Chamber banquet speakers share common theme

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If there was one theme that permeated the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce’s 85th annual banquet, it was perseverance.

Keynote speaker former Gov. Buddy Roemer spoke of the perseverance of the American economy in the face of what he described as a dysfunctional federal government.

HTV owner Martin Folse spoke of the perseverance of veterans, including his father, who fought so that their children did not have to.

Incoming chamber Chairman Don Hingle spoke of the perseverance of Houma and Terrebonne Parish.

“I know we spend a lot of time cussing and discussing what America has become, and its many shortcomings,” Roemer began. “A fact about America’s greatness is the ability of our economy to survive our own government. I have come to the conclusion that there is not a problem we face as a nation that we can’t solve, not one.”

In his 25-minute presentation, Roemer both praised Louisiana’s progress and challenged residents to take better advantage of the state’s future. He noted that Louisiana has trailed the rest of the South in population growth during his lifetime.

“We have not taken advantage of what the good lord gave us; I think we need to do some things,” Roemer said. “Louisiana has great advantages. We are at the top of the Gulf of Mexico. … We are a part of the energy revolution. We have the advantage of plentiful, fresh water. Louisiana is in the right place with the right resources, but we cannot rest.”

About 531 people attended Thursday night’s banquet at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center.

The chamber bid farewell to departing board members Mark Black, Ron Brooks, Jimmy Klingman, John Rodgers, Lee Stiel and Billy Foster.

And outgoing Chairwoman Jennifer Armand passed the leadership role to Hingle.

“I appreciate the faith you have placed in me to serve you,” Hingle said. “People in our community find a way to get things done. If New Orleans is the city that care forgot, Houma is the city that did not forget to care.”

AWARDS and HONORS

Vandebilt Catholic High senior Mary Robichaux was recognized after being named Terrebonne Teenager of the Year by the American Legion’s Houma post.

Cheri Blanchard, who has been involved with workforce development, was presented the Diplomat of the Year award for her efforts to promote the chamber and organize its events.

Ashley Gravois, of the Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, won the Chamber STAR award for, among other things, her work on the steering committee for BayouFest and her role in growing the Houma Women’s Business Alliance.

Brothers Billy and Dan Foster of Terminix were named Community Champions for their contributions and volunteer work with the chamber and with local charitable organizations.

Martin Folse handed out HTV’s first ever Veteran’s Award. Before presenting the award to Ray Marcello, Folse made a heartfelt presentation in which he gave his father, Eugene Folse, the inaugural plaque.

“For 30 years we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping the veterans,” Martin Folse said. “I thought about the inaugural one and who could I give it to, and my dad is my hero. He captivated the true spirit of what we were looking for in the award, and it was great we could hand it to Ray Marcello. He was one of my idols.”

Eugene Folse served multiple tours of duty, serving with the Navy during World War II and again serving in the Korean conflict. Eugene Folse had the unique distinction of witnessing the detonation of two atomic bombs.

The 86-year-old Folse then turned and presented his friend, 90-year-old Marcello, with the first ever HTV award, calling him a “true American hero” before a standing ovation.

“I knew nothing about any of this,” Eugene Folse said. “When I came in they gave me this lapel, that’s when I knew I was in trouble.”

Marcello, held prisoner during World War II for over a year, was recognized for his efforts to help grow the Houma Military Museum.

By: John Harper
HoumaToday Staff Writer
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 at 8:53 a.m.

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