St. Tammany Library Foundation launches Walker Percy event

Admirers and family gathered Thursday to launch a project to build a serenity walk and a reading room dedicated to the great Louisiana author Walker Percy at the new St. Tammany Parish Public Library in Madisonville.

The St. Tammany Library Foundation hosted the festive event at Keith Young’s Steak House in Madisonville.

More than 70 people gathered for dinner and to hear Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne speak about Louisiana’s rich heritage of blended cultures, highlighting his speech by emphasizing the importance of libraries today.

Since 50 percent of Louisiana households lack computers and many others lack books and periodicals, libraries play a vital role in advancing our communities, Dardenne said.

The subject of an enormous number of critical biographies and seminars, Percy will be remembered with an outdoor area, called the Walter Percy Serenity Circle, nestled among the trees near the Madisonville library.

A room in the library will house his work and be a quiet, meditative place for reading, thinking and writing — the Walker Percy Reading Room. Additionally, the foundation hopes to be able to commission a bronze statue of the writer.

Attending the dinner were Secretary of State Tom Schedler and his wife, Stephanie; state Rep. John Schroder; former Attorney General Charles C. Foti; Covington Mayor Mike Cooper; Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz; Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere; Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer; director of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and former state Rep. Lane Carson and his wife, Laura; and Susan Strain, representing her husband, Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain. Eric Skrmetta, member of the Public Service Commission, was represented by Samatha Goodwin, a member of his staff.

Attending was also the director of the St. Tammany Parish libraries Donald Westmoreland, Bill Allin and Becky Taylor from the library’s board of control and two of the architects who designed the library and the Walker Parker Circle — Billy Sizeler and John Owens.

Recognized also were the first benefactors of the library foundation, members of the law firm KSF Lld. Lewis Kahn, Michael Swick and Charles Foti.

Members of the family of Percy also joined the festivities. Anne Moores, once the owner of the Covington Book Store Kumquat, and her husband, John, traveled from Texas.

Her son Dr. David Moores and his wife, Celeste, accompanied his parents.

Mary Pratt Lobdell, Percy’s oldest daughter and a St. Tammany Parish teacher, was accompanied by her son John Walker Lobdell.

Members of the board of directors of the library who worked to make the event a success are Marie Louise Guste Nix, Sharon Lo Drucker, Ann Crigger Shaw, Michele Avery, Carrie Lee Pierson Schwartz, President Kevin Davis and Councilman Steve Stefancik.

Argiro Morgan, president of the advisory board, attended, along with board member Pam Ewin Lott, St. Tammany’s noted author and president of the Northshore Literary Society.

The Foundation launched its drive to sell laser engraved pavers for the pathway to the library and for the Percy Circle.

Bricks start at $50. Donors can chose to honor loved ones, mentors, their church or school, business establishment, authors, artists and musicians.