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The Quiet Hero
Coming from a family of six brothers, Theodore Luke S, Jr., a grand family man, was the oldest. Theodore Luke, Sr., and Joanette Marie S became the parents of Theodore on January 12, 1955, when he was born at the Hotel Dieux Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. Living with five brothers, Anthony, David, Louie, Angelo, and Philip, was a difficult thing to do in such poor times, but I commend my godfather for courageously continuing to live his life by facing his fears and accomplishing his goals.
What was life like when you were very young and growing up?
I went to St. Anne Elementary, a very miniature Catholic school. Only two hundred students attended, but St. Anne was one of the most popular Catholic schools during the time. At home, I remember we lived with our grandma and grandpa, Luke and Lottie S for a while because those were awfully poor times. We didn’t have incredibly much at all. In fact, for entertainment our mother would read us stories out of an encyclopedia by an oil lamp. The scarce amount of food we ate came from the corner grocery store whenever they threw out the old vegetables which we would in turn use to make soup. I also didn’t have any clothes so the nuns would donate some to us now and then. My dad was often sick, and we just didn’t have enough money. Back then, there wasn’t any welfare or other type of aid to help us with our expenses either. If we got sick, our mom would walk us to the drug store to speak with the pharmacist. She would ask the pharmacist what could be done about her sick son, but they would only supply us with medicine sometimes. My father was a cook in the army before later becoming a barber, and my mother was an accountant for a local coffee company before later becoming a nurse, but even with the money they received from their jobs, expenses were still too high to pay.
What did you like doing most as a child?
My brothers and I would wake up and walk outside around eight o’ clock on days we didn’t have school. All we would do was play all different types of running games such as soldier, tag, and football. We also wrestled because with six brothers we were bound to clash. We struck at each other with anger using punches and eye gouges, but soon returned to playing. Most times, my brothers and I would stay outside until night, only taking a break for lunchtime. We would run, run, run, all around, but that was pretty much all we could do anyway.
What is the happiest memory of your childhood? What about the most depressing?
The happy memories were very few and far in between. Visiting our relatives’ houses were probably some of the happier memories because my brothers and I were given the chance to get away for a week. Sometimes we would spend time at Aunt Dot’s house in the country, and other times we would go to Uncle Donald’s house across the lake. Other than that, we really wouldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t. Depressing moments often involved my father’s condition who was always under the weather and never mentally right in the head. I always wished there was something I could do to be of assistance with the struggles and the pains he suffered.
What were your teenage years like?
When I got to junior high school, it wasn’t in my interest to live life in a poor manner anymore. Every day after school and on weekends, I would work at three different jobs. I unloaded box cars for a warehouse company, cleaned warehouses with my Uncle Russell, and worked at a grocery store. Cutting lawns also gave me the opportunity to receive extra money. Continuing these jobs all through high school, I was able to save up enough money to obtain a car. The money I received from my jobs also allowed me to participate in various activities. When I could get away from the house, I mostly went to hang out with girls or play sports. As a family, however, we still didn’t have an immense amount of money. When the school year started, we would get three shirts, three khaki pants, and a pair of tennis shoes. If our clothes wore out or we outgrew them, our only hope was for someone in the family to pass down their clothes. I needed the money from my jobs to move away as well because I was tired of the environment I lived in.
Who do you think influenced your life the most when you were young, and in what way?
Lacking any influential people at all, I was often on my own at an incredibly young age. The most influence I received was probably from the priests at school guiding me. None of my relatives wanted to have much to do with my brothers or me because of our dad’s condition. If anything I was my own influence, motivating myself to keep moving on.
Did you go to college? What did you study while there?
Yes, I went to the University of New Orleans to study commercial art for a rather short amount of time. I had to drop out because I got married. However, at night I began going to Delgado to study drafting. Not too long after, I dropped out once more. Working all day and then going to class until ten at night was too much to handle, and supporting my family was much more important than going to school.
What led you to choose the type of work you do? Is there anything you like/dislike about it?
Money attracted me to my job many years ago. I was working for three dollars and fifteen cents an hour for a company that installed basketball goals, bleachers, and furniture. Some friends at the time were making seven dollars an hour at a sign company. Typically, I was smarter than many of my friends so I figured if they could make the money then so could I leading me to quit my job. I’ve been working for sign companies ever since. I have come to like my job because it allows me to create, and I am now basically a specialist at what I do. However, all the sign companies I worked for were about family. My co-workers often feel they don’t have to work because of their families’ involvement at the company which many times makes my job harder and more stressful to deal with.
When did you first meet your wife?
Ironically, I first met my wife at a sign company where she was working as an accountant. Trudy was required to work part time as an accountant for the sign company for her school. That’s where I first laid eyes at the woman who became my wife. About three years later, we got married and have been together ever since.
When did you first have a child? What was your child’s personality like?
About two years after marrying, my wife and I had a son, Theodore Luke S, III, also known as Teddy. Teddy was born on October 21, 1983. Always smiling and playing, Teddy was a happy, little baby. Never letting me sleep, Teddy could always be found poking a finger in my eye when I closed them, biting my toes, flipping off the back of the sofa on top of me. My son constantly left me tired.
How did Theodore change your life?
Theodore made life exciting, leaving me with a reason to be joyful, leaving me with a reason to smile. I wouldn’t know what to do without my son, though I wouldn’t know what to do without any of my family. I miss seeing my boy Teddy, always wishing to see him more, but I know that he’ll make it just fine in the world.
How did you raise your child to be a decent human being?
I always told Teddy just to make the right decisions and actions. If you do what’s right, you’ll never go wrong. Following other people and going down dangerous roads will never take you anywhere because doing so keeps you from staying true to yourself. In fact, I repeated this message to Teddy once more just the other day.
Looking back, what do you think has been the happiest time in your life? What about the worst time?
Watching Teddy grow up was the happiest time of my life because I got to see him grow and develop into the young man he is today. The memories of when he was younger are still extremely fond to me. Watching the achievements of my sons, brothers, nieces, and nephews are also very thrilling to me. I grow happy to see the smiles of their success. Watching relatives pass away, however, are the worst times of my life. In time, my father, my mother, Aunt Margaret, Aunt Darlene, my grandfathers, my grandmothers, Uncle Mike, and my two brothers, Louie and David, passed away. Losing so many significant people in my life, I have come to see how much I really appreciated them being there.
How do you get over sad periods in your life?
I’m not sure I ever really get over sad periods because I eternalize every event. Never really getting over the event, I keep moving on, that’s all I can do. Knowing that I did right helps me to attain peace of spirit through these sad periods though. I go to work everyday completing every task to the best of my ability. Even under bad circumstances, I continue to take care of and support my family. Sad periods might come and go, but if you continue to do what’s right such times will be a lot easier to get through.
What are your deepest values?
Covering all the bases, I believe it’s important just to do what’s right, even when no one is watching. I never try to cause harm or act wrongly towards others. Stealing and lying to others is also important to stay away from. As long as you act respectfully and show compassion, you in turn deserve the same amount of respect back.
How do you overcome your fears?
Fears, like problems, can be broken down by their elements. If I have a problem, I figure out which area of the problem I am able to fix first and then I keep fixing each piece until the problem is completed. Fears should be broken down in a similar manner as well. I just try to attack each fear head on in the most efficient way possible.
Looking ahead, what things do you want to accomplish in life?
In the end, I think I’ve accomplished all of my goals. I’ve built a home for my family and am currently still paying for it. Everyone in my family is also happy, healthy, and wise so there’s nothing more I feel the need to accomplish. I used to have some very typical dreams. Becoming rich and obtaining fancy cars and other items used to be a part of the fantasy I had. However, when reality set in, I got what I really wanted: my family and a home. Reality quickly took over my dreams, making them obsolete.
If you had your life to do all over again, what would you do differently?
If I were to change anything, I would try to act kinder towards people. Since my brothers and I didn’t grow up in a loving environment, I was never really taught how to act towards others. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned right from wrong or how to treat others which is part of the reason why I am the person I am today.
Childhood was a rough time for my godfather who never really got to experience the role of a true child. Even at a young age, Theodore Jr. was typically on his own raising money for himself in middle school, but my godfather never gave up. Even now he continues to support and love his family, giving his child the loving environment he never received. Through Theodore Luke S Jr.’s past, we can find just why he is the man he is today, the loving family man, the kind uncle, the calm hero saving his world one day at a time.