By Marilyn Miller
“Well, you know, the funny thing is, I never dreamed I’d be a ‘stay-at-home’ mom for 20 years.”
That was Jessica Stewart Gorman reflecting on her days at Minden High School in the 90’s, when she and her girlfriends were all going to be “career women,” working while pursuing their dreams of husbands and children.
So when her sister asked her one day, “What are you going to do when your kids are grown?” she was taken aback! Because she was forced to confront the fact that her kids WERE almost grown. And that she had stayed home to raise them, while her husband, Ben Gorman, traveled a lot for his job. Today, the Gorman’s oldest child, 21-year-old Ashton, attends BPCC, pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering, Automation & Controls; and daughter, Aubrey, is in her Junior year of “virtual” high school. Not being as tied to her kids’ activities allowed Jessica to travel with her husband some, and gave her more time to enjoy her hobby, Genealogy.
“I’d been interested in Genealogy since I was a teen,” Jessica said. And that led to an interest in cemeteries. And then cemetery preservation. She recalled when Ashton and Aubrey were younger, and they would visit historic and rural cemeteries, making field trips out of their visits. And then COVID hit! And everything stopped.
Once everything started up again, Jessica thought she would enjoy working on the historic Minden Cemetery. She knew Schelley Brown Francis, executive director of the Dorcheat Museum, was a member of the Minden Cemetery Association, so she called her, asking if they could use some help with cleaning.
“And then I thought I might like Cemetery Preservation,” Jessica recalled, participating in on-line seminars and area workshops to learn more about it. “The National Center for Technology and Training is actually headquartered in Natchitoches and falls under the National Park Service,” Jessica offered. “It is so wonderful to learn from nationally-known preservationists.”
Jessica recalled talking to Schelley in November of 2021. When Schelley asked Jessica if she would be willing to help out at the museum, Jessica recalls being “only” willing to help out some “because of her other responsibilities.”
By January of 2022, she was helping out at the museum every day. And five months ago, when Schelley decided it was time to retire, Jessica was appointed executive director by the museum Board.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Jessica said, obviously feeling right at home in the historical playland that Wesley Harris, historian for the Claiborne Parish Museum, refers to as the “Smithsonian, on a smaller scale.”
What’s coming up for the Dorcheat Museum?
- Nov. 4, 2023; hosting the North Louisiana Historical Association Meeting (Gorman is on the Board);
- Dec. 8-9, 2023; Christmas in Minden, history on the Hayride and “Kids Crafts” at the museum (which attracted 350 children to City Art Works in 2022);
The Museum is once again hosting its “Night at the Museum” evenings the first Monday of each month.
Jessica reminds the public that the Dorcheat Museum is not supported financially by the City, Parish or State. “If our doors are open, it’s because an individual wrote us a check,” she said. However, donations are now accepted at the museum website, www.dorcheatmuseum.com.