Myrle and Roy hadn’t lived in Brusly long when they bought a shotgun house on Meriam Street in Plaquemine. The two-bedroom house was a step up for Myrle — it had electricity and a phone.
They gave birth to their daughter Diane in January 1942. They added a second bedroom for their son Ronnie in 1946.
“Roy was a very devoted father,” Myrle said. “He never denied anything to his children.”
During World War II, her brother Harry was in the Marines and fought in Trinidad, while her sister joined the Women’s Auxiliary Corps.
She often helped her mother during their absence, but otherwise life didn’t change much for Myrle during World War II.
Roy kept his job with the Kansas City Bridge Co., where he built boats and drawbridges for military use. He was classified as “essential support” because of his employer’s support for the war effort.
It doesn’t mean life was easy during the war, Myrle said.
“During the war years, we had to be frugal … food and supplies were limited and rationed and we were only allowed one kilogram of coffee a month,” she said. “On the bright side, the United States was really united and people did everything to support the war effort.”
Years of frugality led to great prosperity for many Americans after the war, and Roy and Myrle were no exception.
In early 1946, he started Hebert Brothers Engineering & General Contractors with his brother Hiram, who was an electrical engineer.
The engineering firm stayed busy constructing sewage and sewage plans, along with sewage lines and pumping stations for cities and towns.
The following year, Solvay—where Roy’s brother, Omer, worked—requested help with a pipeline to move brine from the Choctaw salt domes from Iberville Parish to Port Allen and across the Mississippi River to the Solvay Plant in Baton Rouge for produced chlorine.
Omer — an LSU graduate and civil engineer — joined Hebert Brothers, which became the first contractor with Dow Chemical’s Louisiana Division when the Plaquemine facility exploded in 1956.
Myrle and Roy moved into a home on Elm Street in 1948. They were devout members of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and Myrle joined the Plaquemine Garden Club at its inception in 1955.
“I won ‘Best Yard’ five times over the years,” she said.
They also joined two Plaquemine Mardi Gras krewes – Le Krewe du Roi (1965) and Krewe of Okeanos (1979). In addition to the Plaquemine Carnival Ballots, they participated in Mardi Gras celebrations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Myrle said she enjoyed the social life and always enjoyed throwing parties for her friends and children when they got married.
She also enjoyed playing bridge and poker. Their poker club consisted of Church and Gloria Pendleton, Yves and Vera Ramirez, Joe and Naomi Marix, Jake and Marie Dupuy, Edwin and Dot Dupuy, and Thomas and Polly Tircuit.
One of her closest friends was Mavis Ocmand.
“We were known as the best bridge players in Iberville Parish,” Myrle said. “We played almost every day and always hung out… we were enjoying life.”
They took first prize in a nationwide Double Bridge Tour in New Orleans in 1956.
Myrle also became active in bowling when the Plaquemine Bowling Alley opened in La. 1 South in 1960.
“I bowled during the day as part of the women’s league, and Roy and I were in the doubles league at night,” she recalls.
They also enjoyed dining in Plaquemine at the City Café. She said their favorite places in Baton Rouge included The Village, Mike & Tony’s, Jack Sabin’s Steaks, Hopper’s Drive-In, the original Piccadilly on Third Street, Landry’s Seafood on Airline Highway and Giamanico’s on Government.
Roy and Myrle were also avid sports fans. They participated in the World Series many times, and Mickey Mantle was their favorite player.
Another favorite moment came in 1957 when Warner Bros. was filming “Band of Angels” in the Plaquemine/Baton Rouge area.
“One Sunday, Roy, Ronnie, Diane and I saw Clark Gable eating at The Village,” she said. Dianne and Ronnie got his autograph on a piece of paper… they thought it was the best thing ever.”
They also enjoyed trips to the East Coast to visit her sister Nell in New Jersey.
Myrle’s favorite trips were to the Hebert family camp on Grand Isle. Her favorite events included the Tarpon Rodeo, America’s oldest fishing rodeo.
She was also active with scouting for Dianne and Ronnie. A trip to the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs and Philmont Ranch included an opportunity to meet President Dwight Eisenhower.
Myrle and Roy remained active until Roy died suddenly on August 12, 1978.
“I was shocked,” she said. “Just a week ago, his doctor had told him he was healthy.”
It took a while for her to get over her husband’s death, but traveling and staying busy helped the healing process, Myrle said.
In 1989, she married Clancy Ostergren. He lived a few houses down from her. He was a Purple Heart recipient in World War II.
“The whole family warmed to Clancy quickly because he was so good to them and to me,” she said.
They enjoyed playing cards, going to the movies and traveling. Their favorite destinations included Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Las Vegas.
Her favorite entertainers were Wayne Newton and Frank Sinatra, the latter of whom gave her his autograph.
“I love Las Vegas, even though it’s so different now,” she said. “There’s no point in going if you’re not going there to have fun.
Clancy developed emphysema in 2002 and died on January 25 of that year.
Her guardian Thomas Snearl has been her bodyguard and protector for more than 50 years.
“He is a great man with patience who has made my life easier,” she said.
Myrle remains an avid sports fan. She loves NASCAR and her favorite racer is Jeff Gordon.
She is also a football fan. While she doesn’t particularly like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, she does love Tom Brady.
“I heard he just got divorced … I’m sure I know that,” she quipped.
Myrle drove until she was 100 and she still enjoys life – which she credits as the secret to her longevity. “There’s no point in being on earth if you’re not going to enjoy it,” she said. “Besides, I didn’t do anything to live so long… It just so happened that God chose me to live a long time.”