“You have to be a good listener — listening is the most important thing,” Lee Lapointe, Marthasville, said of being a hospital chaplain.
During her chaplaincy, Lapointe said she would do whatever she could to make the family comfortable while their loved one was ill.
“If that was getting ice water or making coffee, that’s what I would do,” she said. “There’s not a formula. You know God is with you in whatever you do and you learn as you go. God never lets you down.”
Of Lapointe’s long list of accomplishments, becoming a chaplain is what she said she is most proud of.
Lapointe began as a volunteer with the pastoral care department at what is now Mercy Hospital.
Sister Faith Matney (now deceased), who was in charge of pastoral care at the time, encouraged her to get formal training.
In about 1993, Lapointe heeded her advice and took a training course in clinical pastoral education and trained at Jefferson Barracks, the state hospital, and at Mercy.
Lapointe said she had wonderful people to work with and lead her through chaplaincy.
She also served as a parish ministry associate (PMA) at Peace Lutheran, an ELCA church in Washington.
The program was designed with her Synod and one other to help fill in where ministers were needed in rural areas.
Lapointe preached, which she no longer does, and worked in pastoral care.
Though she’s mostly retired from both positions now, Lapointe spent her time visiting the sick members of the church and hospital, conducted Bible studies, administered Communion and any other tasks that needed completed.
“I loved doing it,” Lapointe said.
When her late husband got sick, Lapointe backed off the pastoral care duties to tend to her husband.
Lapointe said God and Sister Faith led her to do the work.
“You never give it up,” she said. “It’s always a part of who you are.”
Earlier this year, Peace Lutheran Church honored Lapointe for 17 years of service as a PMA. She also was recognized for years of chaplaincy at Mercy.
Lapointe always loved cooking, so it was no surprise to her family and friends when she decided to open a restaurant in the mid- ’80s in Augusta, where she was living at the time.
“There were two wineries in Augusta then and no place to eat except the tavern,” Lapointe said.
She found an old building and called the state representative to see what she needed to do in order to open it as a restaurant. She and her late husband, Gene, made a few repairs and with that, Farmer’s Hotel restaurant was born.
The building had once been “Farmer’s Inn” which is how Lapointe chose the restaurant name.
The “country-French” restaurant was open five days per week. Lapointe made all the bread from scratch each morning, as well as all of the entrees.
“There was something that just burned in me that I had to do that,” Lapointe said, “And I’m glad I did.”
Lapointe said running the restaurant was rewarding.
“I met lots of wonderful people,” she said.
After about four years, Lapointe decided to close the Augusta restaurant and start one on the Washington riverfront — in the building that is now Old Vine Riverfront Bistro.
The restaurant, called “Lapointe’s” was only open a couple of months before the flood of 1993.
“When you live on one side of the river and your business is on the other side of the river, it makes it tough,” she said.
During the flood, Lapointe had to stay in Washington and couldn’t open her business when the road was completely underwater.
“My husband said, ‘Dear, just close the place,’ and I did,” she said.
She was paying a floral bill and told someone in the store she was planning to sell the restaurant. The man offered to buy it.
“I was free as a bird for about three years,” Lapointe said. But then, she started missing running a restaurant.
She and her husband added a new dining room and bathroom to Farmer’s Hotel and she reopened the restaurant in Augusta.
She ran the restaurant for about seven years before she decided to hang up her apron — this time, for good.
“Running a restaurant kitchen is hard work,” she said, adding that she worked there every day. “We made apple crisp until it came out of our ears.”
Restaurant visitors and friends would tell Lapointe she should write a cookbook. Once she had closed the Washington restaurant, before reopening in Augusta, Lapointe collected her favorite recipes and created a self-published cookbook completely written and illustrated by hand.
Because the recipes were her own and she didn’t use measurements to cook, Lapointe said she “really had to do some studying” to put the recipes on paper.
The cookbook proved to be a success. Lapointe did three printings of the book and only has three of the cookbooks left.
“It was a load of fun to do,” Lapointe said. “It was well received.”
Just over a year ago, Lapointe began quilting with Peace Lutheran Church. She had quilted on her own, but never with a group. Now, she quilts once each week at the home of Arlys Hopkins, Washington, with a small group of ladies.
She also keeps a garden at her home with flower beds and a separate vegetable garden where she grows potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, squash, onions and other vegetables.
Lapointe loves reading and said she spends a lot of time at the Washington Public Library.
Although she doesn’t have a favorite book, she enjoys reading mysteries.
Originally from Holyoke, Mass., Lapointe, nee Clark, has lived in Marthasville for 25 years.
Gene Lapointe was an engineer for Monsanto. The couple moved to the area for his job.
They had four children, John, Barbara, George and Val.
Lapointe has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Looking back, Lapointe said she wouldn’t change anything about her life.
“It’s been a good life,” she said.