by Ron Cook
As we come around the year to the Thanksgiving season, a story is brought to mind of a lady who celebrates Life by fully living hers each day. Some of us may encounter trials and hardships in our life. We struggle through them and try to keep a smile on our face. Others, like Peggy (Lebrun) Smith of Campti, Louisiana, have faced many difficulties, yet have never lost their ever-present smile. Peggy is an ordinary person who does ordinary things, yet she has done them in extraordinary ways.
I met Peggy a few years ago through Father Dan Cook. She was, and still is, the very capable Secretary of the Catholic Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Campti. Father Dan was the pastor in Campti for a few years when part of this story took place. Peggy helped run the parish for him during his tenure there. We stayed a few days enjoying her hospitality and her warmth. Peggy, also, was my contact person for the Natchitoches Tribe story we did last month. She currently acts as the Tribal Treasurer.
Peggy (Lebrun) Smith was born in Jonesboro, Louisiana on December 11, 1958. She was the first girl after six boys in a both-parent Native American family. She attended an ancestral school in Black Lake during the days of segregation, and then was bused 20 miles when the public schools became integrated in the 1960’s. She is still married to her high school sweetheart, Ronald Smith. Peggy graduated Salutatorian of her class in 1976.
During her junior and senior years of high school in Campti, Peggy started working in a summer program at the post office. This would lead to a part time job that eventually lead to a full time job as Postmaster. Peggy recalls her 21 years as, “Caring and loving the people. Becoming a confidant in the daily conversations about life, death, divorces, sickness, births, weddings and birthdays. She was a friend to the poor, the lonely and the rich.”
Peggy then began another service career in 1980 when she started volunteering at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Campti. This would soon lead to a full time position as the secretary for this church serving under twelve different pastors, and still working there today.
On September 10, 2000, the 169th feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while at the Catholic Church of the same name, Peggy had her first brain aneurysm attack. This was to be the first of four aneurysms and three surgeries! A brain aneurysm is a ballooning and a rupturing of an artery in the brain. Peggy should not have survived the first aneurysm, but went on to miraculously survive three more! All of the people in Campti, and many people in Natchitoches Parish, prayed for her recovery. Peggy remembers that it took about 10 years for her to recover, as much as she could, from the brain attacks. She continues to have a little weakness in her left hand, side and leg, yet she has persevered with her joyous smile and her joyously restored and renewed attitude towards life. The aneurysms incurred other side effects that Peggy continues to face each day giving thanks for her ability to continue to serve her community, her tribe and her spiritual beliefs.
Peggy continues to serve and flourish today. She’s an example of Hope in a hopelessly secular society. She is an example of love in the face of difficult circumstances. She is a prime example of an everyday hero doing everyday things with extraordinary energy and faith. She’s a wonderful example of the Louisiana spirit that thrives and permeates so many Everyday Heroes in this wonderful state.
Footnote: We find knowing Peggy is a humbling experience. She never lets her disability get in her way! For the last ten years, she has continued to serve her church as Secretary on a volunteer basis and is always willing to share her spirit, energy and giving nature with her community. It is a privilege to honor you, Peggy!