Handyman’s handyman loved spending time with family

Joseph Toups Jr. became a handyman from such an early age that he might as well been born with a wrench in his hand.

In 1927, he was the fifth of nine children born to Joseph and Laura Toups. Together, the Toups raised their children on their farm in the Raceland–St. Charles Community. There, the family subsisted off what their farm produced.

The farmhouse had no natural gas or running water. I t was up to them to collect firewood, water and gather eggs from the chickens every day.

Of Joseph’s eight siblings, five were boys. During their formative years, they would do anything to make a buck. They would do any kind of handyman work they could.

They also developed a mutual passion for mechanics. The boys would take the old husks of Ford Model T’s and repair them, breathing new life into what was an iconic ride. They were a mischievous bunch, too. Nothing too bad, though.

“Whenever we could steal a gallon of gas, we would make them run,” said Louis Toups, Joseph’s brother. “We learned to do terrible things when we were young!”

The Toups brothers never had formal mechanical training. They learned by doing. By trial and error. They taught themselves to weld. They may not have had welding masks, but that didn’t stop them. The acquired a lathe and learned to shape metal.

“We were really lucky,” Louis said.

Joseph and his siblings attended Thibodaux College, which was actually the high school at the time. Today, it is called E.D. White Catholic High School.

Shortly after graduating, Joseph and his brothers started their own handyman business, called Toups Brothers. Together, they repaired everything from tractors to old bells. Later, they also started a sugar cane trucking business.

In 1952, Joseph accompanied an injured worker of his to St. Joseph Hospital, which later became Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. There, he met a pretty nurse named Geneva Champagne. Her co-workers encouraged the two to date and love blossomed. They were married a year later.

Together, they raised three children: Michael, Paul and Melanie. The two were very much in love all of their lives.

Joseph worked hard six days a week to provide for his children. To him, nothing was more important than family and he relished time spent with them. The family gathered every Sunday.

He and his wife also enjoyed time with friends. The core group of five couples called themselves “The Ten Commandments.”

Joseph never met a stranger. Whenever he could, he spent time talking to people. If he went to a store, he would chat with them for 20 minutes before heading on his way.

Joseph loved to laugh and tell jokes. Though he loved one more than the other.

“He couldn’t tell a joke to save his life,” his son, Paul Toups, said. “He would start laughing before he finished the joke!”

In 2010, Geneva died in a car accident. Joseph was heartbroken. The two had been married for 57 years. So, Joseph leaned more on his family. For a while, he went to bed sad and woke up sad, Paul said. But his love for family and joy for life helped him prevail.

He loved to roller skate to stay fit and taught his children and grandchildren how to skate. They spent many days slicing pavement together.

He was protective of his children. He wasn’t stern, but gentle. He taught them by example.

Once, Paul and his brother, Michael, wanted to go fishing. Joseph had checked the weather and saw that a storm was coming. He forbade them from getting on the water. The boys disobeyed him, though, and went anyway.

“The storm just passed overhead,” Paul said. “And we caught a lot of fish.”

The brothers returned home and showed their father their catch. He just remained silent. He went out to the truck and removed the hitch.

Without uttering a word, Joseph told his sons what he thought of their misdeed.

Joseph Toups Jr.