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Then they left their milieu and their families to start a new life in a new land. Sadly, Madeleine died just two months after that. My mother was born in August in Clermont Ferrand. Her father was a Capitaine Commandant in the French Cavalry. Being a military family, they were moved every two years all over France, but Mother spent most of those years in the south, in Montauban. During the Great War, they lived in Angers, and after the war they moved back to Clermont Ferrand, where her family was from.
She had four brothers and three sisters, but two of her brothers died very young.
During the war, she tutored a young child who had pronunciation difficulties and taught 4 French War Brides in America catechism to five- and six-year-olds. She was quite attractive as a young girl, a lively young thing, even though timid. She met my father, Kenrick, in in Royat, a small town outside of Clermont-Ferrand. He was from an Irish family in Philadelphia and was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
He had been drafted into the army and was in the th field artillery. My grandfather had died by then. Mother wrote about this a long time ago, and I found what she wrote. The war was still going on; everybody was talking of an armistice that finally came about on September 11, On the 19th of March, , on St. The landlady started to talk to me about two American soldiers who wanted something, but she had no idea what they wanted. They were presented to me. They already had taken possession of a room on the first floor that they rented.
The landlady thought I might be able to find out what they wanted. Ken and his friend, Joe Muldowney, with great pain, finally made me understand that they were looking for a place to take their meals regularly, preferably in a family. My knowledge of English was almost nil, especially in conversation. They tried to give me some references by showing me their rosaries.
Somehow, I felt an assurance that they were good, honest, sincere people. Then after laborious explanations I was able to tell my mother what it was all about, and she accepted to have [sic] them take their meals with us.
Of course, St Joseph was with us in that decision. In the meantime, they went to the University of Clermont to learn French in a hurry. We were not very good cooks, neither was the maid we had at that time. But we had good moments, playing the piano, singing, reading, taking hikes in the mountains, visiting interesting places, always accompanied by a family member.
We went to visit the Taillerie de Royat with its collection of semi-precious stones, cut on the premises and mined in Auvergne. Among others, the amethyst, the lapis-lapuli, the oeil de chat, and very fine granite. The amethyste is a variety of quartz, purple and worn by the bishop. To his disappointment, he knew that his suit could never be repaired at that place. While Ken and his friend Joe Muldowney were with us, he did not seem to pay particular attention to me, therefore, was I surprised when he asked me to marry him!
I was not sure I understood right; whatever language he used, English or French, I do not remember. I told him I would talk to my mother about it, because I would have never made a decision of this sort without at least letting her know, and without her advice. Evidently, she approved of it, but we were worried if it was wise. Nobody had any idea of how long the war would continue. Ken was in good favor with the whole family. In spite of that, it was customary, necessary to look for some references about him and his family though persons who knew them well, especially having to deal with someone of another country, so far away.
My mother wrote to his parish in Philadelphia, and we received an excellent report. He told us that Ken was, by far, the best of the American soldiers he had ever met; he even thought he might have had a vocation to be a priest. Ken and his friend stayed with us for meals for about three months, then were sent somewhere else and later went back to the United States.
We promised each other we would write, and we did.
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He was to come back the next year in June for our wedding in Royat. Ken was 26 years old and I was almost Before being married at church, my parents were first married at the mairie of Clermont Ferrand. Mother wrote about their trip to Paris, too: On our way to Paris, before taking the transatlantic to the United States, the Rochambeau, we were invited to a very formal dinner by my uncle Charles de Chalaniat, the first cousin of my grandmother Charlotte.
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Ken and his mother were very much impressed to be received like royalty. We were served at the table by his valet, wearing the livery and white gloves, passing each of the numerous dishes, using a clean plate for each one. Mother said she had a wonderful reception in America. The people were very nice to her, but she thought Philadelphia was a very ugly city.
A SHORT HISTORY
My parents lived with their parents-in-law in a row house in southwestern 6 French War Brides in America Philadelphia for two years, and I think that was hard for her. Mother told me her mother-in-law turned out to be a very difficult person.
My parents wanted a large family, and Mother said she worried when a year and a half passed and nothing happened. But once they got started, the family grew and grew without a problem. They had nine children, but they never reached the dozen they wanted! Mother never understood why women wanted abortions. My father was always a very proper gentleman, who never spoke harshly or cursed. He had a lot of control over his kids without anger or losing control of himself. He helped a lot around the house with the children, before it was in vogue for the men to help with the kids.
He was a recycler long before the government encouraged it.
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We were not permitted to speak English at home. My mother wanted us to learn French, knowing we would have plenty of opportunities to learn English. We lived in a three story house with an attic and a basement in West Philadelphia. I was the last of the bunch, and when I was born my oldest sister was ready to get married, and the next one was about to join the navy. Before I was too aware of what was going on around me, my next brother left for the army. Mother taught me to sew when I was about I love sewing and have been doing it ever since. She and my father enrolled me in ballet classes when I was eight, and I danced professionally until I became five months pregnant with my first child.
Mother also taught me a love for languages, and luckily I still speak French enough that I can visit with my cousins in France and feel perfectly comfortable speaking with them. She only returned to France for the first time in but then several times after that. She missed France and her family very much, but she learned to cope and made friends in the United States.
She and her first students became lifelong friends. Later, she taught French in private high schools and exchanged French lessons with people for art lessons. Mother got American citizenship in and always voted Republican. She lived to the ripe old age of 98 and died on April 7, I think she felt American because she lived here most of her life.
But she felt French too, because her background was always a part of her.
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Here is the story of a remarkable woman, as told by her daughter. My mother was born on July 14, , in Fontan, near better-known Saorge, both villages in the Alpes-Maritimes near the Italian border. Her father, who was my grandfather, was originally from the Basque country, and he was working as a customs agent on the French-Italian border when he met my grandmother.