Tracing the roots of the Beauvais, Charrier, Guerin, Guillory, Nugent, Ortego, and Prestenback Families
Dorothy Marie Beauvais was born on the 7th of July 1932 in Bayou Jack, Louisiana to Melina Nugent and Horace Beauvais. Horace owned a small store in front of the family house where Dorothy helped out on summers and time off from school. Dorothy hated school and finisehd out her last year in 11th grade (the highest school went back then). At left is a photo of Dorothy around 15 years old. It was around 1944 that Melina and Horace purchased a larger store in Maringouin, Louisiana in Iberville Parish. They moved to the town they and Dorothy would spend the rest of their lives in and opened H. Beauvais Supermarket in front of the railroad tracks and across the street from Cashio's Store. My grandmother told me how the Cashio's had a daughter her age and they would each sit in their respective store windows and make faces at each other from across the street.
The Beauvais' hired a young man from town, Riley Prestenback, to help in the store. He was around 17, older than Dorothy by 5 years. Yet, Dorothy said to herself "that's the man I'm going to marry" and 6 years later on June 25, 1950 they were wed. The wedding was held at the local church and the reception in the new, larger store that had been built and not yet stocked.
They went to Mexico for their 2 week-long honeymoon, but returned after only a week eager to start their new lives. Horace had made them joint owners in the store. For the first year of their life together they lived with Horace and Melina, but this arrangement didn't work for Riley. Being their only child, Dot never had to much for herself and Riley told her it was time to get out and learn to cook and clean for herself. They purchased a small white house right next door and lived there for 4 years.
My grandfather told me that Melina still went over there everyday to help Dorothy cook and clean! Those were happy days. Dorothy and Riley, and sometimes all four of them, went on many vacations and spent many days and nights at the Beauvais' camp. Because of the store, they were well off and could afford to go out and have nice vehicles. Life was very good for them.
In 1956, Riley and Dorothy had their first child, a son. Robert Keith Prestenback was born on May 23, 1956. By now, Riley had purchased two large pieces of land in Maringouin and had begun building their new home on it. It took a year to complete, and was ready just in time for the new baby. They moved in and a year later had their second child, a daughter. My mother, Pamela Ann Prestenback was born September 21, 1957. The little family was now complete and in their own home.
The years went by. Dorothy went to beauty school and opened her own beauty shop in the house. Riley continued to work in the store, taking on more and more duties as Horace grew older. Dorothy was very close to her mother and the two spent quite a lot of time together either at each others' home, shopping, or vacationing. Keith and Pam grew older, going through the usual childhood and teenage years. Keith went off to college and Pam got a job and moved to Baton Rouge with a friend. In March of 1977, Dorothy married off the first of her two children and her only daughter. Married to Johnnie on March 19, 1977 they had their first child, me, Shanna Denise on November 6, 1977. Dorothy was now a grandmother, and in my opinion, the best there ever was. Pam and Johnnie went on to give Dorothy 2 more grandchildren, Amber Alayne born February 7, 1981 and Johnnie Ford born September 28, 1982. In 1982, Keith married Lynne Graffia and in 1984 they had Robert Keith Prestenback (Robby). Dorothy had always loved being a mother, and in being a grandmother she shined even more.
In 1987 Dot found out that she had lung cancer. It was a scary time for all of us. She went into surgery and most of her left lung was removed. The surgery was successful and had luckily been caught early enough that all of the cancer was able to be removed. This was wonderful news, but the joy was short-lived when in April as Dot lay recovering in the hospital Horace became ill and was admitted. He was two floors above her. A few weeks later they sent him home telling us there was nothing that we could do. Dot came home too around the same time, but was too weak and sick to visit her father. On the morning of April 24, 1988, Horace got up to walk to the back of the house. He fell in the kitchen, and never got back up. His liver had failed, from years and years of whiskey.
It was around this time that it became obvious something was wrong with Melina. We soon discovered she had Alzheimers...and had had it for quite some time. A year after Horace's death, Dorothy brought Melina to live with her. Melina was no longer capable of taking care of herself. With the slow deteriation of Melina's mind the roles of mother-daughter slowly became reversed as Dorothy had to do more and more for Melina. Years later, when Melina stopped remembering who we were she even began to call Dorothy "mother". It was hard for Dorothy to have to take care of her mother like her mother had done for her so many years ago.
Dorothy had been diagnosed with Scleradoma, a form of Lupus, around the same time the cancer had been found. It had not really affected her too much except for having to shut-down her beauty shop because she could no longer use her hands. She began to get sicker and around 1995 she had trouble getting around and keeping her breath. In 1997 she was put on oxygen 24 hours a day to help her breathe. Getting around became more and more difficult, until she was confined most of the day to her recliner in the den, watching TV. Towards the end of her life, she was in bed most of the time. Aides and nurses had been employed with the arduous task of taking care of Melina, now only a shell of who she had been and bed-ridden. One by one, all of the things Dorothy had loved to do became impossible for her. She sold her beloved 1985 Lincoln Town Car ("Lizzy") because she was no longer able to drive, and after awhile she couldn't even ride anywhere. The last months of her life she was nearly confined to bed, and her mind had begun to slip. Painkillers worked and sometimes didn't, and she was in a lot of pain most of the time and also had a lot of trouble breathing.
Labor Day weekend was the last weekend of her life. Monday night she fell, my grandfather went to call for help, and when he returned she had stopped breathing. 66 years and 2 mos exactly to the day she came into this life, she left it. She was ready, she'd lived a full life, and it was her time. No longer must she suffer in pain. She's free now.
It has been hard for all of us. Dot was the dynamic force and kept this family running. It's not until you step back and think that you realize all she did for each of us. She was always there and she always took care of everything. Dorothy Prestenback was a strong, courageous, often stubborn, golden-hearted, wonderful woman. She raised a beautiful family and took care of all of us more than we even knew. Life without her will never be the same.