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Spirit of Acadiana: The grandmother who saved Roy Motors

Posted at 7:58 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 20:58:41-04

There’s a piece of history at Roy Motors in Opelousas; specifically, the invoice from the company’s very first sale. $1,123 for a 1936 Oldsmobile. But what a lot of people don’t know is what happened only a few years after that sale, and how a woman / mother / grandmother kept Roy Motors going during what could have been a very tough time.

That woman was Marie Roy, the mother of Roy Motors’ Chairman of the Board, 93-year old Martin Roy, Jr. "She operated the business. She was the dealer. She was the official dealer of Roy Motors. Probably the only female dealer in Louisiana, maybe the United States." It was 1943--and Roy Motors in Opelousas had only been open for seven years. Then tragedy struck-- with the death of founder, Martin Roy, Sr., died. “He was in a boating accident and fell in the water and drowned,” recalls Martin.

And a general manager who'd been hired only a year before died soon after. The life of Roy Motors hung in the balance, and essentially rested in the hands of Martin Roy's wife, Marie. “it is amazing that she was able to do what she did,” says her grandson Charlie. “Not many women were working at the time; not many women were allowed to work. But she stepped up and kept things going. and she made sure that everything would stay here.”

Busy raising three kids when husband died, Marie Roy didn't know a thing about the business. But she went to trade school, learned bookkeeping, and handled accounts receivable and payables. She was dealer… a woman running the dealership...and that didn't sit too well with the franchisor, Oldsmobile.

“Yes, there was unofficial pressure,” explains Martin, Jr. “They never said anything about her. But they did imply they did not want a female operating the business.“ But Marie kept at it. She didn't micromanage, she let people who knew what they were doing do their jobs. “She kept it going, and she treated employees and customers and everyone the same; it didn't matter,” says another grandson, Martin “Marty” Roy III.

You want to talk legends on Mothers’ Day? Make sure you mention…. Marie Holman Roy. “Without my mom,” says Martin, Jr., “we would have probably been closed. She kept it going.”

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