LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - "The greatest gift of life is friendship," said Hubert H. Humphrey.
Such is true of Cissie McLeod and Angel Wright. The two women, born and raised in Lake Charles, were college roommates at LSU in 1958 when the university won its first national title. They've remained avid fans of their alma mater, even going so far as to call each other every time LSU plays.
It's that love and devotion of their alma mater that inspired Wright's daughter, Mary Tausig, to purchase tickets for them both to attend the LSU-Clemson game on Jan. 13.
It was after McLeod's heart cath procedure when she woke that she was told to call her best friend. "When I came to and they were bringing me some food, they told me to call Angel. She had said 'Mama, you have to call Angel now. As soon as you finish eating, you have to call Angel.' So, finally, they were hurrying me up to eat … I called her and she said 'Roomie, we're going to the LSU game!' " McLeod said. "I haven't done anything this week but pray that we're both well enough to go to the game… and get my LSU things together!"
"Oh, I was so excited!" Angel said.
Tausig spoke about what it meant to her to be able to give the gift of going to this game.
"It means a lot. My mom, I think because she was an only child, her friends meant everything to her and it helped my sister and I value friendship and know that you know you want to hold on to those friends that you connect with early on … so, you know, it means a lot. Cissie really helped me when Mama couldn't talk after her stroke and just pushed me to get the right care and have faith and power through it," Tausig said, tearing up as she spoke.
She said McLeod sent both a cross and an LSU Tiger to hold onto during Wright's recovery.
"We'll be screaming and hollering 'Go Tigers!' " both Wright and McLeod said.
As for advice for their favorite football team, they had choice words: "Play clean, and hard, and win!"
"I am really proud of LSU," McLeod said.
Both women hold their childhood near and dear as they recalled their extensive connections throughout the community. Childhood memories include them both being picked up from school about once a month to get hamburgers on Broad Street and going to a movie before having a sleepover at Wright's home.
"We had a wonderful, wonderful childhood," said McLeod.
The two women turned 82 in August, have survived extensive health problems together, and have kept their friendship strong despite currently living in different cities. The two graduated from LSU in 1958, with McLeod majoring in education and Wright in foreign commerce with a minor in banking.
"We were very fortunate to have gone to grammar school together, to high school together, to college and we're still friends all these years," McLeod said. "That's why we're so thrilled we're alive and we're here, and we both have health issues, but we're still friends and LSU Tigers and Lake Charles kids and our families know and love each other, and you know, very few people get to have what we've had and have."
"Not that we've never had fights!" chimed in Angel.
Both women attended Lake Charles High School, and spoke praises to their old school, including singing an old-time favorite the "Beer, Beer" song.
"Nobody believes that we got away with singing that," mentioned McLeod before she and Wright sang it.
The two fondly recall the year they were in school when LSU won its first national title.
"Everybody that had got Time Magazine was just running around and hollering - and that was the fall of our senior year," said McLeod. "On campus, it just went around. We didn't have TV and all that, so everything was just word-of-mouth."
The LSU Tigers football team finished the season with a No. 1 ranking in both 1958 and 2007.
"I thought we'd died and gone to heaven," Wright said.
Many fond memories were shared of their time as roommates, one such memory including falling asleep listening to their record player in their dorm room and blasting fans due to the lack of air conditioning, as well as the time they snuck cigarettes from their parents on move-in day.
"We were freshman in the fall of '55 and Mr. Stockwell and my Daddy put our curtains up in our rooms, and our mommas made the beds, and our friends had given us this carton of cigarettes and we had hidden them in our drawers! When our parents left, we had gone over to pull them out, but then all of a sudden (Mr. Stockwell) had come in and he said, 'I forgot my hammer.' We shoved that drawer in so fast we almost pinched our fingers! We've never forgotten that happened to us, and he almost caught us," recalled McLeod and Wright, laughing as they remembered.
Other fond memories as they grew older together included more recent slumber parties in the hospital, luncheons, and the phone calls on game day to cheer on their favorite team.
When they aren't talking or visiting one another, they spend their time giving back to their community.
Wright spends time working with a cancer support group, Faith Fighting Cancer, which provides help for mothers and children in their community in Montgomery County. One thing that they do is provide Christmas for families with a mother or child who has cancer.
"We get a list of the things they want, and we bring them all wrapped and they think that Santa brought them. It's just so hard on the mothers," Wright said.
McLeod mentioned donating to the group, and a memory of meeting the other volunteers when visiting her best friend in Texas.
"We're probably as close as sisters…the older we get, the more we appreciate it," ended McLeod, "I think both of us are still here because we've had each other to hold onto."