LIVONIA – More than 200 people had just released green and yellow balloons into the sunset sky to honor the life of Trey Allen, a 21-year-old baseball coach who was shot and killed after trying to interrupt a fight in a bar four days earlier, when cell phones started ringing and buzzing in rapid succession.
Attendees at the September 22 memorial at Livonia High were receiving text message notifications that Lucy Boley, a beloved English teacher at the same school Allen attended before returning as a coach, had died after spent 41 days in hospital battling the coronavirus. She was 55 years old.
News of Boley’s death came five days after a 23-year-old New Roads man shot dead two of his cousins ââand seriously injured his uncle in a family dispute on September 17. One of the victims was Gerell, 25. Hollin.
As the sun set over Pointe Coupee Parish on Wednesday, more than 200 friends and family of Trey Allen released green and yellow balloons in honor …
Allen, Boley and Hollins. Three tragic deaths, all in the span of six days, with one thing in common: Livonia High School.
Pointe Coupee Parish’s only public high school and the community at large are now struggling to heal from the cloud of grief that has eclipsed this small town of just under 1,400 residents.
“Everyone is heartbroken,” said Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff RenÃ¨ Thibodeaux. “It just doesn’t make sense. Stuff like that doesn’t heal overnight. It’s going to be difficult. It’ll be a slow process.”
“A punch to the guts”
Walk past the Livonia High campus along La. 78 and you’ve pretty much passed through most of the city.
Its campus, made up of sand-colored buildings with hunter-green roofs, is opposite the town’s town hall and the town’s picturesque police headquarters. Residents call the school the beating heart of the city. When it closes in the afternoon, most of the surrounding businesses do the same.
In recent days, the campus has become a place of mourning, hosting various fundraisers and memorials in remembrance of Boley, Allen and Hollins. Their connection to the school, which is attended by around 600 children, is a spider web of associations that is not uncommon in small towns.
Allen and Boley’s father taught at Livonia High together for 20 years. His father coached his son, who played baseball with Allen throughout high school.
Hollins attended school until Grade 10 before his transfer, but her family remains close to the school’s current principal, Cleo Johningan. Two of Hollins’ younger siblings still attend school, though they’ve been away since their brother’s murder.
âEach of the people we’ve lost, as well as some of the others involved in one way or another, are related to our high school,â Johningan said. “We’ve had students over the years who may have died in a car crash, but that’s once every few years.”
Never, in his memory, has the community been shaken by so many losses in such a short time.
“It really took us by surprise”, he lamented, “it was a punch”.
A revered teacher
Johningan must now figure out how he will go about replacing one of the school’s most revered teachers.
Lucy Boley entered campus to teach at the age of 22, fresh out of LSU. She became a 33-year-old fixture at Livonia High, teaching thousands of students, who have become the future parents of some of her most recent students.
Boley not only taught English classes, she brought a performative air to her classes by dressing in period costumes that correlated with the literature the students were studying.
âShe just had a motherly nature about her, especially with the students,â said Kristie Langlois, librarian at Livonia High.
Langlois worked side-by-side with Boley as an educational advisor for a number of extracurricular activities, such as the cheerleader team and the annual reunion court.
She and the French teacher also chaperoned the students on the school’s annual trips to Europe. Boley wanted them to experience life outside of Livonia as well.
Originally from Livonia, Boley also served on the board of directors of the parish library of Pointe CoupÃ©e. During her lifetime, she donated so many books and devoted so much of her time to the Livonia branch library that she observed her untimely death by closing her doors for a day to honor her life and her service.
Boley was never able to teach this semester. She fell with COVID, for the second time, just before the start of the school year.
After beating the disease once before, Langlois said Boley was preparing to get the vaccine to help thwart the respiratory disease again.
But it was too late. She spent 35 days in intensive care before succumbing to the disease.
âWe are lost without it,â Langlois said.
The school has regrouped trying to take over, she said. While things will never be the same without Boley, Langlois said the school can honor his memory by persisting despite the tragedy.
âShe taught us how,â Langlois said, âso we’re going to carry on. She would like that. Life goes on.â
A huge red arch now hangs from the chain-link fence surrounding the campus. A banner attached to it reads “Boley Strong”.
Since her death, many of her former students have organized various fundraising events to help her family cover some of the medical expenses associated with her hospital stay.
âOne thing about living in a small community when people are in need, citizens normally step in and help,â Livonia Mayor Rhett Pourciau said. “She touched a lot of people throughout her teaching years.”
“With Trey, someone so young to die like this,” added the mayor, “he will always be remembered too.”
NEW ROUTES – The last 10 months could have been an even more difficult struggle for Margaret Griffin, employed for 30 years at the parish of Pointe CoupÃ©eâ¦
A grieving family
Police still have not disclosed details of the family dispute that led Morris Hollins to shoot and kill his cousins ââHoward Hollins, 34, and Gerell Hollins, 25.
Although Gerell did not graduate from Livonia High, her siblings’ current presence at the school has also aroused empathy among students and faculty.
His younger brother plays football for the Livonia Wildcats. Their father has been a constant presence on campus.
Johnigan said he tries to help his students cope and let the Hollins family know that the school will do what it can to offer support.
âThere is nothing you can do but show them your support and understand what they are going through,â he said, â(and) reassure our students that we live in a good place that is safe. most of the time.”
A beloved brother
Trey Allen was shot dead in the parking lot of Raxx, a bar in Erwinville, as he tried to stop a fight between a friend and a group of teenagers. The alleged 17-year-old shooter was then arrested and charged with the murder.
Allen was a sports fanatic who coached baseball for the PC Tigers where he mentored young children, including his nephew.
âThe love, support and dedication our community has given us for Trey has been overwhelming,â said her sister Nikki Allen.
More than 500 people attended his funeral. Since then, her sister said, virtually everyone in town has stopped by her house to offer condolences or bring supper.
âWhatever they could have done, each person did,â she said.
Nikki doesn’t think his family, or the community, will ever âmove forwardâ without him. She said they would instead continue to grow, love and learn to live with her absence.
“It’s not something you want to get used to,” she said, “just something we’ll have to do.”
Two young men died and their father was seriously injured after a relative shot them at a family reunion in New Roads on Friday night, according to …