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A Tribute to My (late) Father,
1 - An outline of his career
2 - My Early Education as an Army Brat
3 - MASH in Korea: My Dad Goes to War
150th Anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, Fla.
A Moment in Time by Bernard Weixelbaum, reprinted from Condo News
March 14, 2001
Profile: Meet Lynelle Chauncey Zelnar -- founder of Forgotten
Condo Art Corner
Reflections of Mother
1 & 2
two-part series by Betty Thomas, Condo News Publisher
Condo Pet of the Week
Francoise Guillemain d'Echon "Francie"
Col James A. Bell
1915 - 1981
Army Medical Corps
Tribute to My (late) Father
1 - Outline:
dad was an army brat born in San Antonio's Ft. Sam Houston
Army base. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army for 30
years and helped Pershing chase Pancho Villa across Texas. My
father as a child spent many years (9) in Manila where my
grandfather was stationed.
was expected that my dad would follow in his father’s
footsteps. He chose the medical corps as his career. He took
his pre-med in Ann Arbor, Mich., where grandpa was stationed,
and studied medicine at the University of Santo Tomas in
Manila. Then, at the University of Texas School of Medicine in
Galveston, he got his M.D. It was there that he met and
married my mother, and where I was born.
did his internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington, DC. During this time, I stayed with my
grandparents in Dallas, Texas.
was then transferred to Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA, at
the Medical Field Service School (MFSS). This is where interns
and medics were trained to be officers. He went into the
school as a 2nd Lt. and finished as a 1st Lt. Carlisle
Barracks was not attached to any other unit, therefore, the
doctors were allowed to be armed. During this tour of duty, my
mother traveled to Texas to bring me to Carlisle.
Photos are frames extracted from my father's 8mm movie film.)
1945, my father was sent to Germany as part of the
occupational troops. He was attached to the 98th
General Hospital in Munich. Mother and I followed in
July 1946. I was 4½ years old. (Pictured at right:
Dad aboard the military transport ship on the way to
lived in Munich for about two years (mother and I) and dad had
been there for 1 year before us. In 1948, we were transferred
to Bad Tölz, to the (Flint) Kaserne and my father was
promoted to Captain.
in Bad Tölz, my father had custody of Franz von Papen
(pictured at right in center), a German politician and
diplomat from the Catholic Center Party. Papen served
the German government as Ambassador to Austria from
1934-1944. He was captured by the allies after the war
and was one of the defendants at the Main Nuremberg
War Crimes Trial, but was acquitted.
father’s responsibility was to keep von Papen healthy and
fit so he could be tried.
1949, we were transferred to the Presidio in San Francisco,
Fitzsimmons Hospital. Dad was promoted to Major and served as
commander of the hospital. We remained there for a year when
we were transferred to an area near Concord, California. Soon,
Dad got his orders and was sent to command a M*A*S*H hospital.
He was involved in the Hungnam evacuation. He served in Korea
for two years, until 1952.
he returned from Korea, we were transferred to Ft. MacArthur
in San Pedro, California, where he took command of that
hospital. We were there for 1 year.
there, we went to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where
Dad, again, took command of the base hospital. Dad was
promoted to Lt. Colonel.
next tour of duty was in Washington DC at the U.S. Soldiers’
Home (now the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home). By now, I
was in the 7th grade. My father was deputy chief surgeon. I
spent a good deal of my spare time down at the hospital with
the Daughters of Charity nuns (they were the nurses at the
hospital) and some of the patients with whom I had become
friends. I was profoundly inspired by these men. There were 3
wards in this wing. Wards 7 & 8 had the "normal"
patients. Ward 9 was where the mental cases were. Dad only let
me go up there when he did his rounds. One day, one of the
Ward 9 patients was shuffling down the hall mumbling to
himself: "I’ve been in this man’s army 34 years. I’ve
seen ‘em kilt, buried and blown up again. I’ve been in
..." I realized that combat may scar a man’s soul for
day, Dad called home and asked me to come down to the hospital
right away. He had someone there he wanted me to meet -- a new
patient. This man was in a small private room. He was very
old. He had been severely wounded by a grenade during his
combat years. He had lost his eyes, part of his jaw, and both
hands half way up to his elbows. Dad asked him to show me how
he puts oil on his head; then how he drinks his soup (in a
cup). Then dad told me that he makes his own bed all by
himself. The man concurred. Dad said to me, "He has no
eyes or hands and still he makes his own bed. You have two
eyes and two hands. Why can’t you make your own bed?"
Point well made, and taken.
Dad left the Soldiers’ Home, he was stationed for a year at
Ft. Meade in Maryland. We moved to Riverdale, Md., where my
parents bought their first house. After 1½ years, we got
orders for Germany. But, after packing and shipping our
furniture over, our orders were changed and we were redirected
to Teheran, Iran. There, dad was attached to Military
Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG). The United States Army
Mission Headquarters (ARMISH) was also there. They provided
the Ministry of War and the Iranian army with advisory and
technical assistance to enhance their efficiency. MAAG was
established to administer the program. Later, the two missions
were consolidated into ARMISH-MAAG and remained active until
the Islamic revolution in 1979. Basically, my dad’s job was
to examine the Shah’s air force pilots. His command was a
25-bed hospital for the American dependents and personnel, in
which I promptly became a patient of before he took command
with a terrible case of what was called the "T-Ts"
(Teheran Tummy). Actually, I now think it was e-coli that I
picked up in Italy at the California Cafe from a really
experience in Teheran was a real eye-opener. I went to the
Community High School run by Presbyterian missionaries, whose
students were all college bound. The lessons were in English.
Students were Iranians, Arabs, Jewish, Russian, Polish,
Romanian, Iraqi, East Indian, etc. The Americans there (except
for me) were either American Embassy kids, Esso employees
kids, or other civilian businessmen’s children. They seemed
very snobbish to me. I really liked the International group
returned to the U.S. after one year and Dad was stationed at
the Pentagon. Shortly after our return, my parents separated,
and after 4 years, divorced. See, things were never the same
after Korea. War does that. Dad retained his rank of Lt. Col.
until his retirement after 25 years of service.
an only child, I would often spend spare time reading Dad’s
medical books. Dad suffered from chronic bleeding colitis
after Korea and was not given enough time to recover
completely before being given command of the hospital he had
been a patient in -- Fitzsimmons in San Francisco. He was a
very compassionate man -- to a fault. He often mourned a
patient he lost, and would talk about it at home -- even cry.
I saw his agony manifested and what I now know to be PTSD
which went untreated by the then VA. In 1981, he suffered a
massive myocardial infarction (heart attack). He had remarried
and had a son with his second wife, Alma, also a veteran.
childhood was not the usual kind, but I learned much from our
travels, from other cultures and from my father’s
compassion. I saw his love for his veteran-patients that he
demonstrated every day.
2 - My Early Education as an Army Brat ...
Part 1, I introduced you to my late father who was a career
Army Medical officer. The article outlined his career of 25
would like to pause at the various stations and share a little
of that experience with you.
Dad completed his training at the Army War College in
Carlisle, PA, he was sent to war-torn Germany as part of the
post-war occupational troops. That was some time in 1945. Once
it was deemed safe for the dependents, mother and I were set
to join him in Munich. However, a few days before we were
scheduled to sail, I became ill with a high fever and mother
put me in the base hospital. I remember being in a crib with
bars. Mother told me we couldn’t go until I was well. The
next day, the fever was gone and we would be on our way. I was
about 4 years old. We sailed on the Ben Alexander, a military
transport ship that, as mother told me later, had a round
bottom instead of a keel. It was very unsteady and rolled
around a lot.
Photos are frames extracted from my father's 8mm movie film.
| Sunken ship in German harbor**
of German bridges reportedly destroyed by Gen. Patton.
of German fighter jet - the Messerschmidt. was the
world's first operational jet powered aircraft.
we arrived at our destination in Germany, evidence of the war
was all around. The harbor was littered with sunken ships, the
landscape was reduced to piles of rubble, and there was a
stench. When on the transport bus that took us to meet
"Daddy", I remember seeing a woman with a wool
"babushka" (scarf) on her head picking through the
rubble. I also remember asking mother what that awful smell
was. She explained that it was from the bombed-out buildings
and everything that was in them. Death.
Munich, our house, which had been appropriated by the U.S.
Military, had belonged to a friend of Adolph Hitler. It was a
big two-story house with a basement. I don’t remember the
basement, but mother told me it had a lot of Oriental art
stored in it. Also, part of the roof had been blown off. There
were burned marks on some of the upstairs floors. Mother kept
a garden in the back yard with flowers and some vegetables. I
remember rhubarb. It looked like red celery.
approx. 5 years old)
economic situation in the country was as one might expect --
no currency, no gasoline, cities leveled. Quite austere. The
locals did what they could to make money. Many took scrap iron
from the bombed buildings to fashion items they could barter
with on the black market, others painted on whatever materials
they had available. My parents purchased many paintings and a
lovely wrought iron table with ceramic tiles from all of the
factories, including Meisen, with Alpine flowers painted on
them. Our "currency" consisted of cigarettes,
stockings, chocolate, etc. One day while I was at a friend’s
house, a German man came with two little dachshund puppies,
one red and one black. I was "fixed" on the black
one, and when the little girls’ mother opted for the red
puppy, I scooped up the black one and, followed by the German
man, ran home and breathlessly declared to my mother,
"This is a little black puppy, and I always wanted a
little black puppy, and he only costs 5 packs." (It was
actually 5 cartons, but what does a 5 year old child know
about "money?") We had Ricky for 11 years.
Photos are frames extracted from my father's 8mm movie film.
with "still" attached**
with "still" attached**
and buggy --
need for a "still" **
provide fuel for vehicles, and being that the only ones that
had gasoline were the occupational forces, the Germans used
stills that burned wood and looked like hot water heaters
attached to their vehicles. (See photos on page 6).
Apparently, that was customary throughout Europe at the time.
were no schools for the dependent children, so the wives
formed a nursery school and kindergarten. I learned my first
"cut and paste" there. Those familiar with
publishing before computers will appreciate that. Mother took
language classes to learned German and I learned it as a
matter of course. It was the Bayerisch (pronounced Buyerish)
dialect spoken in Bavaria. Once in the U.S., I refused to
speak German -- I was an American! That is unfortunate in that
I lost that language.
time while in Munich, Mother and Dad, and another couple, took
a 6 week vacation to Italy. I was left behind with Annie, the
woman who took care of the house and me. I remember missing
them so much, but Annie was a very loving woman. She kept up
correspondence with my parents for a while after we returned
to the U.S. Dad, Mother and their friends, the Escolas, met
Pope Pius XII while in Italy. They also went skiing there and
in Germany, as well as hunting. Pheasant, duck and deer were
in their sights. Ricky, our dog, turned out to be an excellent
hunter, too. He would flush out the pheasant for them. I
remember a particular duck my father brought home. He was a
beautiful mallard with a green head. I was so upset at the
death of this magnificent creature that I asked for the head
to keep. They allowed it and I would pet the poor thing and
then put him in a cubby where the telephone was for a while
and retrieve him later. But, alas, as my parents expected,
poor duck began to stink. So I asked my parents to dispose of
him. Being that I was small, I remember a lot about my mother’s
clothes (mostly from the vantage of my height). I clearly
remember her shoes and ski boots, and the "British
Walkers" she wore. (A thick heeled medium high shoe.)
stayed in Munich for about 2 years before being transferred to
Bad Tolz -- the Kasserne, as the base was called. There was
less destruction there. I went to first grade where I remember
being taught German script. Our stay in Bad Tolz seemed
uneventful in my memory.
1949, we were transferred back stateside. We sailed on the
General Patton via the North Sea. We encountered a force-12
gale and, according to mother, ships were going down all
around us. I remember one morning we were waiting for the
second breakfast seating when a wave broke through a window
and swamped two sailors with seaweed and mud. I have a picture
in my mind of the waiter holding a tray, trying to keep his
balance with seawater, seaweed, fish and mud rushing back and
forth on the floor and one cream pitcher rolling around. I don’t
remember if we got to eat.
an only child of a military officer in post-war Germany was an
experience that gave me an understanding of the world quite
different than the usual. I think it still affects my view of
the world’s conflicts and man’s struggle to adapt to
ever-changing scenarios. For sure, I feel fortunate for the
be continued ...
in Korea — My Dad Goes to Korea
1949, my father was transferred stateside, to the Presidio in
San Francisco and became the commanding officer of Fitzsimmons
General Hospital there. We stayed there until mid 1950 when we
were transferred to Concord, Calif. The Concord Army Air Base
was located there and served as a staging area for troops who
were being deployed to Korea.
was the first commanding officer of the 1st MASH unit in Korea
at the beginning of the war and stayed until it ended. I
remember mother sending him the Sunday "Terry and the
Pirates" comic strip, as well as other items he needed.
One of those was an electric razor because the shaving cream
would freeze in the winter. They could hook the shavers up to
the Jeep’s battery.
there, my Dad made use of his movie camera, documenting what
he could during the lulls. He also brought home lots of
photos. Here are some of them - some from the movie film..
Army Medical Service (MASH)
Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH), operated under tents close to
the divisions they supported
photograph of Dad’s MASH unit.
frame taken from
movie film depicting
wounded arriving by air transport. Patients
were treated by medics on the battle field, then they
were sent to a battalion aid station before being
transported to the MASH unit for more extensive
being loaded onto an "ambulance"
children often earned some money by offering to shine
the boots of the MASH doctors. Here, Dad is getting
his boots shined by the local children. Notice a small
camp dog next to Dad.
interesting clip on Dad’s movie film was a tank
battle sequence filmed from a vantage point on a hill.
Pictured here is a frame from the film showing a tank
headed for the battle.
frame of the tank battle shows several tanks and the
puffs of smoke where their mortar is landing, clearing
the way for the ground troops.
frame shows troops on the ground following the tanks
into battle and one tank bringing up the rear.
USO Arrives in Korea:
Flynn, center of photo, was part of the U.S.O. team.
Dad was there with his movie camera when they arrived.
Errol Flynn is seen leaning on his cane. He had a very
bad limp then.
Flynn smiles broadly
Benny came over to say a few words to the camera
(Dad's). Too bad there was no sound. (Errol Flynn can
be seen in the background)
Benny and others near one of the cars that would take
them to the camp site.
Grable, Errol Flynn and others.
Grable in center with two blonde entertainers.
anyone identify the two blonde gals with Betty Grable?)
of the TV series, M*A*S*H, may remember Jamie Farr’s
character, the cross-dressing Corporal Klinger who was
hoping to get discharged from the Army by wearing
was a real-life female impersonator shown in this
photograph. Very convincing, said my father.
from Dad’s "home movies"
note about the frames extracted from Dad’s movie film ... I
had enlisted a company whose business it was to make video
transcripts from court testimony to transcribe my parents’
home movies that were taken with their 8mm camera over a span
of about 13 years. The fellow told me that it took hours and
became somewhat tedious (I had about 16 reels of film. Mother
had edited and spliced all their movies into that collection.)
Then, suddenly, on my "home movies" -- up popped
Errol Flynn, Jack Benny, Betty Grable -- and they said they
were agast! What a treasure, they told me. (The process cost
me over $300.00, but I made copies for my children.) I had
them put on DVD, then selected frames to be extracted from the
videos. The frames are blurry, but, at least we can see the
images of those events.
Anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, Fla, Feb. 20, 2014
Feb. 20, 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of
Olustee, the bloodiest battle of the War Between the States
(commonly known as the Civil War) in Florida. The following
article was written by former Condo News columnist,
Bernard Weixelbaum and published in the Condo News on
March 14, 2001.
annual reenactment of that battle took place in Olustee,
Florida, this past weekend. Condo News representative,
Jimmy Shirley, and I participated in the reenactment (Jimmy
and I are long-time reenactors).
story by Palm Beach Post reporter, Eliot Kleinberg,
relating the link that Mr. Weixelbaum and I have through our
ancestors, and the connection that we had through the Condo
News, appeared in the Post on Saturday, Feb. 15,
2014 on page one of the Local section He and his photographer,
Thomas Cordy, covered the reenactment. Another story about the
reenactment itself is forthcoming in the Post.
is now living in New York state with his wife Dickie near
their son Elia Weixelbaum. Bernard and I are forever linked
through our ancestors’ DNA that fell on that battle field
150 years ago, and through our association in the Condo
Moment in Time
from Condo News, March 14, 2001
Monroe "Bud" Davis
20, 2001, was the 137th anniversary of the battle of Olustee,
Florida. The year, of course, was 1864. The battle of Olustee,
or Ocean Pond as it is also referred to, was a pivotal battle
in the Civil War, resulting from an attempt by the Union Army
to cut Florida off from the rest of the Confederacy. There
were 1861 casualties among the Union soldiers, while the
Confederates counted 946. Every year since 1976 there is a
commemoration of the battle on the actual battlefield.
Thousands of Civil War buffs and descendants of the original
protagonists reenact the details of the battle in authentic
dress, bearing true replicas of the weaponry.
there on that cold February day in 1864, there were 2 men in
particular, on opposing sides, of whom I relate. One was a
young Jewish immigrant who was born on May 3,1841 in Bavaria,
Germany, and had enlisted in New York on July 20, 1862 for a 3
year stint. He trained with Company G, Independents Battalion,
Light Infantry, N. Y. Volunteers, an outfit known as "Enfans
Perdus" and comprised primarily of men of the same
ethnicity. On January 30,1864, upon completion of his
training, he joined the 47th Regiment, NY Volunteers,
Infantry. He never rose above the rank of private. His
opponent was born in Georgia on May 19,1841. On June 26,1861,
he enlisted and was mustered into the 19th Georgia Regiment,
Co. E, Colquitt’s Brigade. In the course of his military
career, he was captured at Fredericksburg, Va. on December
13,1862, but, in what was presumably a prisoner exchange, was
released on the following day. Although he had encountered so
much action, he, too, remained a private throughout his
that fateful day of February 20, 1864, Private James Monroe
Davis (that was his name), found himself in Olustee, Fl. as
part of Co. E, 19th Regiment, fighting a fierce and determined
army of blue clad soldiers. Almost directly opposite his
position was Co. A of the Union’s 47th Regiment. Of course,
this is purely conjecture and highly unlikely and improbable
but certainly possible. What if, in the heat of this bloody
confrontation, these two men faced each other on the field,
simultaneously firing their weapons at each other. Yes, it is
entirely possible because, strangely enough, both men were
wounded in this battle, each man suffering a thigh wound.
course, you can see there are so many other parallels to this
history; both men are only 16 days apart in age; both men
suffered the same type of wound and both men were taken
prisoner though not at the same time. Our young immigrant was
captured in this very battle at Olustee and confined in the
infamous Andersonville Prison.
may have wondered why I have singled out these two soldiers.
Perhaps you have already guessed that the young German
immigrant was my grandfather, Bernhard Weichselbaum, but did
you also surmise that James Monroe Davis was the great-great
grandfather of the Condo News publisher, Betty Thomas,
who has rightfully retained the same justifiable pride in her
heritage as I have in mine? One other interesting sidelight,
James Monroe Davis died on March 1, 1923, just 3 days before
the birth of Jerry Heacock, the former publisher of the
Condo News and, consequently, former employer of Betty
Lynelle Chauncey Zelnar
of Forgotten Soldiers Outreach
profile by Betty Thomas
Lynelle and Marcia Chauncey
by Jimmy Shirley
Chauncey Zelnar was born in Chicago, Ill., of David and Marcia
Chauncey, formerly of Brookline, MA. During our visit with
Lynelle and her parents at Lynelle’s home in Lake Worth,
Marcia described Lynelle as "the type of child you could
have over and over." "She always had a big heart,
always giving, always wanting to help others," added
David. Her mother described her as having a "social
formula was played out as Lynelle grew from childhood to
womanhood, as evidenced by the milestones of her life’s
and David Chauncey with Lynelle, age 3. Photo was
taken when David graduated from law school. Mr.
Chauncey practiced business and banking law in Chicago
and in Florida. He retired in 1999. Mrs. Chauncey was
an Elementary school teacher and retired from the
Florida system in 1999. She taught from 1959-1999 at
University of Chicago Laboratory School and Palm
Springs Elementary in Florida up to the time she
the Vietnam War, when Lynelle was in 3rd grade, she wrote a
letter to President Nixon petitioning him to bring our troops
home. She recalls that she and her friends would cry upon
hearing that someone’s father had been killed.
5th grade, POW bracelets became popular and, Lynelle says,
that planted a seed.
Lynelle was 11 years old, the Chaunceys moved to Palm Beach
National in Lake Worth where Lynelle grew up with her younger
sisters Heather and Andrea.
Andrea, David, Lynelle, Heather
Marcia Chauncey in 1985.
age 11, in 1975, Lynelle’s sister’s friend came down with
cancer. Lynelle organized a "carnival" to raise
funds to help with her treatment.
continued on her path and pursued a degree in Sociology and
worked with delinquent children. She interned at a prison in
North Florida and then worked with a short term offender
program called Alexander Creek Stop Camp.
in Palm Beach County, Lynelle had intended to become a private
investigator, but instead became a community association
August 11, 2001, Lynelle married Bill Baggett, Jr., son of the
director of Royal Palm Memorial Gardens, Bill Baggett, Sr. and
his wife Bea, who hosted the largest Memorial Day Service and
Wreath Presentation ceremony in the state of Florida for many
years. Exactly one month after their marriage, 9/11 happened.
Then on Oct. 7, 2001, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring
Freedom in Afghanistan, and then the invasion of Iraq on March
20, 2003. A friend’s son was killed in Iraq and it hit
Lynelle hard. It became the catalyst that brought Lynelle to
form Forgotten Soldiers Outreach in Oct. 2003. FSO was
officially designated a 501c(3) on January 12, 2004.
Morning America featured FSO on
their show in March 2004, then the media took off with
national news, e-mails, phone calls.
the R.P. Memorial Day ceremony in May 2004, Lynelle and Bill
announced the formation of FSO. Lynelle had just learned that
she was pregnant. Son Bryson was born Dec. 3, 2004.
working for the property management company, a co-worker’s
son, Kristopher Knight of Lake Worth, with the 173rd Airborne,
was among the first deployment of troops to Iraq. Knight was
calling home extremely depressed with what he was seeing, and
experiencing, especially when many of his brothers in arms
were not receiving much support from home. That was Lynelle’s
inspiration to send care packages to Knight and his two
buddies. She worked out of the property management offices,
after hours with the permission of the owners. Then other
friends came to help, then teachers came on board providing
letters written by children in their classes. Then, with the
deployment of the local National Guard 124th Bravo to Iraq,
more names and donations started coming in. They needed more
the necessary legal and accounting services were provided pro
bono by an attorney and C.P.A.. Then space was donated in
Boynton Beach for collection and packing. FSO began to grow in
leaps and bounds. The Veterans Administration came down from
Washington, DC, and made a video to be distributed to high
schools and VA hospitals throughout the country.
building they were in went into foreclosure. An anonymous
angel came forward with a donated space in Lake Worth.
event brought the war in Iraq even closer to home when Luke
Shirley, son of Condo News representative
/photographer, Jimmy Shirley was wounded by an I.E.D
explosion. He lost his right arm and right leg. Luke and his
brother Joshua, also deployed in the same area, had been
recipients of FSO packages. This renewed FSO’s motivation
even through hard financial times.
marriage to Bill ended in September 2005. In September 2007,
she married Mike Zelnar, a retired Air Force Veteran. Zelnar
achieved the rank of S/Sgt. and served from October 1981 to
January 1992, at Eglin AFB in Florida, Turkey, Germany and
Kansas respectively. Mike has worked with Lynelle helping her
with FSO as well as his regular work.
has been attending the Annual Memorial Day Ceremonies hosted
by Palm Beach Memorial Park in Lantana, since he was a baby.
Since he was 4 years old, Bryson has been leading the 500+
attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
2010 Lynelle’s nephew, Spc Michael Stansbery, Jr., was
killed in Iraq. A recent photo at Arlington Cemetery showed
Prince Harry of England, standing next to Stansbery’s grave
year marks FSO’s 11th Holiday Packing event. "What we’re
doing overseas is still vital," said Lynelle. "This
October we are hurting more than ever. There are no grants and
we rely only on donations," she added.
Family, from left to right Lynelle, Mike, Zach, Levi,
David & Bryson (in front) Note: Lynelle has 3 step
sons, ages, 18, 21 & 25. Son Bryson celebrated his
9th birthday on December 3, 2013.
year on July 12th, Forgotten Soldiers Outreach opened a new
Thrift Store at 3032 Jog Road in Buttonwood Plaza, Greenacres.
They had outgrown their former one in the same shopping
center. And now, they are running out of room again. They are
looking for another angel who can provide a store front with
5,000-6,000 sq. ft.
Thrift Store brings FSO full circle by helping vets on the
home front. They are still sending packages to all world
theaters: Kosovo, Korea, Africa, Somalia, Japan as well as
Iraq and Afghanistan ... wherever we have troops deployed. FSO
has aligned with FAITH*HOPE*LOVE /Stand Down House, VA HUD-VASH
Program and other organizations in assisting veterans and
homeless vets through the Thrift Store as they transition back
to life here at home with vouchers for furniture and other
items. All veterans, old and young, receive 50% OFF every day
at the FSO Thrift Store.
are open 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday from 10AM to
7PM. They feature furniture, household decor, vintage items,
clothing, books, knickknacks and more. They offer free pickup
of your donated items, also accepting whole estates.
more information, please call them at (561) 969-2222.
about Thrift Store opening: Condo News Online - Veterans News
News is introducing a new feature for readers’
Condo Art Corner.
invite you to submit a photo of art that you have
sculpture, drawing, artistic photo, carving,
submit your item as a .jpg with 300ppi
email to: email@example.com.
the subject line please type "Art
a title for your item and the medium you used.
will appear first in our print paper
then on our website.
artists only, please.
Bend, Lake Worth, FL
(Above) Oil on canvas by Eva Kaitz,
of Village Green II Condominium in Lake Worth (circa
1980), which she copied from the original photo that
she took of the real life junkman (right) while in
Portugal in 1974.
Chichester, N.Y. Country Road"
by Jimmy Shirley
Flo Epstein, 1996
lives in Buttonwood East
by Jimmy Shirley
on canvas board
Bernard Weixelbaum, 1965
Weixelbaum lives in Cresthaven Fernley IV
by Jimmy Shirley
New Hampshire House"
by Jimmy Shirley
Becker rendered this painting of his former New
Hampshire home on his Murry Hills kitchen wall between
the counter and cabinets using ordinary interior house
another of John's paintings below "Meet John
Ring Mushroom Gills"
by Jimmy Shirley
mushrooms can grow very large. This one measured 10½
Colored pencil drawing
Oil and spatula
kick off this new feature, here is a drawing in pencil
by Condo News publisher Betty Thomas. The
drawing, "Prey for the Falcon" was
done in 1981.
series by Betty Thomas, Condo News Publisher
Virginia Patterson Bell Scott
Memorial Wreath displayed at a memorial service conducted by
the Order of Confederate Rose members Becki Powell and Kathy
Clark with prayers led by Charlie Dennis, in the church at the
Yesteryear Village on Sunday, May 26, 2013. The photo was
taken at the Yesteryear Village in "better days".
Mother was a member of OCR. The wreath was made by Becki
1 of 2
new — it’s raw — and it takes my mind on an excursion
into the life of the woman who was my mother ... "my
beautiful mommy" ... as I called her when I was a
toddler, and back into my life as her daughter, her only
passed away two weeks ago. Even though she was 95 years old
and severely affected by several strokes, it’s a loss that
leaves such a void. There is sadness that she is gone and
relief that her long suffering is finally over and she is in a
better place. I have been reflecting on my life with mother
from my childhood to the present and on her life as well from
her childhood. I miss the closeness we had, the places we
would go together. I remember calling her from Maryland after
she moved to Florida (Ft. Lauderdale) just to ask her help
with one of her recipes or how to put a new tape in her IBM
Selectric typewriter (she worked in our family business in
Maryland). It wasn’t too long before I, too, came to Florida
-- and to the Condo News. Then, after her husband died,
mother came to Palm Beach County (Greenacres) and we could
"buddy up" again.
would take trips to visit her grandsons (my children) in
Virginia and Pennsylvania when each of her great grandchildren
were born. She loved to decorate her condo and go to Tuesday
Morning and Big Lots. How excited she was when Carpet Mills
Direct tiled the floors in the condo. We went to movies
together (we roared with laughter all through "My Big Fat
Greek Wedding" -- my ex husband is Greek) and she came
with me to the Yesteryear Village during the South Florida
Fair and to the dinners twice a year that the Veterans of the
Battle of the Bulge held. When she moved into her condo at La
Pinata, I suggested she take her camera when she went to the
clubhouse and take pictures at the parties. She did and found
that she quickly made friends. I loved putting pictures that
my mother took in the Condo News with "photo by
Nikki Scott." She enjoyed her condo and friends for just
6 years. Then it happened.
came to live with me in November 2006 after suffering a
stroke. She could use a walker but her balance was very bad.
She could not take a step or stand without holding onto
something. She spent a month in rehab before coming to my home
for good and leaving her "nest" behind. Fortunately,
I can work from home, so there was no problem, and I could be
there for her.
the next 6½ years, a series of strokes gradually caused more
and more weakness, "transfers" became increasingly
difficult until the last one in November 2012 left her unable
to raise herself up even from the lift chair. The man in my
life, Jimmy, stepped up to assist in getting her from one
place to the other (bed to wheel chair, to lift chair, etc.)
She became unable to feed herself and her vision seemed to
decline more rapidly.
in March, her swallowing became more difficult and finally
near the end of April, she could only get a few spoonfuls of
soft food down and, again, I had her admitted to the hospital
(JFK) on a Friday. By Thursday, I had her transferred to
Hospice of Palm Beach County there in the hospital. It was
determined over the weekend that she was stabilized and was
sent home under Hospice Home Care. But, she passed away 2½
days later on May 16 — seemly, she’d had enough.
in Hospice, on Mother’s Day, the priest came to her room and
gave her the Last Rites, also known as the Sacrament for the
Healing of the Sick. Mother was aware of what was going on.
She answered each prayer the priest said over her with a
sweet, "Thank you."
strokes were caused by Atrial Fibrillation. She apparently had
had several "mini strokes" before the one 6½ years
ago. She had what is called vascular dementia which worsened,
along with all her other symptoms, with each stroke.
Incontinence was the third symptom.
called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. The ventricles in her
brain filled up with too much fluid putting pressure on the
brain. She was too old to put in a shunt which might have
relieved her symptoms. NPH causes a triad of symptoms: a
widened gate and a sense that the feet are glued to the floor,
dementia and incontinence. She always had the sense that she
was falling backwards.
void is there, and my reflections of her constant. I will
share some of them with our dear readers in a coming issue.
2 of 2
above were taken for an article in the local newspaper in
Galveston, Texas, where my mother grew up. The photo on the
right was run with the article. Mother's years in Galveston
(from infancy to her 20s) were spent behind a piano keyboard
(she became a concert pianist) until a hand injury
necessitated a hiatus from music. Her favorite pass time was
spent on Galveston beach astride General Jack, the horse only
she could ride. Below is another picture run with the article
showing folks riding horses along the beach. See the story
below which appeared in the newspaper in 1936 ...
above were colorized by Jimmy Shirley)
Riding Popular Diversion on Galveston Beaches
years horseback riding on east and west beaches has been a
favorite diversion of Galvestonians, and visitors here who are
fond of horses have been quick to follow the sport.
almost any clear day bathers may see groups of riders, often
as many as a dozen, either exploring the sand dunes back from
the beach or cantering along the edge of the water. Many
Galvestonians ride daily as their means of recreation. Others
are less regular but none the less enthusiastic.
of them own their horses and keep them stabled on the beach.
Others rent the animals from the stables, and one may be sure
that the mounts soon become known by their dispositions. Men
and older boys naturally prefer horses with spirit and
fast-gaited, but most women and younger boys and girls, of
course, choose animals of a more docile nature.
horses themselves often learn their riders, so regular are
some of them about riding. Most Galvestonians who ride equip
themselves with the proper clothes and boots, and favorite
times for riding are early morning, late afternoon, Sunday,
and especially cool days during the week.
gulf breeze and smooth white beach make riding only an added
pleasure to being near the sea. Many prefer riding back from
the water. Others prefer to walk their animals near the water.
the picture at right, Miss Virginia Patterson, astride General
Jack, is putting her mount through his tricks. Almost every
day, clad in a bathing suit and riding bareback, she takes him
into the surf, which he enjoys as much as she does.
stimulating relaxation, physicians say nothing is so healthful
as horseback riding. Many Galvestonians ride awhile and then
cool off after their exercise by taking a dip in the surf.
They recommend this to anyone in need of a tonic for
back in Oct. 2011, I saw an article in the Post with a
photo similar to the one at the beginning of this article of
horseback riders on Hutchinson Island with Beach Tours. The
caption read "...horseback riding is good therapy for
anyone who loves the romance and beauty of a horse." I
guess what was good once is still good.
Pet of the Week
by Jimmy Shirley unless otherwise stated
is a bearded collie who lives with Ellen Slater, his owner, at
the Residences in Palm Beach. He is 8 years old and runs on
the beach two times a day. The Slaters and Leo are snowbirds
from Boston. They have been spending winters here for 6 years.
a mini-poodle, is 8½ years old. Her owner is Dottie Gilligan,
a widow, from Califan, NJ. Dottie has lived at the Ambassadore
Hotel/Condominium at 2738 S. Ocean Blvd., in Palm Beach, since
2008. She has been coming here for 19 years.
Girl, a 4½ year old Shitzu lives with Phyllis Horowitz.
is a year-rounder and has lived at Beach Point Condominium for
30 years. Charly is the
12, and Trish Spaulding have lived in Springdale Homes for 5½
years. They are from Kentucky.
a Shitzu, and Marcia Merkin live at the Dorchester (N)
Condominium on S. Ocean Blvd., in Palm Beach. Marcia has lived
there for 16 years. She has had Tashi for 11 years.
Boy, a Shihtzu, lives with his best friend Leonard Jacobs at
the Ambassadore Hotel on S. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Golden
Boy turned 14 years old on Dec. 28. He won the Worth Ave. Dog
Show last year. Golden Boy is a married pooch -- to a French
poodle in Boca Raton. He was also Bar Mitzvahed last year at
the Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach. Leonard and Golden Boy
are snowbirds, spending 6 months here and 6 months in the
a mixed lab, is pictured with her best friend, David Shapiro,
at their condo at Palmsea in S. Palm Beach. Lexi and David
often take advantage of the dog walk on A1A.
Louie, a Yorkie, and
with their owners
Leavitt at the
Meet Francoise Guillemain d'Echon
... through the eyes of Bernard Weixelbaum
the risk of sounding like a page out of a
Reader’s Digest magazine, I am going to attempt
putting into words my 60+ year span of
memories, mind pictures – with a
regrettable 40 year hiatus - of the most
unforgettable individual I have ever known.
You might classify it as a romance or
perhaps even go further and call it a love story,
although it’s not, that is, not in the familiar
use of the phrase.
But I do love her, as does my wife, Dickie,
although she never even actually met her.
This is as I remember it, though time might
have blurred some of the memories, like a snapshot
slightly out of focus.
was August, 1944 when I landed in France, arriving
just a few
days after the city had been liberated.
We had to wear helmets in the street as
there were still snipers doing target practice.
I was a lowly Technician Fifth Grade, the
equivalent of a Corporal, and part of the 583rd
Quartermaster Sales Division.
We were a body of soldiers who had been
trained to set up and operate P.X.s and Sales
Stores; a Sales Store was a clothing store for
officers and traveling USO personnel who had to
purchase their own uniforms.
In effect, this was to be a scaled down
Our location just happened to be
company’s particular assignment was to set up a
sales store there.
It was a tough job, but somebody had to do
never asked for it, but, oddly enough, nobody ever
was to be our future store was located in the very
heart of Paris near the Champs-Elysees, just a few
blocks from and within sight of that imposing
memorial to a previous war, the Arch of Triumph
and the tomb of France’s Unknown Soldier. Our
store-to-be was a large sprawling one floor
affair, smaller than a Wal-Mart, more the size of
a small, compact supermarket.
It had been used as a book depository
by the Germans, and we had to empty it of all the
many lovely art books that were stored there as
well as thousands of copies of Mein Kampf,
of which the poor quality of the paper on which
they were printed ruled out the more practical and
obvious use these pages should have been put to.
was obvious from the start that we would need more
than just our group of G.I.s to run and operate
our pseudo ‘Lord & Taylor’.
Fortunately, there was a large pool of
English speaking French civilians available.
Every one of them had to be thoroughly
investigated and found to be innocent of having
collaborated with the enemy before working for the
long we had a large augmented sales force of
civilian men and women, one of which I recall, was
an ex-patriate American Jewish gentleman named
Markowitz who remained in
World War I and raised a family.
Remarkably enough, he survived World War II
with presumably a minimum of trouble.
time, our store opened its doors with little
fanfare or attention given by the French.
I headed the department selling the jacket
portion of the officers’ uniform known in army
nomenclature as the blouse.
Though I had never had any garment industry
experience, I became rather adept at fitting my
customers – may I say, clientele? -
with almost a semblance of expertise.
There was a shoe department as well as
other sections devoted to different parts of
clothing, even lingerie items for nurses and WACS
so no officer need go naked into war - and more
importantly, had some place to pin bars or stars. And
somewhere in the center of all this activity, we
had a cashier to handle the money for most of the
may have been more than one, but only one that I
was one of the French civilians, pretty,
maintaining that attractive – je
ne sais quoi, I don’t know what it was
-quality and style that somehow all the young
French mademoiselles managed to have fed and
nurtured through the years of occupation and
name was Francoise Guillemain d’Echon.
I can’t recall now at what point it
occurred to me that it was an odd sort of name,
certainly by American standards.
However, after all these years, there are
bound to be memory lapses in re-creating this
narrative so you must forgive me.
We called her Francie.
She spoke English well, charmingly, in
fact, with an accent that was like music to our
unaccustomed American ears.
As she handled the cash in my department, I
naturally had frequent occasions to speak to her.
And when business was slack – and as you
know, there has always been a slack season in the
garment industry – no pretense was required.
We had long chats, and I learned she was
married to a young, French officer who,
co-incidentally was also named Bernard.
She pronounced it – and again, the
musical accent – Bare-nard, with a kind of a
trill in the first ‘r’.
I learned at a much later time her loving
pet name for him was Bunny.
I was never Barenard, and certainly not
Bunny; I was Bernie.
They had an infant son, Jean Pierre,
affectionately called Jeep, who was being cared
for by her mother while she and Bernard lived in
an apartment which belonged to her uncle not far
from our store.
was free again to openly wear a French uniform.
However, during the occupation and at the
time he and Francie first met, he was serving in
Frequently his undercover activities caused
unaccountable absences in his social life for
extended periods of time; then he would return
Francie never required one. She
never asked questions.
The idea never occurred to her.
Sheltered and protected all her early life
(under circumstances I only learned about years
later), she wore her shyness like a second skin.
As Bernard’s feelings deepened, he wanted
to keep the details of his underground activities
He was fearful that such knowledge
might somehow put her in jeopardy.
For Bernard and his comrades spent long,
dark nights in open fields where the moon was as
much an enemy as the Germans. His
mission was to find and save the American fliers
who had been unlucky enough to crash or be forced
to parachute down, and through some apparent
rescue network, enable them to escape to
But in time, as these two friends became
closer and ultimately wed, this dark, secret side
of Bernard was gradually made known to Francie.
And contrary to
present fear of identity theft, Bernard maintained
four identities, one of which, in time, was in the
name of a brother of Francie’s.
To further the deception, she carried
papers bearing her maiden name.
conversations in the store were frequent and we
became good friends.
Francie invited me for dinner and to meet
Bernard some evening.
Food was a difficult commodity to come by
for the French, so I had mixed emotions about
imposing on the generosity of these good people.
However, my curiosity and my eagerness to
further my acquaintance with them, overcame any
was a comfortable, relaxed evening and we were
three good friends by the time it was over.
There was a piano as I recall; I don’t
remember who played, certainly not me.
But I do remember Francie introduced me to
a popular French song of the day, “Ah, le petit
vin blanc” (Ah, the little white wine), but
refused to translate it because she said it made
her blush. I
lost track of time and had to put on speed for bed
insisted on accompanying me back to my quarters,
jogging all the way by my side, as it was too late
for available public transportation.
Funny, but in a recent letter from Francie,
she too recalled that mini-marathon of so long
I made it back in time.
showing Echon Estate
name Guillemain d’Echon literally meant (the
family named) Guillemain of (or belonging to the
estate named) Echon.
I’m positive there are other examples,
but for some odd reason, the only person that
comes to mind bearing some form of location
attached to his name
is the French artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
– and he has a whole city, not just an estate.
The name, Guillemain d’Echon, goes back to the
16th Century, sometime between the
years, 1500 - 1515.
It was a title of nobility and bestowed by
nobility which allowed the recipient to add his
estate name to the family name; no family may
arbitrarily do this on its own. It was awarded to
this family consisting of moderately well-off land
owners as a reward for some long forgotten service
and came complete with a coat of arms. Originally,
in some long past regime, they would have also
been entitled to wear a signet ring.
The estate, Echon, and the manor house and
other buildings that were part of it, is located
in a small town in central
those days of 1944-45, it had endured and was
still in the family for some 5 centuries, as was a
smaller house (though not nearly as old) on the
Riviera near the Mediterranean city of Nice.
It was to this house by the sea that
Francie and Jean Pierre moved after she gave
notice at the store.
Bernard was no longer confined to his small
covert battleground but instead, with new vistas
open to him, went on to serve his country with
After the war, he was decorated and
awarded, among other medals, the French Legion of
of course had my address in Paris and before long,
we had established our chain of correspondence.
When Nice was made available for furloughs, I was
first to apply.
Three of my buddies and I visited her there
on one of the days, and I still cherish the
snapshot taken of me holding Jean Pierre in my
that day in 1945 is the last day I ever set eyes
on Francoise Guillemain d’Echon.
Weixelbaum (center) holding Jean Pierre,
Francie (far right). To Bernard's left is
Jim Callaghan; just left of Francie is
Justin Hppenjans; and standing behind
Bernard Weixelbaum is Jim Mulvey. Girl
between Jean Pierre and Justin Hppenjans
is not named.
was so much I was yet to learn about Francie back
then in those brief days of discovery and
life was full of surprises.
Her story was like a beautiful rose.
To peel and discard each petal one by one
would reveal another, even more delicate and
beautiful, beneath it.
When I first knew her, I thought her to be
the typical French mademoiselle, born and schooled
It was only many years later that I
discovered the first time she had ever even
stepped on French soil was in 1937, only 7 years
before I got there myself. She
was actually born in Tienstin, North
December 3, 1919.
Her father, Jean Pierre Ferrer, a French
citizen of Spanish descent served in the military
his 20s. After
his service, he settled in
married a French citizen like himself.
He became a merchant – perhaps an
entrepreneur might be more fitting, for Francie
speaks of a number of businesses he created.
Among these were a bank, three stores
carrying French and European imported goods, and
last, though certainly not least, a three storied
restaurant called ‘Eden’. The
businesses prospered and the family became
was the 12th child born from a total of
14, although only 10 lived.
They were part of a rather large community
of European families.
She was educated in China, and her
second language was Chinese, possibly even her
first in early, formative years.
She regrets that she has forgotten most of
it now, unlike her English.
Our frequent correspondence provides ample
opportunity to test her linguistic prowess. She
also tries to converse in English to her children
and grand-children as frequently as possible.
In addition, she confesses to resorting to
the use of a large French-English dictionary when,
literally, words fail her.
As a child, she had an Amah, a Chinese
nurse, with feet kept tightly bound, she recalls,
according to a cruel and crippling old Chinese
All European and wealthy Chinese
children had his or her own Amah, and Francie, of
course, was no exception.
father must have been an extraordinarily good
sent me a translation of part of a memoir about
him that she is writing for her children and their
began it at a point in 1930 when she was 10 years
was the day she first met Maria.
Maria was a young 15 year old Chinese girl
who Francie never even knew existed up to that
they had in common was they both shared the same
named father – Jean Pierre Ferrer. Before
she explained any more, and with an unerring flair
for the dramatic, she digressed here and went on
to expand on some of the history concerning her
went back to the period which first brought Jean
Pierre Ferrer to China, around
1895-1900, when the Emperor of
to throw out of the country all the European
families who had been living there for years.
Troops were sent by the French, English,
Germans, Italians and Russians.
Included in the French contingent was this
young, not yet dry-behind-the-ears, 20 year old
Europeans’ victory coincided with the completion
of Jean Pierre’s enlistment, and he remained in
China while the rest of the troops returned home;
however, a pact had been established between China
and the 8 involved European nations guaranteeing
certain concessions including peace, civil rights
and free trade rights to the victors. Jean
Pierre became a business man of some stature.
One day, years later, over the period of
time it took him to gain 1 wife and 5 children,
curiosity, or perhaps fate, prompted him to walk
through a Chinese
market followed by one of his servants.
He observed a Chinese man carrying a pole
with a basket at either end balanced over his
basket contained a small child, one being a 2 year
old girl and the other also a girl, 1 year old.
His servant explained that the man was
trying to sell the children.
Useless, unwanted girls, was the inference.
Jean Pierre asked, “And if he can’t
sell them?” to which he was told the man would
probably feed them to his pigs; her ‘dearest
daddy’ was horrified, and impulsively said
he’d buy them – and, on the spot, did.
It’s one thing to bring a stranger home
unexpectedly for dinner, but how do you explain to
a wife, the bringing home of two babies, not far
past infancy, who are obviously expected to stay
for many meals beyond dinner?
Especially to a wife who herself is
expecting her 6th child within a week
or two. After
much compromise, it was agreed that the girls be
put into the care of a congregation of nuns.
There, in time, one died of tuberculosis
while the other, Maria, thrived.
I find no evidence in Francie’s letters
that her father ever officially adopted the girl
as a foster daughter, but she does say that on
that day in 1930, when she came to the house, it
was for a discussion concerning her dowry.
Maria’s story was a saga in itself.
I only print this much of it to illustrate
the humanity of this man.
Francie, now approaching 18, as well as her
three younger siblings, were taken by their mother
to live in France for the first time, before the
situation in China
dangerous for the European colony.
Her father stayed in
there two years after they had left.
war was over. I sailed home and was discharged in March,
the letters began, though at that point, the words
only flowed from our pens, not yet from our
was no inkling of how dear and important they
New addresses were exchanged; new births
noted – only by her at first, of course; mine
came later. And
when my first was born in 1951, she had already
given birth to a total of 4, one of whom had died
at a very early age.
and Francie with 10 month old Marie in
Nice in 1948.
had always been interested in Aviation since he
was a child of 5 or 6.
He continued his education in that field
after the war, helped by his parents while they
continued living in Nice for up to 5 years.
His reputation in Aviation was spreading,
and one day he received a letter offering him the
opportunity to run an airport in
It was just the kind of invitation that
appealed to their love of travel and adventure.
Bernard went on ahead and Francie followed
at a later time with three small children in hand,
evidently indoctrinated with old-time pioneer
spirit and courage.
and Children in Morocco
So, once again, I received another letter
bearing a mega-mile change of address. Our letters continued only sporadically
after that, and though the births of three more
children of hers occurred over the years, as well
as one more of mine, I don’t recall if that
information was exchanged at the time. But
I do recall that there were occasional letters and
pictures until one day, I sat back and realized
the letters had stopped altogether.
I haven’t the haziest notion of who was
the last to write or the first to allow a letter
to go unanswered.
years went by, a lifetime by some standards,
during which I gave many a nostalgic thought,
tinged with regret and remorse, to my dear French
wife and I retired, moved to Florida, became
grandparents, lived re-adjusted lives, and through
it all the nostalgia grew, overwhelmingly so.
A glimmer of an idea began taking shape.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend a
vacation in Paris, follow old, once familiar
paths, to find the location of the store where I
had first met Francie, and even more wonderful, to
perhaps find Francie herself.
We made tentative plans in, I believe,
1990, but there was some unrest in Paris
delicatessen in the Jewish Quarter had been
bombed, so at the last minute, we cancelled.
However, the following year, we made plans
again, and on
1991, we took
off for Orly
The smattering of High School French that I
recalled augmented by the cabby’s smidgen of
English got us safely to our hotel.
We registered, but before we even got to
our room, I found a phone booth with a directory.
I surmised that even if I didn’t find
Francoise or Bernard listed, any Guillemain
d’Echon was likely to be a relation.
And so it was.
I spoke to one of her daughters-in-law who
fortunately spoke English and told me Francie and
Bernard didn’t live in
She was cautious enough not to tell me
their phone number; however, she would call her
immediately and give her mine.
We weren’t in our room more than 15
minutes when the phone rang and suddenly it was
think I cried.
We exchanged addresses.
I don’t recall what else we spoke about;
it doesn’t matter for when we arrived home, I
found a most welcome, newsy letter waiting for me.
She bridged the gap of those 40 lost years.
They had gone to Casablanca
December, 1950. She
wrote of the 3 children who had been born there as
well as the one she lost during that period. There
had been trouble in the country and they were
living in an isolated area some 30 kilometers from
Bernard’s airport, both factors which made her
disenchanted with Morocco
for the safety of her family.
Bernard asked for a re-assignment and was
made chief of a department at Orly
the same airport we had just flown in to, and was Paris’ only
airport at that time in 1958.
Over the years, Bernard was re-assigned to
other locations, but always stayed with his first
love – aviation.
She helped nurse him back to health when he
suffered a breakdown.
He returned to work and ultimately retired
at the age of 60.
The children traveled all the peaks and
valleys one generally encounters on life’s
journey – a montage of weddings, babies, career
choices, even divorce and separation.
One son, Raymond, even developed
Hodgkin’s disease, but happily has been in
remission to this day.
final words of this letter written in November,
1991, concerned Bernard’s then present health.
She wrote that two years prior, in 1989, he
had fallen ill with a serious blood condition
which presumably resembled leukemia although it
was not. Subsequent
letters described her years of journeying with him
to other, colder climates, more conducive to
treating his condition.
Finally, one day in December, 1995, I
received a telephone call from her advising me
that her beloved ‘Bunny’, her mate of 51
years, Bernard Guillemain d’Echon, had died at
letters continued, each one eagerly anticipated,
gratefully welcomed, written in her now familiar
flowing script and, more recently, written
somewhat larger in deference to my vision
gradually increased in both frequency and content.
referred to us as her American brother and sister.
She was both knowledgeable and opinionated
about world politics and events.
In one letter, she criticized our president
and then agonized over possibly offending me. A
few years back, she moved into a two bedroom
apartment in Barberaz, France which she shares
with her son, Raymond, now separated from his
appears to be a good arrangement; each of them
seems to fulfill a spiritual need in the other.
She endured serious hip and back surgery
some years ago which required an extended period
of immobilization; she came through nobly.
There was a recent period when she thought
she might have to sell Echon.
It needs a good deal of expensive repair,
but the family has gotten together to undertake
whatever is necessary.
is a veritable dynasty that grew from this couple
out of their deep love for each other.
From a total of 6 living children, there
are 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Of course, time marches on.
I wrote earlier, I never saw her again, but a few
years back, my daughter, Jody made a journey to Poland
eastern European countries with the Zamir Chorale
which was the subject of a PBS documentary.
She stayed on at the tour’s completion
and contacted Francie who was, at that time,
staying at Echon.
She was invited to spend a few days there,
lovingly welcomed by as much of the family who was
there at the time.
I like to feel she was there as my proxy.
Weixelbaum's daughter Jody
and Francie at
Echon in 1999.
know I can never do her justice in describing all
the parts that make up Francie, the profundity of
her thoughts, the humor, the depth, the affection.
I’m surely not that talented a writer,
but I hope you agree
this tale might be considered a romance –
of sorts. I
recall a movie of that period during the war time
‘40s – I’m sure you all do – “Casablanca” – in
the finale of which our hero, Rick, sends his
dearest love, Ilse, off with her husband to save
the world, with these words, “Remember, we’ll
Weixelbaum is a resident of Cresthaven Fernley IV
in West Palm Beach, FL. He is a member and former
Adjutant of the Jewish War Veterans Post 520 in
West Palm Beach. He has written for the Condo
News, first for Fernley IV Condominiums and
subsequently for the JWV Post 520 of which he is
still a member. We thank him for this beautiful
article and for sharing his long-time,
long-distance friendship with Francie.
Contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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