REM Award Honorees (2004) — Lisa Marraché (Center for Heritage Language Reacquisition)

In 2004, the Center for Heritage Language Reacquisition at the Penobscot School honors Dr. Lisa Tessier Marraché. Lisa is a practicing physician and a Representative of Waterville to the State Legislature. She and her husband, Dr. Ron Marraché have two children who study French, among other subjects, at Mt.Mereci School. Penobscot School has been active in Waterville since 1999, with its first Franco-American Heritage Film Festival at Railroad Square Cinema. A series of French-language films produced in Quebec, with discussion, live music, and socializing in French and English, this program led to French language reacquisition gatherings hosted by Linda Gérard der Simonian and Julia Schulz.

Lisa, Sylvanne Pontin, and Marilyn Canavan attended those gatherings. Sylvanne went on to start Les Bavards, an informal weekly French conversation get-together every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at Jorgensen’s on Main Street in Waterville. And Lisa became President of the new Franco-American Heritage Society of Kennebec Valley. As the group worked towards 501(c)3 status, their goal was to establish a museum or cultural center in Waterville to showcase the strong French heritage of the city.

Lisa worked tirelessly in 2003 and 2004 on two projects. She coordinated a unique Franco-American “summit” conference in September. The conference united activists from all over Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Québec and Louisiana, for a day of exchanging ideas about the promotion of French language and culture. That evening, the Pineland Fiddlers hosted a Franco-American Soirée, and the next day, a French mass was said at a local Catholic church. The weekend culminated in the highly successful, second annual Franco-American Festival, supported, as before, by the City of Waterville and many volunteers.

The museum idea has begun to be realized as the Museum in the Streets, a series of ten panels with old photographs and descriptions in French and English placed around the South End neighborhood. Lisa and the Heritage Society worked for a year to raise the money for the plaques, find the photos, write and translate the descriptions, and adapt the work to the panel specifications.

As reported in the Morning Sentinel, Lisa “said the plaques attempt to present every aspect of life in the neighborhood populated by men and women who came south from Quebec, mostly to work in Waterville’s mills. Pamphlets telling where each plaque is located will be placed in stores, and it’s hoped that visitors walking from sign to sign will help reinvigorate the South End.

“Marraché said the impact of Francos on Waterville and New England has been discounted, and it’s time to correct the historical record. ‘We have to let people know that we existed here,’ Marraché said. ‘That we contributed to this city and what it is today.’”

Bravo, Lisa! Long Life to the Franco-American Heritage Society of the Kennebec Valley!

For more information about the Penobscot School, please visit its website.

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