Friday January 17, 2014 | 09:31 AM

             We Were Not Spoiled, by Lucille Verreault Ledoux, of Lewiston, ME, is the autobiographical history of a lovely Franco-American woman whose story represents those of many first generation immigrant families.  

Reading her story should motivate others to document the oral histories of aging family members. These histories are like heritage time capsules, available for future generations to learn about the life, and times of their relatives and ancestors. 

            Ledoux’s life includes familiar names of relatives and friends. Together with her and her family, they contributed to the Franco-American history of the greater Lewiston community. 

Lucille Ledoux 92 of Lewiston

We Were Not Spoiled, an autobiography by Lucille Verrreault Ledoux, 92, of Lewiston ME

            Her story begins when she describes where her parents lived when she was born on July 21, 1921, when they were a young married couple. They lived in a typical Lewiston apartment on the second floor of a four story building on the west end of Howe Street, near Walnut Street. 

            French-Canadian immigrants like Ledoux’s mother (the Verreault family) often lived in small apartments shared with large families and even accommodated visiting relatives from Canada.

             Ledoux’s memoir is authored and published by her son, Denis Ledoux, of Lisbon Falls. It’s written from the conversations shared, mostly from tape recordings, with her six children.

              Lucille exudes a shy demeanor while describing her long life.  She’s the oldest child of 12 siblings, only six of them who are still living.

             Now 92 years old, Ledoux lives at the D’Youville Pavillion, a Lewiston assisted living residence.

We Were Not Spoiled

             Typical of French-Canadians who moved from Quebec to Maine, Ledoux describes the many visits by train she made back to Thetford Mines, where her parents were married, to visit with grandparents, ma tantes and mon oncles. Travels between Lewiston and her family’s Quebec home were expected. Like many Franco-Americans living in Maine during the early 20th century, the intention was for the family to eventually return to their Quebec roots, although this seldom happened.

             Speaking French in Lewiston wasn’t a problem for the family. Many people spoke French including physicians, dentists, lawyers and the Roman Catholic clergy.

              What stands out in this particular autobiography is how Ledoux’s life mirrors the less well told Franco-American immigration experience. Her story is that of a touchingly proud first generation immigrant. It’s one that’s shared by millions of Franco-Americans whose ancestors lived very similar experience and who now reside throughout the US. 

            Foremost in Lucille’s long life were the challenges she faced as the oldest child. She describes her coming of age, marriage to Albert Ledoux on September 4, 1944, in Lewiston and the responsibilities of raising a family while maintaining strong ties with her French speaking heritage. One of her biggest accomplishments was raising 2 daughters (of her six children) after 1981, when she became a widow.

             What’s interesting about We Were Not Spoiled is how Ledoux describes her life as a composite of the many people she interacted with, who were among her ancestors, peers, friends and relatives. Each person she describes as someone who brings value to her life. Although not all of her experiences had a positive outcome, especially regarding her decision to leave high school before graduating, she accepted her decisions as being important to her at the time, without regret.

             This characteristic ability to accept every person with compassion and understanding, while looking back on her life without regrets, are flattering qualities shared by many Franco-American women.

             Ledoux candidly describes times when her life must’ve been difficult, but she simply did what was required to move her family forward. This was especially difficult when the family experienced economic downturns. Nevertheless, she accepted each turn as a stepping stone to another chapter in her life.

             We Were Not Spoiled describes a humble life where the simple joys of births and marriages are celebrated and ancestors are held in high regard.

             Ledoux’s life is an example of how every person can contribute to the historical knowledge of their community and to the family’s pride by recording and writing their first person stories.

             Her book was five years in the writing, says her son Denis. "I wrote it around my work of writing other people's stories. It was a classic case of the shoemaker's children going barefoot. Finally, as my mother turned 92, I knew that I had to finish writing and publish the book as I wanted her to have the book in hand. When I gave her a copy she said, ‘You spoil me!’"

Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux author of We Were Not Spoiled, an autobiography of his mother 

              “I don't think anyone in the family knew her whole story and this book tied it together for all of us," he says.

 More information about The Memory Network and We Were Not Spoiled is available at info@TheMemoryNetwork.com

 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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