Sen. Susan Deschambault, recently inducted to the Franco-American Hall of Fame, pauses for a photo With Maine Senate President Troy Jackson. Courtesy Photo/Maine Senate President’s Office

Susan Deschambault of Biddeford is now a state senator, retired from her job as a social worker in the Department of Corrections. But she remembers well one specific situation where she was able to use her fluency in the French language to help a young man incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham some years ago.

Deschambault was among 12 people — four from York County — who were inducted to the Franco-American Hall of Fame at the State House in Augusta on Sept. 7, along with retired Maine District Court Judge Andre Janelle of Saco, former Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Jerome “Jerry” Plante, and the late longtime University of New England coach James Beaudry.

While working at the prison one day, Deschambault encountered a young man whose first language was French. He was worried about his grandmother, who had raised him — and now that she was older, he had looked out for her — until he ended up in prison.

Deschambault called the young man’s grandmother, to let her know he was all right.

Retired Maine District Court Judge Andre Janelle, recently Inducted to the Franco-American Halll of Fame, is shown here with Sen. Donna Bailey, who nominated him for the award. Courtesy Photo/Maine Senate Majority Office

“I was able to intercede, so he could speak with her by phone, periodically,” she said.

When Judge Janelle was on the bench in York County, he sometimes conducted proceedings both in English and in French.

Typically, he said, that would happen when someone from Quebec would appear before him on a traffic or minor criminal matter, he said in a recent telephone interview.

“We didn’t have ready access to interpreters at the time,” said Janelle. So, he would speak in English and provide a translation for the defendant, and then would translate the defendant’s response to English.

Janelle was named a District Court Judge in 1986 and is now considered active retired, serving occasionally on the bench. He previously was an Assistant Attorney General and Governor’s Legislative Counsel.

He was nominated to the Franco-American Hall of Fame by State Sen. Donna Bailey.

Raised in Lewiston in the 1950s, the French-speaking boy picked up English playing with other youngsters in the neighborhood, he said.

He said the induction is a matter of great pride for him.

“I think about people in my family who preceded me and I think (are) more worthy of the honor … but I view this as contributions made by my extended family over the years,” said Janelle, “I am very honored to be selected.”

Plante was born in Biddeford. The family moved to Waterville when his father died, and later to Old Orchard Beach.

Former Maine Legislator and former Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Jerome Plante was inducted to the Franco-American Hall of Fame last week, and was nominated for the award by Rep. Lori Gramlich, left. Courtesy Photo/Maine House Speaker’s Office

He served in the Maine Legislature from 1957 to 1964, later became Clerk of the Maine House and then worked for Congressman Peter Kyros. Plante was later town manager in Old Orchard Beach for 15 years. The town became known as “the playground of two nations,” he recalled, noting the large contingent of annual visitors from the province of Quebec.

” I was a bellhop at 10 years at the Old Orchard House,” said Plante of his first job. “In high school I started to manage it and ultimately I bought it.”

State Rep. Lori Gramlich nominated Plante for the award.

“When I spoke with Jerry prior to the ceremony, he said to me there isn’t a lot at his age of 86 that presents such an honor, and how deeply honored he is for this induction,” said Gramlich. “We truly are blessed to have him in our community.”

The late James Beaudry served 34 months in the U.S. Army during World War II, and took part in the D-Day battle of Normandy. After teaching in various Maine middle and high schools, the Portland native and his family moved to Biddeford in 1963 to work at St. Francis College, now the University of New England. He was the university’s athletic director and an associate professor for 21 years. After retirement, he continued to be engaged in the UNE community and was a mentor to students and athletes. As well as being named an Honorary Alumnus of UNE in 2001, Beaudry was inducted to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honor, and the Cheverus Athletics Hall of Fame. He was nominated to the Franco-American Hall of Fame by State Rep. Margaret O’Neil.

The late James Beaudry, a longtime coach and associate professor at the University of New England, was posthumously inducted to the Franco-American Hall of Fame. Courtesy Photo/Maine Veterans Homes

Deschambault, scheduled to be a presenter at the event, said her own induction came as a surprise. When she arrived, she saw many people she knew, including friends and family members, and thought they had come to see the proceedings.

Then, Maine Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau said the dozen honorees would also include Deschambault and longtime Aroostook County Rep. John Martin.

“I could not believe it, everybody knew,” she said.

Deschambault grew up in a hosuehold with French as her first language. She was Biddeford’s first female police commissioner; and was appointed by Governors John McKernan, Angus King, and John Baldacci to serve on the Maine Criminal Justice Commission, a position she held for 17 years. As well, she has served on the Biddeford City Council and the city’s Planning Board.

On hand for the event was the French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne, Senior Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Service Officer and Consulate General of Canada to New England Marc A. Jacques, and Cultural, Francophone and Academic Affairs Attaché for the province of Québec in Boston Marie-Josée Duquette.

Janelle said he was surprised to see the French ambassador at the induction ceremonies.

“It made the day more special, and I got to chat with him after, in French,” said Janelle.

As she spoke at the event, Deschambault, who sponsored a bill to create the Lafayette Trail, directed some of her remarks to Etienne. She spoke of the Marquis of Lafayette who left his home at 19 in 1774 to come to what was then a colony of Great Britain, befriended George Washington, and others, and fought for the Americans in the revolution. After the war, when the fledgling country was broke, the wealthy Lafayette gave generously to help, she noted.

“That is the impact of the French culture to the United States of America,” said Deschambault.

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