Friday, March 30, 2007

Hall of Fame inducts two Franco-Americans

Portland Press Herald - Maine Sunday Edition
Thursday, March 29, 2007
By Juliana L'Heureux

Maine's Franco-American Hall of Fame inducted Norman Beaupre of Biddeford at ceremonies held at the State House in Augusta during last week's La Semaine de la Francophonie, or "The Week of the Francophone."

Cleo Ouellette of Frenchville also received the Hall of Fame award, presented to her and Beaupre by the 123rd Legislature in the Maine House of Representatives. Ceremonies were also conducted in the Maine Senate.

Rep. Paulette Beaudoin of Biddeford read the official recognition for Beaupre, which was entered into the legislative journal. Judy Paradis and her husband Ross Paradis of Frenchville are organizers of the award. Beaupre is a professor at the University of New England in Biddeford Pool. He and his wife, Lucille, live in Biddeford.

"I'm honored by this recognition because the award is officially marked by the stamp of the Maine state Legislature," says Beaupre. "All my efforts to promote French culture over the years have borne fruit since people recognize how they help the Franco community. My deep sentiment about this award is linked to my identity as a Franco-American."

Beaupre hopes the recognition he received will encourage others to take pride in their Franco-American heritage. "I know who I am, and I'm proud of it." he says. "I thrive in the Franco-American culture. I'm grounded in my identity. I cannot change my roots and cannot change who I truly am."

Furthermore, he wants young people to understand their heritage and value their Franco identify, "because having an identity is important to young people as they grow up," he says.

Although the Franco-American culture was celebrated in Augusta, there was less French language than usual spoken in the legislative halls, says Ross Paradis. "It's wonderful to see the state of Maine celebrate the Franco-Americans, but we hear much less French spoken these days," he says.

Opening legislative ceremonies were conducted in both French and English. Although La Semaine de la Francophonie was under-reported in the news media, it was widely celebrated throughout Maine last week.

In addition to the State House event, festivities were held at Lewiston's Franco-American Heritage Center and in Merrill Auditorium in Portland, where Le Vent du Nord appeared in concert with the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Wednesday evening's reception and concert at Lewiston's Franco American Heritage Center attracted 400 people. The audience ranged in age from about 7 to beyond retirement. Although the event was held on the first day of spring, the weather was wintry, and people braved sidewalks coated with black ice to meet Franco-American community leaders at a wine and cheese reception. Entertainment by the high energy Le Grand Derangement, a music and dance ensemble from Nova Scotia, was lively, and the tickets were free.

Franco-American pride was evident throughout last week's events. Although the French language was somewhat scarce at Wednesday's ceremonies in Augusta, it was widely spoken at the Franco-American Heritage revelry the same evening in Lewiston. As a matter of fact, Neil J. Leblanc, the Canadian Consul General from Nova Scotia, spoke to the Heritage Center audience about a recent Canadian public opinion poll about language.

It was reported that 81 percent of Canadians approve of Canada's bilingual French and English education programs in the school, said Leblanc. "We're having a wonderful time celebrating our French culture," added Francois Gauthier, consul general of France.
Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at