Meet the 'Lovely sisters'

DeRon Talley
Angelia K. Thompson (center) stands with Ascension Parish Sheriff, Jeff Wiley (left) and her supervisor Schewanda Taylor (right) at her retirement banquet.

When you grow up in a big family and in a town like Donaldsonville, your mother is almost expected to be your hero. So, it's not surprising that sisters Angelia K. Thompson and Marydine K. Emery believes the same. Now, both retired in their respective careers, Thompson from the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, and Emery from the Ascension Parish School Board, these two sisters who had four other siblings found a way to succeed by keeping God and family first.

Thompson worked for the Sheriff's Office for 34 years in the tax department and worked her way up to being an assistant supervisor. She collected property taxes. She attended Spencer-Draughon Business College in Baton Rouge and had one other job before joining at the ASPO under then-Sheriff Harold Tridico in 1976.

Emery is a graduate of Southern University in 1975 and began her education career as a teacher. Through her career she worked at various schools in the surrounding parishes before getting back to her home parish where she wanted to be. She spent her last 11 years serving as a principal with her most recent school being at Donaldsonville Elementary School.

Both Emery and Thompson found their motivation and inspiration from their mother, whom they credit their success to. Their mother, Doradine Knockem, worked as a nurse and always pushed her children to do better than she and pressed on them to know that she was their rock.

"She was our role model," Emery said, the older of the two sisters, "the rock of the family. Mom is our hero. She instilled in us to be the best you can be. I don't look at TV for heroes, I look at my mom. I always wanted to make her proud."

According to the two sisters, Knockem did an awesome job raising six successful children. The family is very close-knit and Thompson and Emery share so much love that they even share a nickname that the gave each other – "lovely."

"We call each other lovely, she calls me lovely and I call her lovely," Thompson said.

Of the two sisters, Thompson retired first on March 15 and after 34 years of work she learned she was the first African American to retire from the APSO.

"I'm proud of her because its an honor that is so deserving for her being that first one," Emery said about her sister being the first African American to retire from the APSO, "she made it.

As a child, Thompson never pictured herself doing a job like as she did. She always wanted to be a school secretary.

"My sister used to always play like she was a teacher and I used to always have to be a secretary," Thompson said, who is the mother of one son. "I used to love a job like that – off during holidays."

Thompson said the best part about working at the APSO was that she truly knew her job. The hard thing was just the idea of how to deal with co-workers and being able to adjust to make sure there was no tension towards anybody. One of her co-workers, Roger, and she used to get together and make fun in the office the keep the place positive while working.

Unlike her lovely sister, Emery knew since the third grade she would be a teacher and she stuck to it. She remembers teaching to stuffed teddy bears and wearing high heels to dress like a teacher even then.

"A teacher was a very respectable person and I loved teachers," Emery said, "starting with my mother who is my first teacher."

The lovely sisters had long and successful careers, but that success didn't come without challenges and hardships. During Emery's time as principal at DES, the school could not avoid scoring an "F" on the school performance report card given by the Louisiana Education Department. She knew the students were learning, but there seemed to be no way to improve their scores.

"I just wanted to show growth with our students," Emery said, who is the mother of one daughter. "Right now we are in a turn around zone."

One of the things Thompson learned over her career was, "You can keep bending me, but I'm not going to let you break me," in reference to any obstacles that posed threat to her on the job.

On a normal day on the job, Thompson would clock in for 8 a.m. Now that she is retired, at 8 a.m. she isn't punching in on a time sheet, she's lounging around.

"I wake up everyday and don't decide to do anything. I don't have plans to do anything," Thompson said. "I just do what the spirit leads me to do. If I want to stay home and bum around that's what I'm going to do."

After a long career in the workforce, Thompson now does what she's always known to do, enjoy and love life. Especially since her lovely sister Emery is retired too. She said when her sister retired in May she was jumping for joy.

"My dream was always for us to retire together, but she was always more of a work-a-holic than I am."

Thompson said when she isn't calling Emery "lovely" then she refers to her as Mother Theresa because she always wants to do the right thing and is encouraging her to do the right thing.

The lovely sisters have many to thank for helping them throughout their long careers whether it be God, family, supervisors or coworkers they slight no one of the glory deserved for the impact in their lives. After all, these two lovely sisters have a combined 70 years of work experience. It's time for a cruise into the sunset and they plan to do that, Emery said as soon as Thompson lets her know when.