Christiane J. Shems

CUMBERLAND FORESIDE – Christiane J. Shems died on April 10, 2024, a month shy of her 92nd birthday.

She was born in Pierrepont, France on May 12, 1932. She grew up in Vailly-sur-Aisne, a small farming village 70 miles northeast of Paris. Her formative years were spent under the German occupation. Her home was billeted by German officers and forced Christiane and her family’s evacuation to Brittany.

After the war, Christiane attended university in Reims to become a midwife, which in France was equivalent of getting to and through three years of medical school. Despite being a strong student, Christiane fainted while observing her first caesarian section at a hospital in Soissons, France. The medical resident who came to her aide was also stricken, but with love. In 1952, Christiane married that resident, Albert Shems, M.D. in Paris. In 1955, they immigrated to the United States and settled in Lewiston.

While Christiane lived the rest of her life in Maine, France remained her home. She retained her French citizenship and spent every other summer with her parents and siblings in Vailly-sur-Aisne. In Maine, she maintained a French household, with French cooking, language, clothes, decor and culture. Christiane was the ultimate perfectionist be it décor, cuisine, needlepoint or simply the art of meticulously folding laundry. She brought smiles to those around her when she sang Edith Piaf classics.

Known to her grandchildren as Mémé, she brought enormous joy to them through her wonderful French cooking and humor. She also had an avid interest in birds, wildlife, farm animals, and New England’s natural beauty. She was a country girl with a magic touch with plants, flowers and gardening from her childhood growing up on her parents’ farm. She found great comfort and joy in her family’s pets who were always by her side.

Christiane was predeceased by her husband of 65 years, Albert, who passed away in 2017; and their son, Lenny, who passed away in 1979.

She is survived by her son, Ron Shems, his wife Maxine Grad, their children, Sophia, Noa, and Elan Shems of Moretown, Vt.; her daughter, Michele Shems and her children Eva, Max, and Lenny Then of Cumberland. She is also survived by her sister, Mireille Corrias of Abbeville, France.

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