"I was trying to figure out what I would call it, and I decided it is a great homage to my grandmother."
The older generation of Gonzales undoubtedly remembers Nora Lee Ricca. An original Jambalaya Festival Association representative, Ricca once famously received a kiss from former President Jimmy Carter at the White House.
Although she passed away September 25, 1980 her legacy extends back to Washington D.C. today in the form of her grandson, Brandt.
Thirty-one-year-old Brandt Ricca is from Gonzales, but he lives in Washington D.C. for the past eight years. He is the son of Russ and Margaret Ricca. Brandt has been a huge community advocate in the District being involved as a chair for the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, 17th Street Festival, Dog Days of Summer and other local committees in the D.C. area.
"I've always been told to do my own events company because of all the stuff I'm involved in," Brandt said. "I don't typically make money from these endeavors, so I decided to do it. I was trying to figure out what I would call it, and I decided it is a great homage to my grandmother."
Additionally, in 2016 he started the planning process of founding his own event, Allison Gala, in memory of a close family friend benefitting the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. The first year they raised $25,000 dollars, garnering coverage from Washingtonian Magazine that continues into the gala’s sophomore year this coming September.
"I've felt like a kindred spirit of her," Brandt said. "Even though I never met her, I've been told by my family that I'm a lot like her. Now I own the Nora Lee name as a business."
The tagline for Brandt's event planning company in his grandmother's same name is fitting: "Events. Life. Occasions." This since Nora Lee is remembered as a Louisiana socialite who was actively involved in her community. The Gonzales High School class of 1947 graduate wrote for the Gonzales Weekly in the 1950’s, planned parties, and became President of the JFA.
Moreover, in 1980 she served President Jimmy Carter jambalaya for himself and others on the White House lawn where her life’s work was recognized. That same year she passed away suddenly at the age of 50.
Since her passing a “Nora Lee” award is given out to someone in the community in which she lived in Louisiana to someone who exemplifies the call of volunteerism and service.
Along with having community advocacy in common with his grandmother, Brandt also shares in being involved in the writing world. He has authored the children's book series, "The Barris Books," and is a member of the national Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators. He has a journalism background, freelance reporting for newspapers in the Virginia area before relocating to Washington D.C.
Ranging with experience from planning weddings, galas, festivals, fundraisers and all in between, it is with the memory of his grandmother Nora Lee, that Brandt continues her legacy delivering first class service to the events of people’s lives in Washington D.C. with the launch of his event's company "Nora Lee, Events. Life. Occasions."
It appears Nora Lee, who after she passed was dubbed “the life of the party” in a full page memoir featured in the Gonzales Weekly after her passing, is back in Washington D.C. 38 years later.
"When my gala hits on September 10, that will be the debut of the Nora Lee logo," Brandt said. "It will be on the red carpet wall."
The logo is Nora Lee's actual signature. For more information, the website is www.eventsbynoralee.com.