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)
Condo Pet of the Week (New Feature)
Condo Art Corner (New Feature)
Bringing Tribute to Those We Loved and Lost
Naming Ceremony) by Maddy Greenberg
Meet John Becker (Murry Hills)
Meet Leona Ramoy
Meet Richard Lerner
Meet Elliot Taubenslag
Profile in Courage
Francoise Guillemain d'Echon "Francie"
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.
by Jimmy Shirley
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.
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.
John Becker, Muralist,
Murry Hills, Lake Worth
& Photo by Jimmy Shirley
Becker is pictured in front of the mural he painted on the
wall at Murry Hills swimming pool. His granddaughter was the
model for the girl in the "snack shack" window.
in life, one never really realizes what they were meant to do
until later in life. Whether to earn a living or change the
world, these two extremes, things happen for a good reason,
often times lost to us regular folk.
have a younger brother who discovered, into his 40s, that he
could paint using watercolors. When first I saw one of his
paintings, I was utterly astonished because it was really
good. I thought to myself, "My brother painted that? MY
now we come to John Becker of Murry Hills. Into his 40s, he
discovers quite by accident while building a pond in his back
yard where he formerly lived in Palm Beach county that he has
a talent for painting. Some years later, he develops his skill
into painting murals along sides of buildings.
recently met with Mr. Becker and his wife of 51 years, Teresa
"Teddy" at their home in Murry Hills. He showed me
around his home which has several examples of his art
decorating the walls within. He has painted murals from the
eastern coastline of Palm Beach county to the western shores
of Lake Okeechobee. He has been the subject of numerous news
publications, including finally here, the Condo News. This
writer must confess to being very impressed with both him, his
wife and his art. Not that this writer is an art critic but he
knows what he likes.
and Mrs. Becker are the parents of four children, eight
grandchildren and one great grandchild. They moved to Florida
from New Hampshire around thirty-three years ago. He is a Navy
veteran who served his country during the Korean War. He was a
field representative for Curtis-Wright for some many years,
servicing the flight simulators. To those who don’t live at
Murry Hills, if when you get the chance, go to the clubhouse
and check out his mural there.
another of John’s paintings in the Condo Art Corner above
Leona Ramoy, Celebrating her 90th B-day with Family &
& Photos By Maddy Greenberg
Jeff & Ruth Stein with Jeff’s mom, Sarah Stein;
& Cathy Kantor— all residents from the Barclay
son Rob and
Judy Ramoy Johnstone.
many of the people that I meet who live along South Ocean
Boulevard have led such interesting lives. Leona Ramoy
recently celebrated her 90th Birthday and I found Leona and
her daughter Judy whom I both interviewed for this article to
be extremely easy to talk with and quite engaging. Upon
speaking with one of Leona’s neighbors, Ilse Ahronheim, (my
travel agent) at the Barclay Condominium on S. Ocean Blvd. in
South Palm Beach, I found out that Leona and her late husband
Milton, back on Valentine’s Day, February 2002 were guests
on the Oprah Show. The story that led up to it and the
recent communication from Oprah’s staff to Leona make for an
interesting experience that I will tell you about a bit later
in this article.
had a delightful brunch at the Breakers Flagler Steakhouse
celebrating her 90th Birthday with family and friends. Over 50
of her friends from condominiums including The Barclay, (where
she is an original owner who has lived full-time in South Palm
Beach since 1978), attended this gala. Friends from The Palm
Sea, Horizon West and The Patrician were all there to share in
this happy occasion. Other guests included much loved next
door neighbors from East Rockaway, New York. These former
neighbors have been friends of Leona since 1949 and now
coincidently live in Lake Worth. To have kept in touch with
your friends and neighbors that date back some 62 years, says
a lot about a person — ALL GOOD.
family from New York, Maryland, Delaware and Florida all flew
out for this most joyous occasion. Even Leona’s two Great
Grandchildren, Micah Johnstone, 18 and a Freshman in the
Honors College at the University of South Florida and little
Lucas Pseres, from Baltimore who celebrated his first birthday
while visiting his Great Grandma Leona were all there to share
in the happiness. In Yiddish, they say that this brings Leona
"Naches," which translated means "great
order to understand the reason why Leona and her husband whom
she adored so much were guests on Oprah Show, it goes
back to 2002 when Leona wrote a letter to Redbook Magazine
answering a question as to "Would you marry your spouse
again?" What made Leona’s story so inspiring that Oprah
apparently took an interest in it was because of the
explanation behind Leona’s response.
that time Leona and her now departed husband were married 60
years. Back in 1942 just a month prior to their planned
wedding, Leona’s dad had died. Leona’s soon to be groom
was going off to war overseas, so the two love birds cancelled
their planned wedding and instead were married before 300
soldiers in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
had explained in her letter to Redbook that she had
always missed that she didn’t have her big dream wedding all
those years ago. Her letter must have been quite impressive
and inspirational enough for Oprah to decide that on Valentine’s
Day she would interview this couple and surprise them with a
magnificent renewal of their vows so that their family could
be witnesses to this special occasion that would be televised
Leona received a phone call, which she thought was a joke to
be on the show. There were other couples, but it was
determined that Leona and her hubby were to be the couple of
choice on this special show. Leona only knew that she would be
interviewed, nothing more. In the meantime it had been
arranged that Leona would be interviewed right here in Palm
Beach, which did take place. Then a stretch limousine came to
pick the couple up at the Barclay to take them to the airport,
and again when they arrived in Chicago they were spirited off
to their hotel in another limousine. Little did Leona know but
her family was arriving at the same time as their parents at a
different airport in Chicago and taken to a different hotel so
the surprise would be authentic.
couple and their family members were kept in different rooms
at the show. The surprise was real, and Oprah arranged to have
a "chupa" as is traditional in the Jewish faith
erected on the stage and a Rabbi officiated the wedding as the
happy and surprised couple renewed their vows. It was Oprah
who when the groom stomped on the glass wrapped in a napkin,
called out "Mazel Tov!"
to Leona’s daughter Judy, she had heard over the years that
while her father was overseas he wrote passionate love letters
weekly to his beloved wife Leona. None of the children were
allowed to read these impassioned letters because they were
told they would "burn in your hands." Apparently
Leona lovingly kept all the love letters in an adorned trunk,
and she brought one with her to the Oprah Show where it
was read aloud. Quite an endearing and romantic story of love
and commitment; which spanned some 64 years of marriage and
will endure for many years as a tender memory well beyond
that. Judy told me that every night when her parents went to
bed they held hands as they drifted off to sleep. Even after
those 60 years of marriage. Now that sounds like true love
the Oprah set a 27 year old assistant asked Leona what her
secret was for knowing when you find the right one to marry.
Leona and her husband simply said, "You will know when it
Ramoy’s and their family were spirited off by Oprah to a
luncheon reception after their renewed vows to the Four
Seasons Resort in Chicago. They were treated to another
wonderful and happy once in a lifetime experience.
later, a package arrived at the Ramoy’s apartment at the
Barclay, another gift from Oprah. Since Leona had confided to
Oprah that she never had a wedding album, Oprah sent an album
filled with photos from her show of the entire occasion and a
video tape of the renewal of the vows on the show — Very
to the 27 year old assistant who asked that question about
finding the love of your life. Recently she contacted Leona
and told her that she remembered the Ramoy’s words and
advice and has been keeping a photo of them from the show on
her desk as a reminder. She was calling to tell Leona that she
was right about waiting for the right love to come into your
life. She just knew it when it was right and is getting
married and she wanted Leona to know that she had listened to
the Ramoy’s because the lovely couple and their tender love
had impressed her so very much.
am sure that this one experience holds many happy memories
among many years of happy memories and a lifetime of varied
happenings that make Leona’s 90 years a blessing indeed.
me in another ten years, Leona when you celebrate your
birthday marking a century and your photo goes on the "Smuckers"
Jar. God Bless you, I hope you have many more wonderful
next time, stay safe, be well and pray that those hurricanes
keep missing us.
Richard Lerner, 98 Years Young & Still Going Strong
and Photo by Maddy Greenberg
John Harmon, 81 years old, (the baby in this group); Richard
Lerner, 98 years young, resides at the
Condominium on S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach &
Lynn, 92 years old, and lives at the Regency on S. Ocean
Beach. Just completed one and a half hours of playing tennis.
Reef Condominium on South Ocean Boulevard has a rather unique
resident. What makes Richard Lerner so unique is not just the
fact that he is 98 years old and living independently, walking
and talking when he is pushing a century old. No it is the
fact that Richard Lerner is presently playing tennis,
(doubles) three times a week. He doesn’t stop there; he then
plays golf four days a week. Now that is just INCREDIBLE!!
said that in Florida when you reach 95 years old you must take
the driving test again. He laughs that he failed the first
time, not because he couldn’t keep up but because he did not
come to a complete stop at a STOP sign. The Motor Vehicle
person admitted that he, too, slows down and gives a quick
stop and looks both ways. The next time Richard passed with
flying colors. He was told he was the oldest driver to pass
the driving test in Florida when he took the test. Richard
drives with out a problem, so he says, and he is a careful
driver too. I wonder how many 98 year olds can say that about
their driving ability and have it confirmed by Motor Vehicles.
spent some time talking with Richard and found him to be
extremely sharp and have a very interesting story to tell
about his life and how he came to live in Palm Beach. Richard
Lerner is a native New Yorker. Richard attended Boys High and
left home as a 15 year old teenager to hitch hike to
California. He was unique and independent even back then. He
went to California because he wanted to be an aviator but that
dream did not work out the way he planned. He came back home
to New York and began working for a man making artificial
flowers to go onto ladies hats. He went into business for
himself, until the hat business took a nose dive. For a time
Richard said he made bows and hair accessories and then he
ended up, through a quirk of fate, in the ladies scarf
business. Apparently he found a great deal of success in that
moved out to Roslyn, Long Island in New York with his wife to
raise their family of four children. Richard said that he had
already owned a home in Queens, New York earlier. Then some 37
years ago Richard retired and decided to move down with his
wife to Florida and live at the Reef Condominium full-time. Of
course South Ocean Boulevard was not too populated on the
south-end with condominiums like you find today. The Lerners
were pioneers of sorts making their full time home here on the
south end of Palm Beach.
Dad, who passed away three years ago, if he were alive today,
would be one year younger than Richard. The stories that these
two men told of a time long gone were so very interesting. To
hear first hand accounts of those days is something that is
irreplaceable for younger generations who read about those
times in our history books. Richard told me that on his first
date with his wife, they went to a nightclub on Jamaica Bay
that charged 40 cents admission for a sandwich and entry into
the club. Now that was expensive for its day. He reminisced
how in those days you could get a meal in the Chinese
Restaurant for a quarter. I recall my Dad and Mom mentioning
that was where they went on their dates, and my Dad had to
save up for the meals to impress my Mom. Richard confirmed the
very same thing about what things cost back then. He said a
newspaper was three cents, the New York Times according to
Richard. Of course salaries were quite small so it is all
relative. Richard said he bought his first car for a mere five
dollars and it was manufactured by the Star Motor Company. He
said that he recalled when you could get 13 gallons for $1.00.
Of course, not that long ago, gas was much less expensive for
everyone but clearly not that inexpensive. To be able to
afford a car, according to my Dad, was a luxury back in the
day. My Dad said that when he was a young man, which was the
same time when Richard was about the same age, in Brooklyn,
New York, there were Trolley Cars. My Dad said there were
times when the nickel to travel was too costly and walking was
the only choice.
to what Richard is doing today, he says that a case of vertigo
keeps him from running too much when playing tennis these
days, clearly that does not stop him from playing anyway.
Nothing keeps this incredibly unique man down. He plays golf
even in the dog days of summer here in Florida. Only
difference is in the summer he plays 9 holes while during the
season he plays 18. He says he is an original member of his
Country Club that started out only as a golf club. Between the
tennis and golf, I would say that is pretty darn good.
this time Richard Lerner lives alone. His wife of 75 years
passed away 3 to 4 months ago at 94. He most definitely keeps
busy. I would dare say that most much younger people are not
as active as this remarkable man.
had to meet him after our interesting phone conversations. So,
one morning, I went to Phipps Ocean Park and met up with
Richard, his good friend Harold Lynn, (who was the one to
contact me for this article). Harold is a mere 92 and looks
terrific. I offered to drive Richard home from the courts, but
he refused me and walked home. Now that is something.
has 4 children, 5 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. His
oldest great-granddaughter is 12 years old. Richard is looking
forward to her Bat-mitzvah next year in New York where he
plans on attending. God bless him and the fact that he is
still going strong at 98 years old.
next time stay safe, be well and keep praying those hurricanes
pass us by.
Tribute to Those We
Maddy (top right) with Niece Debra Gelber holding Benjamin
Leibush, and Alexis Sipa (L) & sister Ashley (R).
by Phyllis Kuby
& Jack at Jack's Hebrew naming, Leibush, after his Great
Grandpa, at Temple Emanu-el.
by Debra Gelber
June 25th there was a very special occasion for my family. In
honor of my parents, Louis and Sylvia Greenberg there was a
Hebrew naming at my synagogue, Temple Emanu-el of Palm Beach.
you may recall, my article on Father’s Day described the
planned naming of my little 6 month old nephew, Jack Benjamin,
for his Great-Grandpa and my father, using as tradition
dictates, his Hebrew name, Leibush. What I didn’t know at
that time was my 6 year old niece; Alexis asked her mother if
she too, (Alexis had never been named in Hebrew), could
receive a Hebrew name when her brother got his at the same
ceremony. Of course her Aunt Maddy, ( I love the fact that an
"Aunt" remains with that title no matter how many
generations go by), was only too happy to have Alexis receive
my mom and Alexis’s Great-Grandma’s Hebrew name of Sipa.
Rabbi Michael Resnick called my family up and we all stood
there and participated in the ceremony as the congregation
looked on and the children were named in prayer.
Jewish Tradition, we honor our loved ones who are no longer
with us with by passing on their Hebrew name to our precious
children. The Hebrew name follows us in our lives for all
special occasions. In the United States, we have English
names, but it is our Hebrew name that is our way of showing
respect for our traditions and paying tribute to those we
loved and lost. A person’s Hebrew name is used at a Bar
Mitzvah, (for a boy), Bat Mitzvah, (for a girl) and all during
our lives when we are called up to the Bima, (elevated
platform where you read from the torah) and given an honor,
(an Alyah), while the Torah is being read in the synagogue.
During a marriage ceremony when the Ketubah, (Jewish Marriage
Certificate) is read, it is our Hebrew names that are used.
When the time comes and we leave this earth, at the funeral
the Hebrew name is read during a prayer for the dead (Mourner’s
Kaddish); Kaddish is said again each year in memorial to us.
name does not have to be from a parent or grandparent. It can
be from any blood relative. You can now well understand the
significance of this honor and why it is bestowed upon
my particular case, my Hebrew name, Malka was taken from my
Grandmother’s niece who died in a concentration camp. My
Grandmother was superstitious and wanted to make sure I lived
a long life. She had my mother use as a middle name, Chava,
after her Grandmother who lived well over a hundred. That made
me safe. Many times the Hebrew names have meanings. Malka,
means "Queen." I can handle that. My niece Alexis’s
Hebrew names are Sipa which means "Little Bird" and
Avivia, "Spring." Alexis selected spring because she
was born the first day of the season, (that is not
particularly traditional, but made her happy). My little
nephew Jack’s Hebrew name Leibush, means "Purity."
Poor kid, he has some high standards to live up to between his
wonderful Great-Grandpa and the meaning of his name. With
those big baby blue eyes I am sure he can handle it.
Ironically he is named after my dad, but has my mom’s
other religions, tribute is paid in different ways.
you can guess, I was elated that both my dad, who wanted his
name to be passed on, and my sweet mom, who you all know by
now I loved them both dearly, must be smiling down on us right
now. Besides anything else the side benefit is that for me
this gift that my niece Debra gave me by naming her children
after her Grandfather and Grandmother not only brought me
pleasure, but closure as well.
way you can find to pay tribute to those you loved and lost,
will not only be an honor but can bring you peace of mind. Now
that is worth everything.
Pet of the Week
by Jimmy Shirley unless otherwise stated
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
Arnie Dickerman, Covered Bridge
Of The Arts", but one of our wonderful clubs in Covered
Bridge, presented a documentary December 16th, which honored Elliot
Taubenslag, another one of our residents of Covered
Bridge. You may be asking yourself who is this honoree?
is none other than our own "Mr.T", As the video
refers to him. The documentary was produced by the New Jersey
School Department Of Education in honor of celebrating 50
years of his work in developing children’s talents in
singing, comedy and dramatic acting while nurturing and
developing his charges in the arts, during his tenure in the
New Jersey School System. Elliot was given the highest award
as the nation’s top teacher in his field for his work and
contribution to education in child development.
documentary has been circulating in school districts
throughout the nation to enlighten and encourage other
teachers in the same capacity on how to encourage their young
students to aspire to realize their God-given talents.
a humble, and unimposing individual has an impressive resume.
Before retiring as the Drama Coordinator in the East Brunswick
School District in New Jersey, during which he also found the
time to instruct at Rutgers State University in the Department
of Arts Education, he taught playwriting at the Middlesex
College. In the Summers during school hiatus, hundreds of
children from all walks of life joined his "Theater
Company", where a local High School auditorium served as
the center to partake in shows written, produced and directed
by this talented versatile artist. A part of the documentary
showed taped portions of youngsters auditioning for parts to
act, sing and dance, (note: every child was always accepted),
from first rehearsal to finished product ready to perform
presentations. It is astonishing that a different and new
production took place EVERY WEEK! A portion of the
presentation showed delighted, engrossed and entertaining boys
and girls that were able to relate to Elliot. At times, some
called him "grandpa" or "Mr.T." This was
wonderful to witness. I saw the interaction between Elliot and
each individual child in his ensemble that showed genuine
mutual respect and total admiration between their mentor and
documentary also included interviews of Mr. T’s colleagues
and youngsters who offered their praise and affection to their
leader, plus some insights into Elliot from family and
admiring friends. In addition, testimonials from now grown
adults, who as children were fortunate to have spent their
school summer vacations with Elliot’s Theater Company, were
on camera. There was a grown man, once a very shy young boy
who had social problems relating to his peers, with admitted
low self-esteem, offering his thanks to his one time mentor
Elliot, as the reason he achieved success in later life. This
gentleman is Jim Vallely, a famous Hollywood writer and
producer of a popular television show called "Arrested
Development." Jim also was the head writer for the
television show "The Golden Girls." While another
"graduate" of Mr.T’s, a young woman, now a
pediatric physician, praised her childhood affiliation with
Elliot’s theater group for her developing confidence and
strength of character for her success. Maureen Mershon,
another of Elliot’s child actresses who now is a theater
drama director in Seattle, Washington, said that it was Elliot
that inspired her to go into this field. Kevin Goetz, who has
become a Hollywood film producer, also now known as "The
Film Doctor" and is behind the enterprise "Screen
Engine" doing TV programming research for FOX-TV
and ABC-TV. Goetz also praised Elliot. As a young child
where he found that The Theater Company that Elliot ran and
where Goetz spent his childhood summers, had become his
motivating force to enter the entertainment industry.
Elliot is now in his eightieth decade, it was only just two
years ago that his adult play, featuring Avi Hoffman, which
Elliot had written, produced and directed, entitled
"Millions Of Miles", was performed at the Delray
Playhouse in South Florida. This drama/comedy received
wonderful reviews. As one of the members of the audience
during a performance, I was fortunate to have witnessed the
genius of this man.
now concentrates on our community activities here in Covered
Bridge. Among these are organizing cruises and planning day
trips; in his capacity as Recreational Committee leader; he
serves on our Board of Directors, in addition to recruiting
professional acts via Showcases in South Florida, arranging
with their theatrical agents, to entertain us in our Clubhouse
Auditorium four times during the "Season." Not
surprising to learn from Elliot that as a young teen, he had
show business in his veins. While still attending school in
N.J., he "hung out" in local summer stock theaters
where traveling companies came to perform. He became a
"gopher" for the actors, and eventually was given
"small walk-ons" and sometimes a couple of lines to
say. He did share the stages with some very well known names
such as a show called "Counselor For The Law"
featuring Sidney Lumet, Paul Muni, and Vivian Vance. He also
had a "bit" part with Lucille Ball in a show called
"Dream Girls", and, in a show by the name of
"Diamond Lil" featuring Mae West.
guess it’s in his blood, you might say, that to this day,
Elliot creates, writes and directs ‘in-house" talent at
Covered Bridge to put on wonderful shows each spring,
including months of delightful rehearsals. By the way, he also
developed and heads our "Author’s Workshop", with
many enthusiastic writers. I am just exhausted from relating
to you all of his activities. We at Covered Bridge do know and
appreciate Elliot Taubenslag, our own "Mr.T".
All A HAPPY And HEALTHY NEW YEAR
love heroes. They makes us feel good and hopeful that, in our
world of chaos and self-indulgence, there are people who
demonstrate gallant, selfless and audacious behaviors to help
others—people who show us the way to a better humankind and we’re
as proud of them as if we knew them personally.
first-generation Greek-American, I was schooled in the great
heroes of Grecian myths and lore. Homer, Plato, Socrates, Zeus
and his family of amazing, often-mischievous children were
topics for dinner conversations in my home. I guess I took it
for granted that heroes existed, fictional and real. I knew I
had heroes in my family: a father who, at age nine and
parentless, came to America to work. At fifteen, he brought his
four brothers to this country and at twenty founded a successful
business. He demonstrated a work ethic and code of honor for his
children to follow. We lost my brother, an Air Force belly
gunner, in the Pacific. Surely, he was my hero. And I had a
mother who epitomized all that was good and pure in helping
others. Yes, I knew people I considered heroic, good people.
I had never known my heroic grandfather, a Greek-Orthodox
priest, until forty years after his death. Call it kismet, call
it fate. I was in Berchtesgaden, Germany. I had just climbed
flights of stairs out of the salt mine tour—the same mine
where Hitler manufactured fighter planes deep underground for
safekeeping. High up on a mountain, Hitler’s summer home,
"Eagle’s Nest," as conquering American soldiers
dubbed it, was visible from where I stood. I had a half hour
before the bus tour resumed and I wandered into a tiny cemetery.
In the fashion of cemeteries there, it was not an unpleasant
place to be. With neatly tended, bright mountain flowers edging
the plots, precisely trimmed trees providing shade and benches
to rest—it was pretty and park-like.
walked in a few feet more and stopped short. Large tombstones
decorated the graves. On each tombstone was a portrait of a
German soldier in uniform. I didn’t see the youthful or
determined facial expressions of the soldiers at first—I only
saw the swastikas and insignias. On hats, on armbands, on
jackets. These symbols of the Nazi party seemed to leap out of
the photographs at me. As a young child with three brothers in
the army, a gold star hanging in our window and another brother
wounded in France, that war was all too real and painful for my
family. Hitler was a crazed demon to the little girl who saw her
mother dressed in mourning black, weeping for the oldest son she
would never see again, for the two she might never see again. I
stared at the grim faces of Nazi soldiers and officers. I was
chilled to the bone though a hot July sun beat down on me.
I said to a fellow-American tourist who had wandered in and
stood beside me, "that we can see this so many years later
and still be affected by it." He, too, stared at the
tombstone photos and nodded silently. We stood, not speaking, a
while longer and then turned to meet our bus. We exchanged
names. His was Jacob. He was a Bostonian, traveling with his
wife, Natalie. He asked the nationality of my last name and I
told him it was Greek.
looked at me and smiled. "I’m Jewish. I have a special
fondness for Greeks. If it weren’t for a Greek Orthodox priest
in Athens who hid my parents and helped them escape from the
invading German soldiers, I wouldn’t be here!" I had the
strangest feeling that I knew the answer to my question when I
asked if he knew the priest’s name.
Nicholas," he replied. It was, indeed, my grandfather!
Nicholas with his wife
submitted by Tina Chippas
Nicholas' role in the Resistance.
had placed Jacob in my life for a reason. I was in the midst of
writing a curriculum on genocide for a school district and a
holocaust center. It seemed to fit into life’s plan that I
would learn about my grandfather’s role in the Resistance at
this time. A trip to Plaka was in order.
is a village, oddly located in the midst of a bustling, modern
Athens. The first construction workers came from the Cycladic
island of Anafi, after the Greek Revolution in 1828. They built
Athens’ main buildings and their own homes on the slopes of
the Acropolis in their traditional island style and created this
small village with whitewashed houses and narrow paths between
them. On my first visit there, its original charm had not yet
been sullied by vendors selling tourist trinkets.
by Tina Chippas
was glad to escape the torrid sun and entered the cool darkness
of the tiny church, one of the oldest churches in Athens, dating
back to the eleventh century, close to the Acropolis. I looked
around with heartfelt awe and respect. This was where my
grandfather had been priest, where my mother was christened,
prayed, and spent her girlhood. There were no pews, no chairs.
Candles, in ornate brass candelabras, flickered and cast
mysterious shadows. The scent of burning wax mingled with the
incense. The power of icons, hundreds of years old, surrounded
me. I was overwhelmed with a sense of coming home. I knelt, on
the stone floor, the same stones where my grandparents stood
when they married, baptized their children, where their coffins
rested before they were put to rest.
Church at Plaka,
by Tina Chippas
the Plaka Church
by Galen Frysinger
daughter." I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up into
the bright blue eyes of an old priest, peering at me over his
wire spectacles, his face creased in concern. He introduced
himself as Father Orestes and asked if he could help me. "I
am the granddaughter of Father Nicholas. I’ve come to learn
about my grandfather," I answered. He smiled and told me he
had been the deacon who served under my grandfather. He invited
me to join him in the tiny garden behind the church.
left the church, sat in the shade of a vine-covered arbor and
sipped tepid tea with the scent of mint wafting toward us from
the garden. It was incredibly hot but Father Orestes, even in
his black robes, didn’t seem bothered by it. He spoke slowly,
remembering the painful past. History documents that the Greeks
were not equipped to fight such a war and were far outnumbered
by the Italians and Germans; their armies had rudimentary arms
and hardly any uniforms or warm clothing. In October of ’40,
when Italy invaded Greece, Greek troops repelled them after a
bitter struggle. They were proud—that was the first Allied
victory in the war. Then Hitler launched the battle of Greece
and the Greeks were outweighed by Germany, Bulgaria, and Italy.
Our British, Australian and New Zealand allies, combined, could
not overcome the German might. Many were lost in that battle.
But when the Germans tried to seize Crete with paratrooper
drops, the Cretans and Allies fought fiercely and their fight
delayed the German’s military plans against Russia by a month.
sight of the Acropolis --
the Greek flag flying atop the Acropolis in the
by Galen Frysinger
Orestes continued, "Then God sent His servants to show us
the way." All Greeks know the symbolic act of defiance when
the German invasion started. After the Germans entered Athens,
they ordered an Evzone, one of the elite soldiers who guard the
flag that flies over the Acropolis, to remove it. The young
soldier obeyed the order, then wrapped himself in our blue and
white flag and leaped from the wall of the ancient fortress to
his death. It was the first day of German occupation and the
first act of resistance in the city.
of the Evzone guards at the Acropolis
by Galen Frysinger
old priest wiped his eyes. "It was a terrible time for
Greece, for mankind. But there were heroic people, like your
grandfather, who showed us the way out of the hell Hitler had
Nicholas' role in safe harboring Jews during the Resistance.
met, again, with Father Orestes. Despite his age, his memory was
sharp. He described Father Nicholas as a man who assumed
responsibility for helping everyone, regardless of religion or
station in life. "There are people who are so pure of
heart, they are chosen by God to lead our souls," the old
priest attested. He related that no one knew, at first, that
Father Nicholas was involved in hiding the fleeing Jews. He had
been safe-harboring Jews from Salonika until they could be
transported and the ancient church had many hiding places. In
1941, Germans were already in Athens and Hitler had authorized
Himmler to exterminate Jews. Jews had lived in Salonika since
the fifteenth century. They were doctors, artists, lawyers,
musicians, business people who contributed much to that society
and the Germans herded 48,000 of them out of Salonika and
shipped them to Auschwitz. Only 11,000 were allowed to live as
slave labor. Many died en route to Auschwitz. The others were
learned from Father Orestes that there were many Greeks who
helped Jews to escape. The Germans warned that anyone aiding
Jews to escape would be executed but that did not deter the
Greeks. The Church of Greece, under Archbishop of Athens
Damaskinos Papandreou’s leadership, condemned Hitler’s plans
for the country and instructed priests to announce its position
in their sermons. When the Germans started rounding up Jews,
over 600 Greek Orthodox priests were arrested and deported
because of their actions in helping Jews. Archbishop Damaskinos
and Athens Police Chief Evert faced the threat of death for
their efforts, and would, surely, have been killed, if the
extent of their assistance had become known to the Germans. With
heroic efforts, they saved the lives of thousands of Jews.
was concerned that the retelling of this tragic period of
history seemed to have shaken Father Orestes, but he was
determined to complete his account of that time. The day came,
he said, when German soldiers’ boots resounded as they marched
to the church. They removed Father Nicholas and his assistants
from the church and shot them. They stood, I was told, and faced
their executioners, without fear. They were people who rose to
the occasion that demanded sacrifice and love for their human
brothers, without regard to religion. We sat in silence until
the old priest raised his hand and said, "May God rest
their souls." He saw me to the gate and bade me good-bye.
As is our custom, and as my mother taught me, I kissed the old
priest’s hand, a sign of respect for the church.
I left Greece, I visited my grandfather’s grave. It wasn’t
in a cemetery as precisely landscaped as the German cemetery in
Berchtesgaden where Jacob, my fellow-American tourist, revealed
my grandfather’s deeds to me. It was more country-like, under
silver olive trees. The headstones were simple ones. There were
no photographs, merely names and dates. I laid flowers on his
grave and thought about this heroic man I had never met. How
proud I was to be his granddaughter and have him a part of my
heritage. I thought about all those Greeks who had placed their
own lives and the lives of their families in peril, or worse,
perished, saving people of another belief. They made " . .
. deliver us from evil," a reality. They fought evil
with every might of their being. Surely, our ancient fathers
must have been satisfied that their children fulfilled the glory
that was Greece.
were, all, heroes.
thought of all the heroes I had ever known or read about. I’ve
observed that when a crisis occurs people respond in three basic
ways: some who look at the situation and decide non-involvement
is safest; some become part of the problem and, thankfully,
there are those who ask, "What can I do to help? How can I
make this better?" I’ve decided that the last one is what
heroes do. They become involved and perform heroic acts in times
of crisis. They are ordinary people performing extraordinary
of an honored priest
by Galen Frysinger
ruins at Plaka
by Tina Chippas
Tina Chippas outside a cafe in Plaka
by Tina Chippas
Chippas is a resident of SeaMark Condominiums in North
Palm Beach, FL. She has authored an unpublished novel, Affair
in Athens, that narrates her grandfather’s
heroic sheltering of Salonika Jews during WWII. Contact
her through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frysinger is a retired scientist who spends most of
his time traveling to interesting places in the world.
With a PhD from Yale, he worked in
University research for the Federal government and
with industry. His field is now in Comparative
Ethnography. He has traveled to 174 independent
countries and 74 dependencies. His photographs
capture the essence of the people and countries he has
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.
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