Photo: Francine with her great-grandchild Sean and her daughter Martine
Happy Mother’s Day! On this special day, we are sharing a special story about a very brave and gifted mom who also happens to be one of our residents.
“I could not have found a nicer place to get old in,” says 96-year-old resident Francine, whose daughter Martine sits by her side in her apartment at JCHE’s Golda Meir House. Francine has been a resident here for 16 years, and while she may be a familiar face, only recently did she start opening up about a life story that reads like the script for a Hollywood thriller.
As a young woman living in France during World War II, Francine courageously dropped out of college to join the French Resistance in their fight against the occupying German army.
Involved in multiple firefights with the enemy, Francine was captured by the Nazis and put in a German POW camp. Miraculously, she escaped, and after days of wandering through the mountainous terrain of the Germany-France border, besieged by hunger and the ubiquitous sound of gunfire, Francine found refuge in a convent. Later, she would testify against an infamous Nazi officer who had killed her fellow prisoner.
When the war was over, a group of American college students wanting to document stories of the French Resistance invited Francine to the United States to appear on a lecture circuit. She became a U.S. citizen and worked for the United Nations for many years. Francine eventually settled in Massachusetts before moving to Golda Meir House at the age of 80.
Francine has a harder time getting around now, but when she was more mobile, she was an active participant in the many programs and activities Golda offers, including our Generations Together program as a pen pal with Boston students and as a member of Golda's resident choir, The Melodiers.
And while her mobility may be limited now, her craving for knowledge is still insatiable. She is, after all, a voracious reader who knows 7 languages and reads The New York Times every day. Francine loves JCHE’s commitment to lifelong learning and takes full advantage of the on-site programming at Golda, participating in its book clubs, lectures, and discussion groups which are just an elevator ride away.
After hearing her amazing story, Francine’s daughter Martine shared with us why JCHE has been such a great match not just for mom, but for daughter as well.
Martine, a Massachusetts District Court Judge, lives about a mile from Golda, but it’s not just the proximity that she appreciates. “If my mother lived a mile from me but in an isolated apartment, I wouldn’t have the peace of mind I have today.”
“My mother is a very independent lady,” Martine continued. “People look out for each other here; and not just employees but residents. It’s independent living, with great support, including mental and emotional support.”
“Sometimes when I’m worried about mom, I’ll call Golda and ask if someone could check in on her. Even though they don’t have to, they eagerly do so.”
JCHE is committed to making community, dignity, and independence affordable to our elders. And when our elders' loved ones also have peace of mind, it’s the perfect recipe for successful aging.
Thank you, Francine and Martine, for sharing your story, and Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at JCHE!