Condo News print newspaper is published every other Wednesday. It is circulated throughout Palm Beach County, from
Delray to North Palm Beach, and from Singer Island, Palm Beach and
South Palm Beach to Royal Palm Beach, in Condominium, Cooperative
and Home Owner Association Communities. For more information, or to
have the Condo News brought to your community, e-mail us or
write to: P.O. Box 109, West Palm Beach, FL 33409. Tel:(561)
Profile: Meet Lynelle Chauncey Zelnar -- founder of Forgotten
Condo Art Corner
Reflections of Mother
1 & 2
series by Betty Thomas, Condo News Publisher
Condo Pet of the Week
Francoise Guillemain d'Echon "Francie"
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
(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
2 in a series
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.
1 in a series
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 coming issues.
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 email@example.com.
Have you written
an essay you would like printed in the Condo News?
Copy must be typed, double-spaced, no more than 1½ pages long, with title and
by-line. Send your essay to the Condo News, P.O. Box 109, West Palm Beach, FL 33402.
Condo News reserves the right to edit for space and to reject any essay for subject
matter. Sorry, we cannot accept poems. For further information call (561)
Food, Fun & Entertainment
| Decorating Concepts |
Brag Book | Yesteryear Village
Clubhouse Gallery | Gardening
| Out & About | Fit After Fifty
TCCA News | Local News
| Veterans News
| Gulf Wars
the Lawyer | Rembaum's
Community Association Counselor
| Letters to the Editor &
Classified Ads | Real Estate |
Ad Form | Advertising Rates | Contact Us
Web Design by LD&D