Blazing the Trail: Generations of Strength and Love
IN THE HEART of downtown Covington, a trio of mother, daughter and granddaughter serve as a powerful example of keeping the word “family” in family law practice. Collectively, Mary Beoubay Petruccelli, Tracy Ann Petruccelli, and Kristen Jeanne Pouey constitute the three-generation firm bringing legal representation and services to the community. The quaint, residential exterior of the building, designed by Tracy’s husband Richard Pouey, exemplifies the iconic style of the city’s historic district, though the building offers much more than a pleasant facade. When stepping through the front door, clients are embraced with an energy that’s a potent blend of empowerment, nurturing, focus, and drive.
This dynamic trio’s story begins with matriarch Mary Beoubay Petruccelli, who grew up in Uptown New Orleans. Following her graduation from Fortier High School in 1955, she worked for a decade as a secretary at Loyola University. In 1963, she married Luca Petruccelli and the couple moved to Chalmette. Their only daughter, Tracy, was born a year later. Then tragedy struck. Just three years and three months after Mary and Luca had married, he passed away, leaving her to raise her 22-month-old daughter alone. The grieving widow was understandably uncertain as to what she should do next. After much soul searching, she made the decision to complete her college degree. Over the next four years, she attended night school at Loyola University earning her undergraduate degree in 1969. Then she set her sights even higher— a law degree.
She was a woman on a mission, determined to provide a good life for her daughter. However, there were cynics who doubted her, including one of her undergraduate professors.“You have to remember, this was the 1960s, at a time women aspired to be law clerks,” she says. “He told me the most I could hope to be was a ghostwriter.” With a sly smile, she adds, “He was wrong.”
In 1973, after several more years of night classes at Loyola Law School, Mary earned her Juris Doctor degree. Of the 80 law students in her class, only five were women. Her remarkable accomplishments opened the door for both her daughter and granddaughter. In 1985, Tracy earned her undergraduate degree and in 1988 her Juris Doctor, both from Loyola. Kristen followed suit, earning her undergraduate degree from Tulane in 2014 and her Juris Doctor from Loyola in 2017.
It was the first time in the one hundred year history of Loyola Law School that three generations of women had earned their Juris Doctors in its halls. During the commencement ceremony, Mary and Tracy joined Kristen on the stage for the conferring of Kristen’s degree. “It was one of my proudest moments ever,” said Tracy. “I always knew Mama was a powerful woman,” Tracy continued, “so even though others viewed her as a trailblazer, to me, that was just ‘normal.’ She was fearless and she taught me that I could do anything if I worked hard for it.”
“It was absolutely incredible to grow up with two such amazing role models,” says Kristen. “I feel each of them is a powerful force in her own right. Anything men can do, Mom and Grammy can do better.” They beam. She smiles.
However the road to academic and professional achievement was not without its hardships. Like many who now call the Northshore “home,” this family was living in St. Bernard Parish in 2005, a place devastated by the storm that redefined life for so many. “We lost everything in Katrina—our social clubs, our friends and our church,” said Tracy. “Our family lived closely together on our own little compound of sorts. We lost all of that. It was heartbreaking.”
The entire family—Mary, Tracy, Richard, and their children, Kristen and Trent—relocated to Covington. Kristen and Trent would eventually return to the Southshore to pursue higher education and are now neighbors in Uptown New Orleans. Trent is in the final phases of obtaining his CPA license.
At Loyola, Kristen carried on a family tradition: standing out from the crowd. She received five Asterisk Awards denoting the top student in a given class. She also served on the Loyola Law Review before graduating in the top 10 percent of her class.
She also shared a tidbit of which many of her colleagues are unaware: her career choice of attorney was not her first option. “Because I was such a prolific reader and had such an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I initially was guided toward a career in medicine. I had planned to become a doctor, and Mom and Grammy were very supportive of my choice.” Around her sophomore year, Kristen realized that she enjoyed English and history more than sciences, and she became aware that medicine was not her calling. She was initially reluctant to share that epiphany with her mother, not knowing what response she would receive. Of course, Tracy assured her daughter that no matter which career path Kristen chose, her family would support her. “But secretly, I always knew she was going to be an attorney,” smiled Tracy. “I just had to let her find her own way.”
Citing the importance of a well-rounded education, Kristen says she doesn’t regret the time she dedicated to studying medicine. The former psychology major says those studies have been a tremendous asset in her work. “So much of what we do in family law is based as much in psychology as it is in law,” she says.
But the law isn’t the only passion these three ladies share. They can sum up the other in two words: Mardi Gras. Each of the ladies has reigned as queen of a Mardi Gras Krewe. For Tracy, that honor has been bestowed upon her on four occasions. Her husband Richard and son Trent have both also reigned as King. “We just love the pomp and circumstance, the crowns, the royalty, the balls, as well as watching and participating in parades,” says Tracy. “We love the whole New Orleans tradition!” It’s a passion inherited from Mary, who never missed an opportunity to parade with a krewe from 1967 through 2005. These days, Mary is often content to take in the festivities from the family’s condo, conveniently located on the parade route.
As for Covington, Mary says she loves the laid back pace of the community, while Tracy enjoys the myriad events that take place throughout the year, noting the concerts at the Trailhead and the art walks as among her favorites. Kristen loves the quaint beauty of Downtown.
Kristen’s scenic commute through Covington allows her to prepare for the busy days so common in her work. Like her grandmother and mother before her, Kristen is motivated to tirelessly serve her neighbors in their times of greatest need. “At the end of the day, our goal as family attorneys is to work to ensure that our clients don’t need us anymore,” says Kristen. “Because for our clients, this isn’t just about their case. It’s their life.”
Petruccelli Law Office, LLC is located at 425 W. 21st Avenue in Covington. For more information please visit petruccellilaw.com or call 985-867-8966.