L.J. Frickey recalls in vivid detail the day his life changed forever.
“It was on a Saturday and Roy Rogers would come on that little black-and-white TV,” Frickey said. “Oh my God, I still remember that. At age 8, I was watching it and my dad came in and said, ‘You’re going to work with me today,’ and I’ve been working ever since.”
Calling himself the “Sam Walton of Bayou Gauche,” Frickey is a boisterous character with a gift for storytelling. He’s well known for his many ventures, including serving as the area’s former justice of the peace for 40 years collectively, and helping others. He loves his wife, Docas, of 50 years, and recounts emotionally how he couldn’t save his 18-year-old daughter from choking on food that required he take her off life support on Nov. 1, 1989.
“The only thing that makes me sad in life is losing my daughter,” he said. “I will die with a broken heart.”
But Frickey’s strong work ethic is alive and well – even at 70 years young.
“We’ve had a great life,” he said. “My wife loves me and I love her. We are very blessed in the way we live.”
This Cajun’s life has been colorful, and many people in St. Charles Parish know him.
Determined to never slow down, Frickey said he is still “living large” by riding in his restored and beloved 1985 El Camino.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s special. I had one when I was a young man so I had to have another one.”
He also unabashedly mused that he’s still blinging it up a bit with a few pieces of jewelry, as well as recounts a life that more portrays him as a renaissance man with a rugged determination to make money.
“I’m just a poor country boy from Bayou Gauche who lived there the first 15 years of my life,” Frickey said. “I went to Bayou Gauche School with four grades and two rooms with a partition down the middle. We were just a little community school. It was just people who lived on Bayou Gauche island.”
He lived two doors down from the school and walked there every day. Frickey added he had shoes. They came from the Sears catalogue.
“With that and Spiegel, you’d thought they were eating filet mignon,” he said. “But in the bathroom (outside), you’d read it and then wipe.”
They lived in a little shotgun house, which Frickey recollected as being so different than the 4,000 square foot house he has today. His father worked in the oil field and his mother worked at home.
“It was small, but it was home,” he said. “Me and my brother slept on the rollout couch in the living room.”
Frickey’s first job was in a little grocery in Bayou Gauche, where started doing odd jobs and then decided he wanted to be a butcher. He approached the owner about it then confessed he didn’t know much about the job, but the man showed him how to do it. He went to Nicholls State University and got his bachelor’s degree.
“I went to work in the real world as a collector in the finance business in New Orleans,” he said. “I was a chase man. I chased people for money. I became a manager and one day Raceland Bank and Trust called and said they were opening a bank in Des Allemands on the parish line.”
Frickey stayed on as manager for five years and then went to manage another bank for another five years.
One day he got a call to join the PTA, which was significant because he didn’t have kids, but that marked the beginning of his career of being involved in the community. He’s also a preacher, and dedicated to his church where he’s served many roles.
“My specialty is funerals,” he said. “If they don’t have anybody, I show up and preach. I preach at the nursing home, and the jail for 10 years. I’ve done a lot of stuff, and I’ve been a real estate developer.”
Frickey is known for wearing suits to his many fundraisers and community events.
“I’ve always been involved,” he said. Frickey is a founding member of the parish industrial development board, which served on for 35 years. He’s been a Social Security claimant advocate for 30 years.
“I have a great win ratio,” he said enthusiastically. “I helped people get benefits and I’m very proud of that.”
Carrying on the strong work ethic of his father, Frickey is also a practicing notary and even though he stopped being a justice of the peace about three years ago, people still call him for legal advice. He helps them, but readily clarifies to them that he’s only offering an opinion.
“Everyone comes to confess to me,” Frickey said. “I know what’s going on. The people want someone to listen to them. They’re not going to a district judge or can afford to go to a lawyer. I know a little bit about what goes on at the courthouse.”
In all of his life’s pursuits and two heart attacks later, he’s still a duck hunter, although not as often as he used to.
He has plans even for death.
When he dies, Frickey boldly says he’ll need a second crypt to hold his duck decoy collection, gun collection and, of course, his beloved El Camino.
His daily life begins with two prayers.
He asks God everyday to help him not be greedy because of what it can do to a person.
“My second prayer is don’t give me anything but good health, and it’s my responsibility to take care of it,” he said.
Looking forward, his hope is to sit on the porch a little bit more – the back porch in the morning and the front porch in the afternoon – and watch his adopted children grow up and get educated, and give them a pretty good start in life.
But age has done nothing to temper Frickey’s life changing moment when his father took his gaze from the Roy Rogers show.
“If they don’t produce, they get nothing,” he said. “I believe everybody’s got to work and work hard, too.”