News Article on Ila Normon Hennesy

Ila Normon Hennesy, b. 1904 Aug 1 in Louisiana, married to Lutie S. Seal (unknown date), was the son of Meredith Bunyan “Merida” Hennesy and Lular R.

Meredith was a son of James L. Hennesy and Nancy Caroline Welch.

Below Ila is shown *not* slicing cheese, which seems rather unfair since that’s what he was known for doing at Stoney Branch festivals. They could have gotten him some cheese to slice for the photo op. The device he’s shown with is, as said below, a hoop cheese slicer. I read at Wikipedia that hoop cheese is a fine, dry, cottage cheese similar to farmer’s cheese, but that it’s “difficult to find commercially in the United States, due to the difficulty of automating the manufacturing process. It was once so popular, however, that a device called a hoop cheese cutter was manufactured and used in general stores during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Yet it is given as still sold at some independent stores, gas stations and restaurants in the south.

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Fair icon Ila Hennesy dies at 97
Well-known Mile Branch Volunteer

by Steve Kuperstock

One of the most familiar faces of the Washington Parish Fair is no longer with us.

Ila Hennesy, 97, passed away last weekend at his home in Stoney Point.

Mr. Hennesy was known to most everyone who ever passed through Mile Branch Settlement. When you stopped for a tasty snack of hoop cheese at the Bankston Store, there would be Mr. Hennesy, standing at the cheese cutter, slicing away.

“Mr. Ila would stay on his feet in the store until he got tired, then he would sit on the porch and tell his stories,” recalled Dal Hounshell, a former Miles Branch chairman.

“He never left the settlement grounds. He is someone who will be really missed at Mile Branch.”

Mr. Hennesy was an encyclopedia of knowledge about a Washington Parish of bygone days. He had been the long-time owner and operator of Hennesy’s General Store, right at the intersection in Stoney Point. The store itself was a wonderful, old place, even after it closed, because Mr. Hennesy had mountains of items in there, what some might call junk but what would be called relics by others.

A Farm Bureau dealer for many years, he was the subject of a Louisiana Farm Bureau television network feature several years ago, with a crew coming out from Baton Rouge to tape the interview. The interview was taped right inside the old store, and Mr. Hennesy spun his wonderfully interesting tales of yesteryear for the TV audience.

His family, his store, and Sunlight Baptist Church were his priorities, but Mr. Hennesy made plenty of time for Mile Branch Settlement. He had been one of the original volunteers, and he prided himself on being at the settlement for every fair, despite his advancing age.

“He could always be counted on,” remembered Virginia Killingsworth, who worked with Mr. Hennesy for years at Mile Branch. “He was a man of faith, courage, strength, and he was a joy to work with. He was a great credit to his community. He was a gentleman and a scholar, but that doesn’t even cover it. Mr. Ila embodied all of the old-fashioned qualities. He was, quite simply, an icon of strong moral character.”

Slicing cheese at Mile Branch year after year, Mr. Hennesy once described earlier days when that’s the way the cheese was sold.

“You used to go to the store and they would cut off just exactly the size of cheese that you wanted,” he explained.

Mr. Hennesy was full of memories such as that, and he always had the time — he took the time — to share those memories with his cheese customers or with anyone who wanted to pass the time of day. As Mrs. Killingsworth said, he was an icon — an icon of Mile Branch and of the Fair in general. Yes, he was. And with his passing a part of our special October fair heritage leaves us.

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Below is Stoney Point. It is a small place.

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