June 17, 2008 - #92
Eugénie Blanchard, Oldest Person in France
Born on February 16, 1896 in her family home in the Merlette neighborhood of Saint Barth, Eugénie Blanchard has lived in the geriatric ward of the island’s De Bruyn hospital since 1980. Practically blind and very weak, she is in good general heath and does not receive any regular medical treatment other than the occasional pill to help her sleep. Introduced to the church by Father DeBruyn, Douchy (as she is called) left for Curacao at the age of 24 and took the veil under the name of Sister Cyria Costa. In 1953, she retired and returned to live in Saint Barth with one of her sisters, then in her parent’s small house. She was given the nickname “Douchy” (which means sweets or candy in Papimiento, a language spoken in Curacao) because she often gave candy to children and they called out “Douchy, Douchy.”
On February 16, she celebrated her 112th birthday in the company of her family, and received a proclamation from Saint Barth as the oldest woman in the French West Indies, a title she took on as of Novermber 28, 2007 upon the death of Marie-Louise Lhuillier, who passed away at the age of 112 years and 185 days. When Clémentine Solignac died on May 25, 2008 at the age of 113, Douchy became the oldest person in France le 25, men and women included, according to the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). According to a list provided by the Amercian Gerontology Research Group, Douchy is the 14th oldest person in the world. A French woman, Jeanne Calment, who passed away on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days, holds the record for longevity.
Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of the Interior, Overseas, and Local Collectivities, Visits Saint Barth
Organized by members of the recently created UMP political party in St Barthélemy, this historic visit to the island by Michèle Alliot-Marie, third in command in French president Sarkozy’s cabinet, took place on the afternoon of June 7. Met at the airport by Bruno Magras, the president of the Collectivity of Saint Barth, delegate-prefect Dominique Lacroix, and the “family” of UMP supporters on the island, Madame la Ministre descended from a Puma army helicopter and was transported to the Hotel de la Collectivité. In the council chambers, she met with the island’s territorial council members as well as the economic, social and cultural council. Bruno Magras welcomed MAM (as she is referred to) and shared his concern about the cancellation of an election in 2012 for the island’s first deputy to the National Assembly. He then thanked MAM and the French government for their efforts to increase the size of the gendarme brigade in Saint Barth (from 13 to 20) since they now not only take care of their normal duties but also—since the island became a COM—control the borders and fight against illegal workers. He also thanked the commitment General Vicaire to add a police dog on the island, with the COM providing housing of the K-9 officer and a kennel for his dog.
Magras then pointed out that the COM is since the COM is more self-autonomous in terms of public services and administration, the territorial council—at its December 20, 2007 meeting—had decided to create a multi-professional economic chamber whose main goal would be to contribute to the economic development of the island and create a for professional training service to help businesses. Magras asked for the support of Michèle Alliot-Marie for the creation of a business bureau in Saint Barth as well as the rapid appointing of a court clerk, either public or private, in Saint Martin for the Northern Islands, to “offer service in closer proximity, something which is sorely lacking today.” He closed by stating his determination to modify he status of the island vis-à-vis Europe by shedding the current status of ultra-exterior region to become one of the Overseas countries and territories that benefit from associate member status.
Michèle Alliot-Marie replied by noting “the model of management…. And the social and economic successes of the island.” She was reassuring yet remained evasive about a representative from the island in the National Assembly. MAM reconfirmed the government’s desire to support the harmonious development of Saint Barth and reinforce the presence of the government on the island: “The government will completely undertake its responsibilities,” she said.
She announced that there will be a special window created at the local branch of the prefecture for the residents of the island to contact representatives of the government. MAM noted the recent nomination of junior high prinicipal Christian Lédée to the economic and social council, which meets regularly at the Palais d'Iéna in Paris. She also reconfirmed her engagement in the fight against drugs in the region and concluded by confirming to work in the spirit of confidence and close collaboration with the island's elected officials, "to build the future of Saint Barth which is also that of France."
Bruno Magras then presented Michèle Alliot-Marie with the medal of the COM, before she participated in a brief meeting with the public. She then went on a guided tour of the incineration plant, led by Michel Magras. At 4:30pm, she went back to the airport for her flight to Guadeloupe, then Paris later the same evening. Her trip to the French Antilles began on June 5 with a visit to Guadeloupe, then a day in Martinique before spending the Saturday morning in St. Martin.
More to come