A Tale of Nonco by Rebecka Bihm

  • By Nonco Foundation Archives
  • 04 Nov, 2013

Submitted by Rebecka Bihm and confirmed by Melanie Olivier Richard

As a young girl I spent countless hours riding my bike through the streets of Arnaudville.  My best friend Melanie and I would wake up early and ride around town until we were exhausted and the sun was setting.  We had many wonderful adventures that remain in my memory until this day, but there is one which stands out above all the rest.

It happened one morning while riding down Last Street.  My friend and I were surprised by the unexpected sight of a man walking from house to house.  He didn't seem really out of place, but we didn't recognize him, which of course was unusual for our little town.  He was sort of disheveled, hunched over a little, wearing a tie and hat, and carrying a large bag.  He glanced over at us and smiled and nodded several times.  I'm not sure why we stayed on that street as long as we did.  Maybe to watch where he was going.  Maybe to try and place him in our minds.  Maybe just to be curious little girls in search of our next big adventure.  Whatever the reason, we watched as he climbed the stairs and onto the porch of a house.  He seemed to have some sort of papers in his hands as he approached the front door.  I remember wondering if he was selling something, and what it was, and if he would come to my house?  I stopped my bike and quietly waited to see exactly what happened when he knocked, but to my amazement, he never did.  The man that I had been watching so carefully seemed to vanish into thin air.  The man literally floated right into the old house and disappeared.

My friend and I exchanged a frightened glance, but I didn't say anything.  Actually, I doubt she would have heard me anyways with all of the frantic pedaling and gravel flying.  I don't think I have ever ridden a bike so fast since that day. We didn't stop until we reached my friend's house, and when we told our wild story to our parents something even more startling happened.  They weren't shocked...or scared....or even surprised.  After we described him they were sure they knew the man who we were speaking of.  They told us he had been known in Arnaudville for years, and that he was nothing to be afraid of, in fact he had been a very good and kind man...when he was alive.

He was called "Nonco."
By Nonco Foundation Archives 05 Nov, 2017
Via Facebook, Raymond Clause, sent the following about "Nonco."  Thank you, Raymond!

"I lived close to his house.  He spent his life for Jesus Christ and Catholic Church in Arnaudville.  I can't began to tell you all the good things he did. It's an honor for me to have known him. 

He taught me religion and most of the kids in my age group.

I know he has a place in heaven.  May God bless him!"

By Nonco Foundation Archives 19 Oct, 2017
My mother had her 12th child on July 26, 1938.  It so happened Nonco stopped by our house that day to deliver the Sacred Heart Leaflets for the month of August.   My sister Emelie, who was 13 at the time, answered the door and told Nonco that Mama couldn't come to the door as she had had the baby that day and was in bed.  It was a little girl.  Nonco said, "Aw that's so nice.  Tell your Mother she should name the baby Margaret Mary after the Sacred Heart Apostle."  And, that is how our beautiful sister Margaret Mary got her name.   

Only God can create such beautiful stories.   
By Nonco Foundation Archives 04 Aug, 2017

Our thoughts and prayers continue in the truly deserved Sainthood for Nonco.

I remember him at church in the morning during the week and on Sunday. I always remember him in a suit. He would pass out Sacred Heart leaflets before mass and after. He also delivered leaflets to our house......that was a long walk from his house to mine.

Hot are cold weather sported the black suit. I remember the plays my twin brother and I participated in at the Little Flower Auditorium on that scary stage. That was just me, the shy person I was. LOL



By Nonco Foundation Archives 21 Dec, 2016
Congratulations to everyone who put together “The Nonco Story.” It is very professional.

The artwork by Vincent Darby is absolutely beautiful. The way he depicted Nonco’s little house is just the way I remember it as a child. It really brought back memories.

I remember standing on that front porch with my brothers and mother as we visited Nonco one day after hearing he had a puppy he wanted to adopt out to a good home. We were thrilled when he agreed to let us have the puppy. It became our beloved family dog for many, many years! Who could possibly go wrong with a family dog given by Nonco! That was the memory that flashed in my mind when I saw Mr. Darby’s artwork in the video.

Raphael “Ray” LaPorte
By Nonco Foundation Archives 19 Nov, 2016
I can still remember him walking, my great grandmother, Anaise Marks used to live across the street from the railroad tracks and we would always see him walking. If only we had known how strong he would be! God Bless His Soul !
By Nonco Foundation Archives 29 May, 2016

Mike Stutes, who was the janitor at St. Francis and Little Flower School, had this moment with Nonco....

"I would unlock the doors of the church at 5:30 in the morning for 6 o'clock Mass. One winter day I first opened the door on the south side of the Church, entered and walked to the door on the north side, under protection from the blistering north wind. When I opened the door, Nonco was standing there, shivering in the cold in the teeth of that North wind. I let him in and said " Nonco when you arrive before me go wait for me on the south side of the church so the north wind doesn't hit you so hard. Nonco simply said ‘That's OK.  I just offer my suffering up to Jesus, thank you.’”

By Nonco Foundation Archives 28 May, 2016

 I remember the children's plays he would put together and direct for Christmas and Easter at the Little Flower Auditorium. I remember he either delivered the scripts I had to recite directly to me or to my Mom. The scripts were written on a torn piece of paper. I guess I was doing this between the ages of 6 to 10.

I remember going to his house with my Mom and he had all kinds of animals... his goose chased me around the yard one afternoon and pecked me.

I remember him at church in the morning during the week and on Sundays. I always remember him in a suit. He would pass out the Sacred Heart leaflets before and after Mass.

I remember the little house on the bayou where Mom said he would watch my oldest brother Charles during the day while she worked at the store. The shutters had like a pine tree image cut out of them. I remember Mom saying he was a teacher in either northern or central Louisiana before he came to Arnaudville... I think?

He was such a kind, spiritual, dedicated to his faith man.




By Nonco Foundation Archives 08 May, 2016

As I ponder what prompted me to agree to work with Jerry Richard, someone I did not know, on the beatification and canonization of an old man from my childhood, I realize that special forces were at work.

The story begins…

 About four years ago now, I was visited by Jerry Richard. I knew his parents, Wilma Miller and Lawrence Richard. I knew his brother Lawrence Richard, Jr. who had married Gloria Schexnayder.  Wilma and Lawrence Sr. were friends of my parents, Nola Artigue and Clarence “Choat” Arnaud. They were about the same ages and Lawrence and my father were in the Little Flower Council 3621 of the Knights of Columbus. They were also both farmers and as farmers in the area often did, they would lend a helping hand when needed.

When Jerry and I met at my kitchen table, he asked if I remembered Nonco and told me that he wanted to work on his canonization. Would I be willing to help? he asked. Well, in my family, we have a hard time saying “No.” I immediately heard myself agreeing without thinking what might be involved. As Jerry and my husband recounted K.C. stories, I was already questioning my sanity.

It had been a difficult eight years.  The 10 years or so before then, I had devoted to caring for my mother and volunteering at my church parish.  One day, my life fell completely apart.  I found pornography on a church computer.  My pastor had me train in the program called "Create a Safe Environment for Children."  I knew that the matter had to be reported.  And, it had to be reported to the F.B.I.  The next morning when I attended Mass, my world had changed.  My church parish -- my friends -- had turned against ME!  What did I do wrong? 

Now, Jerry was asking ME to help canonize Nonco.  I was not even sure I knew what I believed anymore.  But, as soon as I was able, I started researching the process of beatification and canonization and realized that in my lifetime, I would not see it happen. It does take time. I was getting pretty close to my seventies; but, instead of throwing in the towel, I could not let it go. My next reaction was:  I had better get a move on!

I accumulated forms and studied how others had become saints. In particular, never curious about him before, I read about St. John Francis Regis, the patron saint of our little town of Arnaudville. Among many other things, St. John Francis Regis had helped destitute women by having them make lace in order to support themselves. I was being drawn into something magnificent! But, Jerry Richard went away. I did not hear again from him for two years.

One day, Jerry Richard reappeared. He wondered if I was ready to work on Nonco. Always quick tempered, I immediately (almost screamed!) responded: “Don’t ask me to do something if you are only wasting my time. Two years ago, I started this and you did not do what you said you would. Are you serious or not!”  Thank God, Jerry has a calm spirit and we quickly came to an understanding. We set a plan of action and a time frame.

Daily, I express my gratitude to God for the abilities He has given me. I believe all of my work experiences have led me to this one great thing in my life--the canonization of Auguste "Nonco" Pelafigue.  Working for Attorney J. Minos Simon and then Oilman Baker Littlefield, helping establish an artist presence in Arnaudville after Hurricane Katrina and helping a dietitian work on a nonprofit corporation gave me what I needed to help set up a 501 (c) (3) corporation and a website for the Auguste “Nonco” Pelafigue Foundation, Inc.

On June 6, 2012, Jerry Richard personally carried the documents to the Louisiana Secretary of State Office.  He even covered the charge for filing. We were official.  We did not have any money with which to operate. But, it was the 35th Anniversary of Nonco death.  He died on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During the Christmas Season of 2013, Charles Hardy suggested that although we had limited funds, we should visit the nursing home in Arnaudville and make small donations to two of the residents.  We selected two couples who had known Nonco.  We enjoyed our visit there but something was happening to me. As I walked the halls and greeted the residents, I knew I wanted to do more at the nursing home.  In January 2014, I asked the Nonco Foundation Board if I could start an Apostleship of Prayer League of the Sacred Heart Group at  J. M. Morrow Nursing Home. They agreed.  On February 6, 2014,at 9:30 a.m., we handed out leaflets to the residents and had our first Apostleship of Prayer Nonco Group meeting. We asked the residents to bring leaflets to their roommates who were not physically able to attend the meeting, and to family members who visited.With the help of my husband, my sister Mavis Fruge, Jerry Richard's sister Lucy Romero and Henry Charles Taylor, we had made it happen!  Nonco's work was continuing.

But, something else happened.  I felt drawn to return to the nursing home.  I wanted to talk to Mathilde Bourque about Nonco.  When I did, I felt her love and her strength.  It was so inspiring that I wrote about it and asked Harriet Lofton, the administrator, if I could post it on the nursing home website.  My plan was approved and I have written almost one story a month since then. 

On Thursday, my visit day at the nursing home, KATC TV 3's Mycah Hatfield interviewed some of the residents and me and the segment which broadcast told of how I was recording their stories.  I told her it was because of Nonco.  He visited many residents of Arnaudville in his lifetime.  He planted the idea in my mind.  His ministry is alive and well in Arnaudville. 

We, the directors of the Nonco Foundation, face daily challenges.  This is a full-time job for me.  I complain sometimes that I do not have any free time -- and I don't.  I give it all away.  But, progress is being made. Jerry and I have been joined by many people who are just as devoted to the cause as we are. But why?

My memories of Nonco began before I started school. This funny little man would come walking to our house which was probably four miles from where he lived. He would not come in nor stay long and his little dogs would be running around him. He seemed so peaceful and he always had time to say a kind greeting to us children. In my earliest memories of the man, I knew he was holy. Before I attended school, he delivered Sacred Heart leaflets and we learned our Morning Offering from our mother and those leaflets.

When I did go to Little Flower School, Nonco was my teacher.  He was very strict just like my parents were.  I am certain I tried his patience as much as I did Mom and Dad's.  Once, he donated a rabbit to be raffled because the nuns needed some piece of equipment.  I don't remember how I got a nickel to buy a chance but I did and I won the rabbit.  I remember Nonco struggling to get the wooden crate on the bus and under a seat so that I could bring it home.  Our bus driver, Mrs. Ruby Gil Broussard, was not at all happy.  Nonco talked her into allowing the rabbit on her bus.

I was in one of Nonco's plays that I remember.  My line was:  "Comment je detest ce haricots vert."   I don't know why my line was in French but I remember it was.

It has been over six years since I started working on Nonco's canonization.  So many times things just seems to happen.  For example, I was looking for a certain image of the Blessed Mother to add to the website.  I looked online and in books and could not find what I wanted--my idea of the Blessed Mother.  Finally, in desperation, I pulled out the prayer cards of the many funeral I have attended in my lifetime.  At last, I found the perfect image.  When I turned the card over, it was the prayer card of Cecile Pelafigue LeBlanc, Nonco's niece.  I do feel Nonco's presence.

The people who had gotten involved in the work of the Foundation have become great friends.  We seem bonded together on this great mission.  It is not often that we are called to work on something so important.    I had not visited the nursing home very much.  Walking the halls and greeting the residents moves something in me.   All of this has happened because of Nonco. I have a new ministry and a stronger faith than ever before.

Last month, I asked the board if I could start a group at St. Agnes Nursing Home in Breaux Bridge.  To my surprise, the nursing home is owned by Paul Jude Hardy, a great nephew of Nonco.  We will  hold our first Apostleship of Prayer Nonco Group meeting there on June 15, 2016.

So, although Nonco died on June 6, 1977, his mission continues.  The Apostleship of Prayer and League of the Sacred Heart continues.  The oldest organization of St. John Francis Regis has survived all of these years because of Nonco's devotion.  The priests from Arnaudville, Monsignor Robert "Bob" Angelle, Father Gary Schexnayder, Father Mike Arnaud, Father Brian Taylor, have pledged their support to help get Nonco canonized.  They believe he had a great impact on our lives. 

Life goes by so fast.  Already, we have lost the help of Genevieve Hardy Angelle, Jean Taylor, Clarence C.J. Robin--all charter members of the Nonco Foundation.  We ask you to stand with us.  If you have any memories of Nonco, please share them with us.  If you have any documents or pictures that pertain to Nonco, please at least let us make copies of them. If you have anything that Nonco used, please let us photograph it if you don't feel you can donate it to the Foundation's archives.

Thank you.

By Nonco Foundation Archives 19 Feb, 2016
Growing up in our small 100% Catholic community of Arnaudville in the 50's and 60's, the church (St. Francis Regis) was the center of our life.  Attending Catholic school (Little Flower of Jesus) and attending daily mass was a major part of our existence.  I didn't meet a non-Catholic until I was in high school!

My sisters, Mary Ann, Pearl and I delivered Sacred Heart leaflets for our mother, Mrs. Lawrence Richard, Sr., (Wilma Miller).  Mom was one of Nonco's promoters, which meant she helped to distribute his Sacred Heart leaflets.  We delivered them to our Richard cousins and Smith neighbors along Highway 31.

I have fond memories of Nonco's plays.  Each year, he presented a program with children and adults of the church parish as participants.  Nonco amazed me as he was a "one-man show" as far as arranging everything.  He prepared the script with readings, songs, logistics...  all written out in his handwriting.  I remember how we walked on stage following his "tape" path to our designated places.  Reading our "parts" was my debut to public speaking!  He instilled confidence in many children with his presentations and their participation.

I was in awe of him as he was always moving and "doing" in honor of the Sacred Heart.  In my book, he is already a saint, a role model.  He was never in a hurry; he sort of shuffled in his too large suit which he always wore and his large shoes. I always thought it odd how a small man of stature had such large feet!!

He walked everywhere he went and declined offers of a ride.  I heard stories of how he had a lot of animals.  My brother, Jerry, has often said that Nonco was the director of the first Arnaudville zoo!!

Amazing how a small stature of a man has had such an impact on a small community...the Acadian town of Arnaudville.  How blessed we were that God sent Nonco to us!! Yes, he was indeed a Holy Man!!!!

August 6, 2012, Elaine wrote:  "Nonco was a big influence in my life as a child. He was a spiritual role model to everyone in Arnaudville."

By Nonco Foundation Archives 16 Jul, 2015

Remembered Nonco when I was seven and eight years old. We lived in Arnaudville and moved away when I was in the fourth grade. I still remember his looks. He was always walking. He had an off white suit he’d wear. He had a rosary, prayer cards, and a prayer book with him. I remember him looking at me, because I was staring at him.

I hope this little bit of information will contribute to his consideration for sainthood.

Wayne Chautin

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