Above is a photograph of my maternal uncle, Paul Clotaire Lequien taken shortly before he was to receive his baccalaureate. Paul was born at St. Michel (Indre-et-Loire), France on March 1, 1899. He was my grandmother's favorite son because he was academically inclined, unlike his brother Henri who favored his father's love of sports and the outdoors. Paul was studying to be a teacher -- we believe at an école normale, but we do not know which one. Within a few days after the photos of him on this page were taken, Paul fall gravely ill. My grandmother insisted he be brought home so that she could take care of him. Unfortunately Paul died on May 5, 1915 at the age of 16, just twelve hours after arriving home. His cause of death was some kind of brain inflamation, either encephalitis or meningitis. Paul is buried in La Boulaye.
My grandmother Élise Marie Dorpsmans never recovered from Paul's death. She remained morose for the rest of her life. Because she was unable to accept that Paul died in her hands, she made up a story that he had died in the infirmary of his school. Both the official records and recollections of old inhabitants of La Boulaye, where my grandmother was living, tell a different story: Paul died at home. My grandmother eventually came to believe her made-up story completely. Not until long after her death did we learn the truth.
At the time of Paul's death, his brother Henri and father Clément were away fighting in World War I. Neither returned until 1918. My grandmother had to grieve alone for her son Paul for three years, in a home in the middle of nowhere, far from friends and family. She visited his grave every day. It is not surprising that her mental health suffered irreparable damage. Even after she moved away from La Boulaye, she would often visit a local graveyard wherever she lived just so she could feel close to her dead son.
After my grandfather Clément returned from the war, my grandparents tried to have another son to replace Paul. Instead they had my mother, which is not what my grandmother wanted -- she wanted a son, not a daughter. The birth of my mother taxed my grandmother's physical health because of her age. She was ill for some time after my mother was born. It was during this illness that my grandfather met another woman and left my grandmother. My grandmother named my mother Paulette Henriette Lequien after her two sons.
Paul Lequien (right) and one of his school friends.
Paul Lequien's grave.
La Boulaye, France. June 2002.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.