Big Easy transplants making SK a better place

Heavy rains and wind lashed against her home, churning the world as she knew it upside down.

Still she did not fear. She had ridden through hurricanes before.

Her family was safe, their clothes packed in the event that things grew too dangerous. When they didn’t and a peaceful morning came, friends and other family members joined her family and prepared to venture out to check on the destruction wrought by Katrina.

The voice of a good friend startled her away from her preparations. “Miss Eloise,” it said, “Look, there’s water coming through your apartment.” Snatching up her little 6-month-old great-grandson, Miss Eloise Labostrie turned and by the time she reached her bedroom door, water chest-high flooded her home.

Higher and higher her family crawled until they found themselves trapped in the attic, unprepared for this new eventuality. For three days they survived attic life, talking and singing to each other to calm their fears.

Eloise’s grandson had punched a hole through the roof and they could see sunlight and helicopters.

After three and a half days they climbed aboard a helicopter, looking down to see their home fully engulfed in water, everything lost.

The next month was spent in shelters, then a grandson in the Pacific Northwest, Dorian Fasce and his wife Amy, found Eloise and brought her here to Port Orchard.

In spite of her great loss, which included two underwater cars she still had to pay for, she managed in 10 months to find a job and an apartment.

She had spent 18 years working for the Sheriff’s Office in New Orleans and now works for a senior assistance service providing long-term care.

She considers herself very lucky.

“It’s amazing how many people were looking out for me and still do — Beth Wilson and Ellen Newberg, Charlotte Garrido and of course, my family.”

“That’s easy,” Kealani Davis explains, “When you meet her, you fall instantly in love with her.”

Not everyone was so lucky. Miss Eloise’s best friend of 31 years died two months ago, her heart broken from the losses inflicted by Katrina.

Optimism and a burning desire to give, kept Miss Eloise going, as well as friends and family.

Her new friend Kealani met her through a son, who said that Miss Eloise loved and needed chocolate chip cookies.

Not even knowing her, Kealani baked them for her and found “an incredibly giving woman, who really embraces people, just where they’re at, which is a real gift.”

Like herself, she found Miss Eloise to be a grown-up mom, full of opinions and sass, love and laughter.

She found someone willing to stand up for people and causes, someone singing while “keeping the revolution of democracy alive.”

She found someone who, together with a half dozen or so other Kitsap women, calls herself a “Raging Granny.”

“I used to drag my toddler to protests back in the day,” Kealani describes, “so when Eloise told me that she was a member of the Raging Grannies, I knew they were for me.”

From the Web site, www.kitsapraginggrannies.org, the Kitsap Gaggle of the Raging Grannies “is a group of ... women who call attention to important issues – in a humorous way, in a variety of venues, sometimes invited and sometimes not.”

They sing songs about literacy, healthcare, education, corporate greed (“we’re against it”), the environment, “ageism, sexism, racism and all the other -isms that hurt others.”

They perform at a variety of functions, with their next scheduled performance being at the Great Peninsula Future Festival to be held in Port Gamble on Aug. 2 and 3.

There they’ll laugh, tickle the funny bones and delight.

Their motto is, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and they’ll be accepting new members again in September, just in time for fall elections.

Like Miss Eloise, another New Orleans native is making his mark on Port Orchard.

He didn’t leave escaping a hurricane’s aftermath, however.

Buddha Dickson, who is half Cajun and half Jamaican, left to attend culinary arts school after having grown up cooking with his grandmother in her Cajun restaurant.

He spent some time in Jamaica immersing himself in its culinary wonders, finding a love of beautiful, exotic and delightful foods, before beginning a formal education in Texas, followed by time at the Cordon Bleu School in France.

The chance to travel as a “traveling chef” drew him to the Pacific Northwest, but it was pure luck — or as Diane Kelly believes, pure faith — that landed him in the Honey on the Rock Steak House.

She tells a story of a rock deep in the heart of the barren Holy Land that once a day when the warmth of the sunlight hits it right, will ooze sweet, succulent honey just when a weary traveler happening by would need some.

Finding Buddha in her restaurant just days before her established cook was slated to leave was like finding manna in the desert.

Discovering what he could do in the kitchen was like having a piece of that rich, sweet honey drench the manna, rendering it a sure, pure gift from above.

That’s how Diane tells the story. Buddha described trials and errors as he and a friend searched for restaurants that would enrich their culinary experience, offering them a taste of the Northwest and found nothing that fit the bid, until a restaurant vendor suggested, “this nice church lady with a great steak house.”

The two fit together, matching each others’ desires and wishes for restaurant fare.

Diane, along with her family, owns several Honey on the Rock establishments – a café in the basement of the courthouse, an espresso stand and a catering business, but this was her first big foray into a running a full restaurant.

Buddha wanted the chance to work and play — and from the sounds of it, his work is play.

He expanded the menu to include roasted duck and rack of lamb and pulls in only high-end steaks from the Blue Mesa Ranch.

Like Eloise, giving of himself seems to keep him strong. In spite of battling cancer, he comes to work energized and excited to try new things out on Port Orchard palates.

With permission from Diane to play, he offers periodic theme dinners, taking patrons all the way through a country’s culinary wonders from wine to dessert.

Other times he offers fun, comfort food that everyone knows and loves. Every day he finds something new and exciting to share.

Like Eloise, he’s happy sharing a little bit of New Orleans with us. On July 28, he will dig through his repertoire of good. old-fashioned Southern recipes to prepare a true Southern style feast for Honey on the Rock’s Southern Gospel Supper.

The dinner is complete with fried chicken and okra, corn on the cob, ham hocks and — I hope — sweet potato pie, along with real Gospel music sung by the Gamlens who serve as music pastors at the Christian Life Center.

Reservations for two separate meal times are available.

Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?

Mary Colborn is a

Port Orchard resident.

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