(Editor’s Note: Pat Chiri was a 32-year Slidell news reporter and founder of the Animal Assistance League of Slidell. This is a guest column on her trip back to Slidell to visit her son Kevin Chiri and his family, who founded The Slidell Independent in 2009 after the former Slidell newspaper went the way of Hurricane Katrina.)
By Pat Chiri
It is said that one should wander down memory lane every once in a while. It helps you keep your perspective.
Here I am at 86 years and returning to my old stomping grounds for a Christmas visit with my son Kevin and his super wife Gail, not to mention a few granddaughters and six of my 10 great-grandkids. Yes, 10 great grandkids. Still blows my mind.
I now reside along the sunny beaches of southwest Florida, but never forgetting the many years spent in Slidell and Lacombe.
To many I was that crazy newspaper reporter and photog with the old Slidell Daily Times and Slidell Sentry News, driving wildly to accidents on the old Twin Spans or hurricanes to let everyone know I was rough and ready.
Then there were the homicides and other tragedies, local and parish government meetings (always good for excitement), and most of all, my life’s mission, saving all the animals in the world.
Although I didn’t save them all I did my best, what with spending almost every day at the Slidell Animal Shelter, my second home. I eventually was called the “animal lady” or “that crazy cat woman.” You could never visit my home without falling over dogs and cats, or something with four legs or wings.
That, added to my Chiri Critter Care pet sitting service, brought many good and joyful days to my long life. But there were too many days shedding tears over man’s inhumanity to his own species, much less animals.
When I first moved to Slidell in 1969 I really thought I had arrived at the end of the world. My three boys were in high school, but soon I was finding myself picking up on the rhythms of a small southern town and fitting in. The written word was my key to many friends.
The face of Slidell has changed greatly since moving to Florida in 2001, but I remember all the ups and downs of my 30-plus years here.
The day finally arrived to tuck my reporter’s pad in the desk drawer and the camera back in its bag.
I find as the clock winds down I wander down memory lane more and more.
It was finally time for number two son, Kevin, to become an editor and publisher with his own newspaper. He has provided Slidell with The Slidell Independent.
I leave my legacy to him, my kids, grandkids and all the great grandkids to carry on. Your small town community newspaper is still the backbone for us to carry on setting all things right.
To all my friends, long remembered, Merry Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Pat Chiri can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.