Editor’s Note: Carolyn Lorio celebrates her 92nd birthday on June 29, 2020. For decades, she has served the West Baton Rouge community through service to children. She is well-known for her community involvement and as the founder of River Road Child Care. Below is a transcript of a Q&A to commemorate her 92nd birthday and all of her contributions to the betterment of West Baton Rouge Parish. Happy birthday, Ms. Carolyn!
Shortly before graduating from UCLA in history and education, I became engaged to a very handsome, nice young attorney. However, he and his entire family were agnostics. One week before the wedding I realized I couldn’t raise a family under these circumstances and decided to come to Baton Rouge to visit my sister and think it through. As fate would have it, I happened to run into an old friend who’s boyfriend worked out with a guy named Bob Lorio. The rest is history. Bob at the time owned a dairy and we moved to West Baton Rouge in 1952. Of course, we started a family right away and I spent a lot of time with our families in Baton Rouge. We had three children, Susan, Allyson, and Bick in five years. Bob’s parents, pediatrician Dr. Cecil and Bobbie Lorio, were so warm and welcoming and we were a close family. It was only when Susan started kindergarten that I became involved in the parish.
When I attended my first school meeting, a young lady named Alice Harris introduced herself as a former receptionist in Dr. Cecil’s office and welcomed me as a friend. Shortly before school started, I found I had been nominated, elected, and installed as the treasurer, I believe, of the P.T.A. Friendships abound as my children became involved in school, sports, and extracurricular activities. Through the years, I have been involved in P.T.A., 4-H, West Side Women’s Club, the Garden Club, and the West Baton Rouge Museum.
I believe I was the engine for the youth program involving the school children to promote interest in the museum, alongside Mary Jane Kahoe. We began an educational hands-on program where the school children could learn about life in our community a century ago.
I was a facilitator for the Renew Program in the Holy Family Catholic Church for a number of years. After the life-shifting loss of my three children as they were killed coming home from Episcopal High School in 1970, my wonderful husband Bob and I faced the greatest challenge of our lives to simply exist. God, in his wisdom instilled in me a desire to add a child back into our lives, and at 42 years of age, we were blessed with 10-week old Keith.
Dr. Lorio, realizing his heart could not last much longer, built a home on the farm, so Mrs. Lorio could be cared for in her old age. Somewhere during all of this, we built a home, and Dr. Lorio decided to gift us with a pool to make our lives complete. Since I had taught swimming in California, I invited anybody whose child needed lessons to come, and I would be glad to teach. [I] had such a flood I eventually started charging to cut the number down. It backfired because I couldn’t handle the number that applied.
One of the mothers, Lois Adams, remarked: “you are good with kids, why not start a daycare?”
I asked her what a daycare was.
Long story short, I opened the River Road Daycare six months later [in 1987] with five workers and four children. That lasted for a very short time. In a short period, I had 30, 40, 50, and expanded for summer camp. Thanks to the good people of Port Allen I ended up with 150 and a wonderful expansion to the pastures for Indian pow-wows, hayrides, bike hikes. With a wonderful staff, we made beautiful memories with wonderful children. I began the daycare at age 59 and actively worked until I was 72.
When I retired, I turned it over to Jan Falcon and Leslie Matherne, two of my “mamas” and they continued to expand with another building. There are many second-generation babies there now, and also Leslie has retired. Jan is continuing with quality care in a lovely setting. [It] makes my heart smile. The grown children of the daycare hosted a "Celebration of MawMaw Carolyn" in 2018 that brought many families together in joy and reunion, spearheaded by Ashton Camper, Erin and Jared Benoit, and Megan Hotard. Everyone is so thoughtful and so giving.
My wonderful husband of 65 years, Bob Lorio, passed away in 2017, and our son Keith and his wife Katherine decided to live with me until my son retires from service to the U.S. State Department. Their stateside residence enabled them to adopt a little miracle. I finally became a grandma.
Half the young people and their parents in West Baton Rouge call me “MawMaw” and now I am in my 90s a real-life grandma. What a blessing!
To the young people who might read this I would say: “Life is not perfect…. There will probably be big disappointments, some tragic. There will be accomplishments, some outstanding, some ordinary. But God has given us the wherewithal to become better people because of these experiences. It is a matter of choice. We can always find something to be happy about or we can dwell on the misfortunes. It’s really up to us. You are fortunate, as I was, to live in a community of giving, loving people who will wrap their collective arms around you, as they did Bob and me. No matter what comes your way, you will end up a better person.”
I am the only survivor of my original family. My nieces and nephews have been outstanding in their devotion as have Bob’s sister’s children in Shreveport. Locally, my neighbor, Jerry Higgins, has joined Bill Peterson and Freddie Dawson who have taken care of the pastures, stock, repairs anything with expertise and no thoughts of recompense. How often do you see this?
Jan visits often, sharing a dish she made for her folks, Lisa Beatty and her family are constant in their efforts to make my life more pleasurable. My daughter-in-law and grandson give me untold joy with their love and shared happiness, as do Sue Fourroux, Emma Lee Lefebvre, and too many others to name, besides Facebook friends.
What is your favorite thing about the West Side? The people, and having a nice home in the country where Bob and I raised children and horses and where Keith and Katherine can raise Marcus, if they desire.
Please list family members and their relation to you. Dr. Cecil and Bobbi Lorio - in-laws. Bob Lorio - husband. Susan, Alyson, Bick - children. Keith and Katherine - son and daughter-in-law. Marcus Lorio - grandson.
What community organizations and clubs have you been involved in?
PTA, 4H, WBR Garden Club, WBR Museum, Louisiana Junior Quarterhorse Association and Holy Family Church.