Destrehan builder named Rotary Citizen of the Year

When Larry Tyson volunteered to build Operation Finally Home’s first house for a war veteran in Destrehan, he wasn’t thinking about recognition but it came all the same.

The Rotary Club of St. Charles named him its Citizen of the Year for the project, which also was the first of its kind in Louisiana.

The Rotary also honored Victoria “Tori” Gomez, a Hahnville High School student, Bryson Marretta, a Destrehan High School student, as its Young Persons of the Year at its annual awards banquet March 16 at the Satellite Center.

Tyson praised everyone who helped with the project, saying this was also their recognition.

“There were just so many people who put in the effort to get it done,” he said of an effort that also included his wife, Patricia, and son, Zachary. “It was not just us, we reached out to different people and some stepped forward to contribute – some small and some large – but we had so many people who supported the project.”

Among them were V.J. St. Pierre, himself a Vietnam veteran and former St. Charles Parish president, as well as the United Way of St. Charles.

“It was an amazing project,” Tyson said. “And when it came together, we said, ‘Wow. It really works.’”

Operation Finally Home is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building homes for wounded, ill or injured veterans. It worked in conjunction with Southern Living Magazine to do the project.

Sgt. Nathan Young, his wife, Tabitha, their daughter, Emme, and miniature Schnauzer, Maggie, will move into the house in Ashton Plantation subdivision in about a month when Emme finishes school.

Tyson said veterans are vetted in a process to confirm the need that can take up to nine months, and the builder helps raise donations for the project while the organization makes up the difference. In this project, contractors either contributed their labor or discounted work and products. A philanthropist, who asked not to be named, donated the appliances.

“It’s true that when you reach out to people you find out how much good there is in the world,” he said, noting it was helping a veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. “We were proud that we could do it right here. It was the least we could do.”

The project took about a year to complete from the time Tyson was first contacted by Operation Finally Home last year and he agreed to build the house in Ashton Plantation subdivision. The project was done

Tyson was born and raised on a farm in North Louisiana. He came to Baton Rouge on an athletic scholarship to LSU. After graduating, he started working in the banking industry in New Orleans in 1969. Ten years later, he met his wife of 35 years, Patricia, and they moved to Destrehan.

After a brief 2-1/2-year move to Lafayette, where their son, Zachary, was born they returned to Destrehan.

As soon as their son was old enough for T-ball, Tyson became a regular volunteer around the playgrounds and gyms in St. Charles parish, coaching his baseball and basketball teams through middle school. As Zachary transitioned to a high school athlete at St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Larry became involved there as a board member of the St. Martin’s Booster Club. Often on a Friday night, he could be found in the bleachers or working the concessions.

Even as an avid hunter, Tyson gave back by organizing and chairing a local Ducks Unlimited chapter for several years in St. Charles Parish. He helped raise money programs that supported conservations of wetlands and upland habitats across the nation.

By 2004, Tyson semi-retired from banking to care for Patricia, who was diagnosed with cancer.  He also stepped into her shoes working with her business partner in a construction company they began in 1993.

After being a member of Southern Living’s custom builder program for several years, he was approached  by Operation Finally Home.

The organization partners with builders throughout the U.S. to build mortgage-free homes for wounded veterans and widows and widowers of fallen veterans.  It was a huge undertaking that Larry and his family readily took on.

Tyson partnered with subcontractors, vendors, local businesses, and many local individuals to make the dream of Young and his family come true. The completely furnished home was built in a record time of less than 4 months, being dedicated in January.

With students honored, Gomez was recognized for being active both at school and in the community. She has been in the spotlight as a member of the St. Charles Parish talented theater program for eleven years and  during her high school career a member of the HHS swim team, National Honor Society, Beta Club, Student Council, Spanish Honor Society, and Advanced Choir. Participating in so many extracurricular activities guarantees that Tori has been extensively active in community service projects sponsored by Hahnville High School such as Trunk or Treat and October Fest.

Bryson was recognized for his involvement in numerous clubs and organizations, as two-time academic all-state athlete in soccer and cross country for having a 4.0 GPA, and served as team captain of both the soccer team and cross country team at Destrehan High School.

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