As the father of a large family, Joseph Arceneaux was cognizant of the great expenses families could incur in times of illness and death. At one point during the influenza epidemics in New Orleans, three of his children were under doctor’s care at one time. Arceneaux was born in New Orleans on 2 November 1876 to Jean Baptiste Arceneaux and Julia Jourdan. His parents both died when he was young. A longshoreman for the South Pacific Steam Ship Company and later entrepreneur, he married Cecile Nelson with whom he had eight children. To aide other families, he gathered a group of likeminded men and women and on 22 July 1930 they were incorporated into the Saint John Berchmans Benevolent and Mutual Aid Association. On 17 May 1935, the corporation was reorganized into the Saint John Berchmans Industrial Life Insurance Company, which maintained its headquarters at 1664 North Miro Street. The insurance company maintained the features of an old line benevolent society, including a medical dispensary. On 11 October 1942, the company was expanded further to include a well-equipped funeral home at 1125 North Claiborne.
The insurance company and funeral home were operated by a large staff which included Mrs. Rita Lombard, President; Joseph Arceneaux, Jr., Vice-President and Agency Director; Dr. John J. Donasier, Medical Director; and Mr. Edgar Reed, Druggist; as well as a large office staff and agent force.
The saintly name of the company was tied closely to the life of its founder, Joseph Arceneaux. Having been orphaned at an early age, Arceneaux always maintained a charitable interest in work for orphans. His first cousin, Mother M. Sacred Heart Jourdan, was the Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a community of black religious sisters who ministered to the aged, the orphaned, and the poor. Mother Sacred Heart expressed to him the need for more space to house the many orphans for whom they cared. Joseph Arceneaux organized the Saint John Berchmans’ Willing Workers, to raise funds for the orphanage the Sisters operated under that name. Within three years, a large parcel of land on which to construct the new orphanage was purchased on Gentilly Highway at Saint Anthony Street. With Arceneaux serving as contractor and Louis Charbonnet as architect, construction was begun on 29 May 1923. Before a large crowd, the ninety-thousand dollar edifice was dedicated on 25 January 1925.
Next to his family, Joseph Arceneaux considered the Saint John Berchmans Orphanage his greatest accomplishment. It was with that noble work in mind that he established his insurance company and funeral home – to provide for a community need.