Local senior still creating art at St. Jules Apartments
Many younger people might shun the challenge of tackling the painstaking job of assembling a jigsaw puzzle, but not 92-year-old Lillian Savoie Picard, a resident of St. Jules Apartments for the past 29 years.
Mrs. Picard discovered her talent and focus for completing the puzzles in March of this year when her daughter, Ernestine “Tine” Cole, presented her with her first boxed set. It was a 1,000-piece cityscape modeled after the artist Grand Wood’s art. Eager to prove her nettle in this patience-sapping milieu, Mrs. Picard finished assembling the puzzle in two months. Her present challenge is a picturesque panorama of an ancient Bavarian castle, complete with moat and drawbridge.
Born February 19, 1919, Mrs. Picard is one of the true veterans of St. Jules Apartments, a HUD subsidized complex for the elderly and disabled. She’s lived there since 1982, when she moved into the complex with her husband, Ernest. The move to St. Jules proved to be just the right one for Mrs. Picard. Only two years after she and her beloved Ernest moved in, he passed away on November 3, 1984, leaving Mrs. Picard to live alone. Her residence at St. Jules Apartments was exactly what the complex was developed for, a safe haven for the elderly. It is the only one of its kind in St. Mary Parish, with only 32 units.
Mrs. Picard is originally from Lydia, but she moved along with her parents to Franklin when she was only ten years old.
Her past is also linked to Elton Bourgeois’ Iberia Cash Grocery. At one time, she and her husband operated the historic store on Iberia Street in Franklin for Mr. Bourgeois. At the end of her 12½-year stint, she fell and broke her arm and that was the end of her days as a merchant. She remembers her work fondly and recalls how her husband would prepare the sandwiches for the lunch trade. Mrs. Picard’s brother-in-law, “Slim” Picard operated the store before Mr. Bourgeois took it over.
Putting together jigsaw puzzles is her main occupation right now, though she is no stranger to tedious projects. Another old-timer at St. Jules, the late Corinne LeBlanc, always encouraged Mrs. Picard’s quilting.
“She let me have a frame to make my first quilt. When I tried to give it back, she said ‘you keep it,’” Mrs. Picard recalls.
She has an exquisite knack for quilting, and until recently, this was the pastime that consumed her. Mrs. Picard is known throughout the St. Jules community for her talent in quilting, a dying art. She can take the minutest remnants and produce the most beautiful quilts, all by hand.
Each year she would make quilts to donate to the St. Jules Catholic Church for their Christmas bazaar. She approached this task with the utmost diligence. Her every spare minute was spent sitting in her chair in the corner of her apartment cutting tiny squares and carefully placing each stitch until the project was complete, then humbly she would present the quilts.
The church was not the only recipient of her talent. People began sending her their scraps of material, and soon she was quilting small baby quilts for Discovery Day Care Center. She made and donated well over 50 baby quilts to Discovery so that each child had a little throw to nap with.
Her handiwork took on a different look in her earlier quilts and shams. Mrs. Picard made “yo-yo” bedspreads and pillow shams. Each little piece that she put together took on the shape of a small circle of material that was gathered at the center. The tedious task of cutting all the tiny circles and gathering them, then placing them and stitching all together took hours. Because of the amount of time it takes to complete a quilt and the position she must sit in to do this work, she has had to temporarily put her needles aside.
“I get tired and my back starts hurting, so I have to quit.”
Anyone fortunate enough to have gotten one of these quilts from Mrs. Picard truly has a work of art.
Those at St. Jules who are fortunate enough to know Mrs. Picard are glad that she is still here today, gracing all with her talents and her smile. The old saying, Idle time makes for an idle mind, could never be said of Mrs. Picard. Certainly her hobbies have contributed to her relatively good health at a not-so-young age.