Oui, c’était un honneur!
(By the way- my brilliant fleur pendant was a gift from high school friend Roxann Potrzuski Angil, from Baltimore, MD.)
AGUUSTA, Me- It was indeed an esteemed honor to be recognized by leaders of the Maine Legislature and to meet Maine’s Franco-American Governor Paul LePage, at ceremonies held on April 19th, in the State House, when we were inducted into the Franco-American Hall of Fame. Although the official ceremonies had been scheduled for March, during La semaine des francophones, they were postponed due to snowstorms. Fortunately, the rescheduled April 19 date was very well attended. Ceremonies were accompanied by enthusiastic entertainment provided by Franco-American and Acadian musicians, dance, cultural presentations and exhibits. Among the attendees were enthusiastic supporters who accompanied the honored Hall of Fame inductees, their family and friends. Among the dignitaries who participated were Valéry Freland, the Consul General of France in Boston, who said it is a priority for him to support French language instruction in Maine. Marie-Claude Francoeur, from the Québec Government Office in Boston, spoke eloquently in French and English about the French-Canadian ties to Maine. In fact, Ms. Francoeur attended summer camp in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine when she was growing up, which is where she learned her friendly and excellent bilingual language skills.
My special guests were my husband Richard L’Heureux and Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a nurse colleague and friend, from Hallowell.
Opening legislative ceremonies in both the House and in the Senate were led with a bilingual prayer, by Rev. Father Francis Morin, pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in Augusta. Among the churches in this parish cluster is the St. Augustine’s Church, serving parishioners in Augusta’s Franco-American neighborhood of Sand Hill.
National anthems of the United States of America, The Star Spangled Banner, O Canada (sung in French) and La Marseillaise, of France, were beautifully performed by Rachel Boucher Ellis, of Augusta. “Des drapeux” color guards for the international flags, led by the United States of America, were Franco-American Veterans from Post 31, in Lewiston.
Eight new members were inducted into the Franco-American Hall of Fame and I was honored to be among them. Impressive bilingual, French and English, ceremonies were led by Rep. Mark Lawrence in the Maine House and by Senator Susan Deschambault in the Maine Senate, who served as leaders “pro-tempore” for the presentations. Each of the legislative chambers paid tribute to the 400 years of Franco-American history in Maine, by speaking in both French and English, during the recognition ceremonies for the inductees. Each of the honorees were selected from recommendations made by their respective state legislators and subsequently chosen for the honor by the leadership of the Franco-American Caucus, chaired by Rep. John Martin and Senator Susan Deschambault. “Merci” to Rep. Denise Tepler (who speaks good French!) of Topsham, for presenting my name and for this honor.
Honorees recognized were:
- Joan and Therese Dionne of Aroostook County
- Jean Paul Fortin of Kennebec County
- Juliana L’Heureux of Sagadahoc County (Topsham)
- Lionel “Nel” Meservier of Androscoggin County
- Andre Pied of Somerset County
- Muriel Poulin of York County
- Honorable Paulette Beaudoin- posthumous of York County
- Also recognized, in the audience, was the family of Gilles EdouardAuger, of Sanford, who died November 10, 2016. He was a previous inductee in the Franco-American Hall of Fame, who received the award several years ago, with his widow Claire Auger, who was recognized in the ceremonies.
Joining the Hall of Flag exhibits were members of the Franco-American Collection Board of Directors from the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston Auburn Campus (USM LAC), in Lewiston. President Doris Bonneau presented at the Collection’s exhibit, with Celia McGuckian, a board member and the Collection’s Coordinator Janet Roberts. Attending from the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston was Mitchell Clyde (“Mitch”) Thomas, Executive Director and Jacynthe Blais Jacques, the Cultural and Language Programs Director.
A delegation from Aroostook County cooked and served the traditional “ployes”, or little pancakes made with buckwheat, adorned with an assortment of condiments like maple syrup, brown sugar or butter. In the State House Cross Cafe, traditional Franco-American foods were served, including tourtieres (pork pies).
Along with the honor of celebrating Maine’s 400 years of Franco-American presence in the state (beginning with the St. Croix settlement in Calais), the celebration was also a recognition of the state’s cultural, historic and economic ties to Canada and France. Gov. LePage acknowledged the ongoing efforts to continue building on the successful international relations with Maine. “Our state’s Franco-American heritage goes back 400 years and it is important for us to continue our friendship,” he said.
Merci beaucoup à tous!