New Orleans resident Fannie Eugene has always been the type of person who puts others' needs before her own. Her heart, her family says, knows no bounds. After the death of her younger sister many years ago, Fannie took in her nephew and two nieces and cared for them alongside her daughter, two grandchildren and ailing husband. They all lived in a modest home, and Fannie drove an old van with no air-conditioning to her job as a housekeeper and nanny. Money was always tight, but when her cousin died in 2002 and left four kids behind, Fannie once again stepped in. Without hesitation, she welcomed her late cousin's grateful children into the family home as well.
"The reason why I love Fannie so much is because she is like a copy of my mom," said one of those children. "She's a real, genuine person. If you need her, she's always there."
Fannie's selflessness and generosity was so inspiring that "The Oprah Winfrey Show" bestowed her with the honor of Princess for a Day in 2003, giving her a royal break with a slew of surprises: a year of weekly housekeeping, brand new luggage, an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City and a brand new van with air conditioning.
But that wasn't the end of Fannie's story. A few years later, "The Oprah Show" learned the devastating news that Fannie's home had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Her new van, thankfully, helped her entire family escape the storm.
"When we found out Katrina was coming, I was able to pile 12 of my relatives into the van that Oprah gave me," Fannie said back then. "We [were] able to get out."
After the storm passed, the family returned to find their home unrecognizable. "It was completely demolished," Fannie said. "We lost everything. All we had left was the bricks and the floors."
Fannie and her husband moved into a small FEMA trailer on their property. "I just look for the day that I can get out of there, go in the house and... wait for my kids to come. That's the hardest part, being here by myself without my kids," she said tearfully. "Of all of it, that's the hardest. I don't have a place for my kids."
When Oprah found out that Fannie was still living in that trailer two years after the storm, she sent Nate Berkus to New Orleans to help. He surprised Fannie with a refurbished home, complete with a new Princess for a Day sash to replace the one she had lost in the storm.
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" followed up with Fannie recently and learned that she still lives in that beautiful house. She even held her niece's wedding there in 2008. As for the rest of the family, all of the nieces and nephews that Fannie had taken in over the years have since graduated, begun working and living on their own. For holidays, however, everyone still gathers at Fannie's place, always the heart of it all.
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
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