VIRGINIA AND JOEY HADDAD
Because of the impact they have had on so many by helping to make their indoor and outdoor spaces more beautiful, and because of their unselfish volunteer acts on behalf of worthy causes, Joey and Virginia Haddad are our October Bayou Icons.
ARTICLE BY GEORGIANN POTTS | PHOTOGRAPHS BY KELLY MOORE CLARK
Joseph Allen Haddad’s childhood was a very special time. His parents were focused on making things better for their children as his grandparents had been a generation earlier, and spent their lifetimes fulfilling that goal. Joey’s paternal grandfather immigrated from Syria to the U.S.A. to provide a better life for his family. When he had made enough money, he sent for his wife and settled his family in Dermott, Arkansas.
Joey’s father, Cotham, was born in Dermott. Cotham’s mother died in childbirth when his brother Icer was born. His father remarried and had 3 more children. Joey’s mother, Dorothy Jane Davis, was born in Choudrant, Louisiana, the youngest of 6 children. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a homemaker. Joey’s mother was valedictorian at Choudrant High School and graduated from Louisiana Tech University with honors. Joey’s dad completed 11th grade and went to work.
Joey’s parents met in Sterlington where his father had a mercantile store (Delta Department Store — later renamed Haddad’s) and his mother was a secretary at the Columbia Carbon plant. They married and began their family of four – 2 boys and 2 girls. Billy was the firstborn, followed by Sadie, Joey, and Deborah Lea.
The Haddads lived with Joey’s paternal uncle, William “Bill” Haddad, in his home on the corner of N. 6th and Hudson Lane. Joey’s mother asked Joey’s Uncle Bill to help name her children as they came. He named the first one after himself. He named Sadie after Joey’s paternal grandmother. When Joey came along, he was named after Cotham and Bill’s brother. And when Deborah Lea was born, she was named after her father. (“Lea” was Cotham’s Lebanese name.)
When their fourth child was born, Joey’s mother decided it was time for them to have their own place. Joey’s dad bought a house at 112 Country Club Road, but suggested that they should paint and clean up the property before moving. A year passed. “One morning, Mom told Dad that when he came home from work that day, she would not be there. She and the children would be at the house on the bayou,” Joey remembers. “Dad never said a word and went to work. That night he appeared at the new house’s door and never mentioned it again.” This house was the family home until it was demolished and the land subdivided. The family built their mom a new home on one lot after her husband’s death. She lived there until her death at 96.
When Joey’s dad moved to Monroe, he joined his 2 brothers in opening a store on DeSiard (Star Hardware is there now). The brothers had that store for 25 years until they built a new store on N. 5th and Pine which they occupied for the next 25 years. In the late 1960’s, Joey’s dad began investing in real estate.
VIRGINIA HENDRICK’S ROOTS
Lois Virginia Hendrick was born in Shreveport. Her father, Robert Smith Hendrick (Bob), was the youngest of 4 siblings. He attended Tulane University for both pre-med and medical school, just as his brother John had done. Although WWII disrupted his education, nevertheless he finished with honors. He did additional training at Duke University School of Medicine and The Mayo Clinic before moving back to Shreveport to establish a practice in ear, nose, and throat at The Highland Clinic. Virginia’s father passed away when he was 62, a victim of colon cancer.
Virginia’s mother, Norma Ann McCook, was the only child of Walter Templeton McCook and Ada Virginia Stephens McCook. Norma Ann lived briefly in Monroe where her best friend was Camille Wood. She attended Hollins College until her junior year when she transferred to Louisiana State University. After her LSU graduation, she moved home to Shreveport and worked for Delta Airlines in the ticket office.
Virginia’s parents met on a blind date, a lucky happenstance that would be repeated by Joey and Virginia years later. They married in 1954 and moved to Rochester, Minnesota, while Bob completed his residency at Mayo. Once that was done, they returned to Shreveport where Bob began his practice and the couple began their family.
The Hendricks had 3 children — Robert Jr., Virginia, and Walter. Robert Jr., an anesthesiologist, recently retired. He practiced in Monroe because he wanted to blaze his own trail instead of staying in Shreveport and Highland Hospital. Virginia was the middle child and only girl — quite the combination! Her younger brother, Walter, was killed in an accident at 23. “He was a ton of fun and packed a heap of living into his short 23 years,” Virginia remembers. “My father had already been diagnosed with colon cancer at that time so we knew what lay ahead. Witnessing one’s parents grieving the death of a child is so very difficult. That experience changed my life forever. I matured in a hurry and began focusing on what was really important in life.”
Joey remembers his home being the center for holiday gatherings. Thanksgiving and Christmas were always big celebrations. Summers meant vacations with his mother and siblings because his dad had to work. These vacations were never too far from Monroe. “One year, Mom and my aunt took us to Hot Springs. My brother jumped on a swimmer in a pool and got glass in his leg from the broken lens of the goggles the unlucky fellow was wearing when hit,” Joey recalls. “Mom rushed my brother to the hospital where he got 60 stitches. We learned later when he was in high school that a large piece of glass had been missed by the doctors and was still there! Needless to say, that was the last trip without Dad.”
Virginia remembers her childhood as being centered around church and family. She had many friends and loved Southfield School where she went from kindergarten through 8th grade, and can’t imagine a happier childhood. Because her maternal grandparents and paternal grandmother lived nearby, there was never any traveling during the holidays. With aunts, uncles, and cousins all living in Shreveport, there was no need. She especially enjoyed Sundays when the family attended First Baptist and then went to either Grandmother Hendrick’s or Grandmother McCook’s house for lunch. Occasionally they would all gather at “The Camp” on Cross Lake.
HIGH SCHOOL AND LSU
Joey attended Lexington Elementary, Lee Jr. High, and Neville. He loved his time at each, and says he had some of the best teachers anywhere. He graduated LSU with a BA from University College. His career path was already set – joining the family business.
Joey has special university memories. One was his parents coming to football games with the Cannons. Dr. Cannon had 50-yard-line season tickets, a treat! Another memory was spending 8 weeks abroad with Louisiana Tech’s Rome Study program. That was his first trip to Europe, and it was there where he first became seriously interested in architecture and landscaping. Joey’s lifelong friend and college roommate, George Pope, was working with Joey’s other college roommate, Duncan Maginnis, in Lucerne, Switzerland. Joey and several from his group took a train to Lucerne to spend a weekend. Europe captivated Joey. Some years later, he toured Austria, Norway, Switzerland, and France with his uncle, Dr. Cannon and his daughters. The following year, the group enjoyed a trip together to Cairo. At every stop, Joey learned more about buildings and gardens. “I believe Joey would have been a fabulous landscape architect had he not gone into the family business,” Virginia says.
Virginia attended First Baptist Church High School in Shreveport, a school that her father had helped start. She asked to go the St. Vincent’s Catholic Girls’ School with some friends, but her father refused. Though disappointed then, today she admits that she had a wonderful education. It was only later that she learned how hard her dad had worked to make the school (still thriving) a reality.
Like Joey, Virginia attended LSU. Her mother hoped that she would attend Hollins College as she had done, but after only one LSU football game weekend when Virginia was a senior in high school, that dream evaporated. Virginia’s date was a DKE. She has always wondered if she and Joey were at that same party at the DKE house! Virginia earned a BFA from the School of Environmental Design. Her emphasis was graphic/advertising design. She wanted to major in Interior Design, but her father said that she would never make enough money in that field to support herself. “Looking back, that was just about the ONLY thing he was ever wrong about!” she says laughing.
FINDING A CAREER PATH
After graduation, Joey returned home and began working in the family-owned men’s clothing store with his father and brother. “It was a rewarding time, and Dad gave me a broad range of duties, learning all aspects of the retail business,” Joey says. “I dealt primarily with accounting and buying, but also worked in sales and marketing.”
That was not the beginning of Joey’s work life, however. He had washed cars at Van-Trow Olds Cadillac (now Van-Trow Toyota) when he was 16. Joey thought that he would be spending his time driving new cars around. On his first day, he was assigned washing all of the cars on the lot. “When I finished, I told Mr. Van that I was through and asked what he’d like me to do next. He told me to wash them all again,” Joey says. “That taught me a lot about work!” Later Joey worked for Central Bank (now JP Morgan/Chase) in the VISA department as well as in the main office vault downtown. This was back when banks managed their own credit cards. The experience would prove invaluable.
Joey began investing in real estate with his brother and other family members like his father had. Joey’s father’s realtor told Joey about a small, 1 bedroom house that was available. Joey bought it for $9,000 and remodeled it. “I still own it and have rented it since I moved out in 1979,” Joey says. “I began managing other properties that Dad and his partners bought. His group purchased the property that brought the former North Monroe Hospital to town!” His father taught Joey about real estate, advice that is still paying off. “My dad always invested in real estate instead of the stock market for practical reasons,” Joey remembers. “He didn’t have the cash to invest, and he wanted to invest in something that he could see, touch, and manage. He was as successful in real estate as he was in retail, but his heart was always about the store, his customers, and his commitment to the community.”
Joey and Billy jointly developed the Avenue Shopping Center which proved to be a very successful business venture. It wasn’t until Joey’s father died that the two closed the family store that had served north Louisiana for 70+ years. Calling that decision one of the biggest challenges he has faced in his career, Joey admits that it was the right one. A national men’s clothier wanted to rent the space – at a premium. “That experience taught me that timing is everything — internet shopping was just beginning and we were not technology-motivated — and that opportunity arises when one least expects it,” Joey says.
Virginia’s career path took a more circuitous route. In the summers during high school and college she worked at the Highland Hospital (where her father, uncle and cousins were all physicians). One summer she worked as the receptionist on the Surgical floor. Thinking she might follow her family’s medical path, she asked if she might observe a caesarian section. “All aspirations vanished with that experience,” she says laughing. “Fainting at the sight of blood is something I’m well known for!” Virginia’s grandfather (John A. Hendrick, Sr.) co-founded Highland Hospital. “That hospital is very dear to me, and I am so proud of how my father and uncle continued to grow the hospital and clinic long after their father’s death,” Virginia says.
When she graduated LSU, Virginia moved home with the idea that she would stay briefly and then move to New Orleans. After 3 months, her father announced that she would have a job by April 1st, “or else.” He also begged her not to go to New Orleans because it was so dangerous. By April 1st, Virginia found a job with Louisiana Bank and Trust as a teller. She worked there for 7 years, establishing a successful career and becoming branch manager. Still, she was 30 and ready for a new life.
Instead of NOLA, Virginia moved to Atlanta in 1988 and began training to be a paralegal. She found corporate law fascinating, and went to work for Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan on their Mergers/Acquisition/Transactional team. She loved the work and the attorneys she worked with. Ironically, she worked on the Coca-Cola Enterprises acquisition of the Monroe Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Virginia had no clue that Monroe would become her home someday.
In Atlanta, Virginia began trying her hand at interior design – her earliest career dream — by designing for friends. During her lunch hour, she would pull samples at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. Her first job was for Betsy Middleton, a childhood friend who was engaged and moving into her future husband’s home. The home, a beautiful Georgian, had been decorated throughout by the British firm, Colefax and Fowler. Virginia’s assignment: blend Betsy’s things with his. “Somehow it all came together in time for the wedding without my taking a day off from my ‘corporate’ job!” she says.
Her banking and law experience gave Virginia the foundation she needed to make a monumental decision – to leave the security of the corporate world and start her own design firm. “I never looked back and I WAS able to support myself, contrary to what my father had predicted!” Virginia says. There was an old garage at her Atlanta home that she tore down and then rebuilt as an office. That early project was featured in Southern Living. “My earliest experience with interior design happened when I was given my mother’s dollhouse when I was 7 or 8,” Virginia remembers. “I spent hours arranging and rearranging the rooms, and making little curtains out of Kleenex and fabric bits. I still have that doll house with all of the furniture!”
A BLIND DATE CHANGES EVERYTHING
Joey and Virginia were “set up” on a blind date by Larke Woods Wheeler, a mutual friend and native Monroyan who thought that they should meet. When Larke began trying to get them together, Virginia was in the middle of a major design project and told Larke that she didn’t have time for romance! It turned out that Joey was also in a very busy period, but Larke persevered. The two doubled with the Wheelers and had a great time. Because they were both so busy, there wasn’t a second date until that fall – another double date.
That Christmas, Joey invited Virginia to go to a dinner party in Mer Rouge on her way home to Shreveport for the holidays. There they were surprised to discover how many mutual friends they had. One of Virginia’s best childhood friends who knew Joey was upset that she hadn’t set them up years before!
The two dated for a year and a half before Joey proposed – in Virginia’s late father’s study. Joey told Virginia that this was the spot he would have asked her father for her hand if her father were still alive. The couple announced their engagement at Virginia’s mother’s birthday dinner that night at The Shreveport Club where all of extended Hendrick family had gathered.
The couple married in the chapel at First Baptist in Shreveport. Their wedding weekend was a reunion of old friends from childhood, LSU, and Atlanta. When the two were at LSU, they never met — Joey was a graduating senior when Virginia was a freshman. Both had good friends from their college days, and those made the wedding weekend all the more special.
Two things happened to make the occasion especially memorable. First, when Joey arrived at the hotel for the wedding weekend, there was no room for him. “Virginia pulled some strings and that situation was resolved,” Joey remembers. For the rest of the weekend, Joey’s nickname was “the groom with no room.” “The next day after the wedding day brunch, I went to the University Club to see our reception decorations,” Joey remembers. “The room was empty only 3 hours before the wedding. Somehow a team of florists transformed the space!”
The second special memory occurred when Virginia was saying her vows and tried to put Joey’s wedding ring on the wrong hand. “The pastor had to gently say, ‘the other hand, please’ – and LOTS of laughter broke out!” Virginia remembers.
MAKING A LIFE TOGETHER
When Virginia became a wife, she also became stepmother to Joey’s children – Jordan and Stuart. Suddenly having teenaged stepchildren was a wonderful, loving experience. Jordan was at LSU so they rarely got to spend long periods of time together – something Virginia regrets. Ironically, when the pandemic hit, Jordan moved home from New Orleans and lived with Virginia and Joey for nearly a year. “I think the biggest blessing that came from COVID was my really getting to know her. I will always be thankful for that time,” Virginia says.
Joey’s son Stuart was a freshman at Neville when his dad remarried. He lived with them every other week during high school and Virginia got to know him well. “I looked so forward to the end of the day when he would come home from school and tell me all about his day,” Virginia remembers. “I was really sad when he left for college. I called my mother all teary-eyed and asked her how on earth she had ever let us leave the nest!”
One significant challenge that newlywed Virginia faced was figuring out menus – and quantities – for family meals. Finally, Stuart asked his dad to please ask Virginia to make more food. “Before I was married, grilling 6 chicken breasts would have covered me for an entire week,” Virginia says. “I was horrified when they ate ALL of them in one sitting!”
Today Jordan and Stuart are both married. Jordan and her husband, John, live in Monroe. She has her real estate license and has worked in retail and wholesale sales for several years. Jordan also helps at Parterre. “She is our Instagram and showroom styling guru,” Virginia says. Stuart and his wife, Zoe, live in Baton Rouge where he works as a computer engineer for a website design firm.
Joey ventured into design when he became a silent partner with Mary Irwin in the Secret Garden. In this garden shop, Joey learned both to create custom designs with plants and to select appropriate hardscape elements including statuary, containers, and fountains. They sold the business and later Joey bought Parterre with his cousin, Bunny Cannon Hewitt. “Bunny has been like a sister and best friend to me for my entire life,” Joey says. “We had the store together for several years before she retired. The garden shop evolved from my love of landscape design and plants.”
Today, Virginia is happily retired and Joey is beginning to slow down – but only a little. Both consider their marriage to be the biggest blessing in their life although Virginia admits that it might be even better — if Joey could cook!
Their first home together was on Riverside Drive and – no surprise here — featured an English maze. This was the home where Joey’s children had grown up. With help from Rhymes Oliver Landscaping, Joey transformed the acre into 3 separate areas over 22 years. There were formal parterre gardens that were separated by the maze from the children’s play area.
With both children grown, the couple moved to their home on Island Drive. “Less maintenance” was a major factor in that decision. Not surprisingly, their Island Drive home has a lovely parterre garden in front, and a lower sitting area on the bayou side. The home contains a number of cherished items – pictures of the children, and pieces inherited from Virginia’s mother and grandmother (one of which is her mother’s childhood portrait) as well as things inherited from Joey’s mother. Virginia would love to have an entrance hall, and a bit more yard – 0ther than that everything is perfect!
Both Joey and Virginia have plants that are favorites, but they also have some that they detest. Among Joey’s favorites are Japanese boxwood (coned, in a topiary, or globe), espaliered pyracantha, and anything white (wisteria, Lady Banksia rose, gardenia, hydrangea, and Natchez crepe myrtle are a few). Virginia loves hydrangeas both indoors in cut flower arrangements or outdoors in the landscape. The ones that they don’t like include, for Joey, Indian Hawthorne shrubs and azaleas that have been pruned to form a hedge. He also detests crepe myrtles improperly trimmed (“That’s ‘Crepe Murder!’” he says). Virginia’s least favorite plant is aspidistra. “I hate the brown torn edges that appear when the plant gets too much sun – and around here that happens often.” Virginia also dislikes azaleas groomed into box shapes.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
Travel is a shared love. A 3-week trip they took to Africa remains a fond memory for both. They went to Tanzania, toured the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, went on safaris, lived in tents or stayed in lodges, witnessed the Wildebeest Crossing in the Masai River (occurs only once a year during migration), and took a hot air balloon ride over the Masai River. “I went thinking that giraffes were my favorite animals,” Virginia remembers. “Instead, my heart was captivated by the elephants!”
Another travel memory is from time spent in Paris. George Shackleford, a friend from Fort Worth, arranged for them to tour the Museum de Orsay where a Monet exhibit was on display. “We arrived at the museum only to see a sign on the door announcing that it was closed!” Joey remembers. “Disappointed but determined, we knocked on the door and a docent appeared. After checking ‘the list’ we were admitted. No one else was in this huge, beautiful museum with all these priceless works of art. We stayed for hours. Unbelievable!”
Both sets of parents instilled in Joey and Virginia the importance of volunteering – finding ways to give back to the community and help others. Both hope to find even more time to do just that. Joey has followed his dad’s example, and has worked with his brothers to bring successful businesses to Monroe through their real estate ventures. Joey has also given his time to a variety of projects – some that support the Arts; some that bring educational and cultural enrichment; and others that help those with disabilities.
Joey volunteers at Holy Angels Residential Facility in Shreveport where his nephew Paul resides. He assists with the management and operation of their greenhouse and gift shop that generates revenue from items that are made by the residents. Some of these items can be ordered from Parterre Home. Virginia also supports Holy Angels as well as Marbridge in Austin, Texas, a facility designed for those with developmental disabilities. “My nephew, Walter, is leading a full life there with lots of friends and a wonderful job at a hospital in Austin,” Virginia says. Nephew Stephen works at Monroe ARCO.
Both appreciate volunteer opportunities in Monroe. “Get a group of friends and go volunteer at the Food Bank or ARCO, join the Junior League, or volunteer through your church,” Virginia says. “There are opportunities all around us.” They are especially excited about the relocation of the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum to Forsythe Park. They see lots of potential for the park, and know that this museum will be an important anchor for it. Both are dog lovers and would love to see a dog park incorporated within Forsythe Park.
When asked how the pandemic had impacted them, both were quick to say that COVID created opportunities to learn to adapt. They were in Cabo celebrating their anniversary when the virus first appeared. Since then, they have had to cancel a trip to St. Petersburg and a cruise to the Holy Land because of travel restrictions. As far as business goes, the pandemic gave Joey an opportunity to strengthen the customer service portion of their enterprise. Both admit enjoying the slower pace, but also admit that it was a very stressful time for everyone. “We were lucky and stayed healthy,” Joey says, “but some of our friends were not.” Virginia’s biggest challenge was cooking every meal during lockdown. She kept a list of everything that she cooked for dinner, most of it she says was not worth repeating!
Having developed two very successful careers, today both Joey and Virginia are happily involved in doing the things that they love. Even when retired, they will never stop noticing an especially creative landscape or a particularly beautiful interior, but they will do so more for pleasure than for business. Both are talented, creative designers who have made the world a more beautiful place for everyone.