August 28, 2009
Goffstown widow has Paris memories


GOFFSTOWN - For four years, Suzanne Marchand had seen the Nazis reign over her home of Paris. 

"That's not a life, the occupation," Marchand said in her lilting French accent during an interview yesterday at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown. 

But 65 years ago today, the occupying German garrison surrendered to French Resistance and U.S. forces.

"They delivered us," Marchand said of the American troops.

For her, it was a little more personal: an American paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division named Normand Marchand swept her away in a wartime romance. He married her and she went to America, where she would raise two boys in Goffstown. But first, they stood together and watched the victory parades in Paris 65 years ago.

"I don't think he came to save me. He came to save the country," Marchand said of her husband, who died in 1992.

Before the Americans landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, Marchand had been in a work camp in France for 15 months.

"If I was never in the camp, I never would meet my husband," Marchand, 87, said.

They met in a town outside of Paris, where Suzanne Marchand, then Suzanne Therret, had fled from her work camp after hearing news of the landing at Normandy.

"The people were running in the street talking about an invasion," she said. "I said, '[The Germans] are not going after me, they have too many problems.'"

So she rode a bicycle for about 35 miles, she said, to the village where her mother was staying. There, a friend told her she had met American troops trying to find members of the French Resistance.

One of the men, the friend told Marchand, was Canadian. That man turned out to be Normand Marchand -- a native of Berlin, N.H.

"He said, 'Because I speak French, they think I am Canadian,'" Suzanne Marchand said.

That summer, between the landing in June and the liberation in August, they wed.

"That was kind of silly," Marchand said yesterday, considering they had not known each other long.

"Everybody liked him. He was friendly," she said. Except for the emblem of his unit, the Screaming Eagle.

"The eagle was not friendly. He looks mean," Marchand recalled.

George Marchand, 53, of Dunbarton, one of the couple's two sons, said the months during the war were a whirlwind.

"It probably was not the wisest thing, but they were caught up in the emotions," he said of his parents.

With her family scattered because of the war, the only relative able to attend the wedding was Suzanne's grandmother, who traveled 70 miles to be there.

"My grandmother was the only one. She liked my husband right away," she said.

The couple later had a military wedding, George Marchand said.

"I still think about that to myself. If it were not for World War II, I would not exist as I exist today," he said.

He said he and his own sons are who they are partly because of the "reverberating repercussions" of Hitler's evil plot.

"The ripple effect of what one person can cause -- some good, some evil. A lot of evil, but a lot of good also," he said.

During their brief courtship and early marriage, Normand Marchand was stationed throughout France.

When Suzanne Marchand could, she followed. 

"Some people said, 'You know, a woman follows her husband. Are you going to follow him when he jumps?' I said, 'Hmm. No,'" she said.

The newlyweds found themselves in Paris 65 years ago today, standing side by side.

In the nursing home yesterday, watching videos of the victory parade on a laptop brought by Susan Nolan, a chaplain for Allegiance Hospice, Marchand sang along to the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

"They put the German flag down, and they put the American and French flags up," Marchand recalled. "Some people had tears. Some people clapped."

For Marchand, it was a special moment.

"It was good to see the two flags together," she said. 

And to see the Nazi flag gone. 

"To see that torn down, that was a pleasure," she added.

Ann Creswell, activity director at the nursing home, said the staff has found that new technology can help spur memories of old events for nursing home residents.

"Bring the laptop, bring it all. How lucky are we nowadays? We don't have to go back to the old National Geographics," Creswell said.

Marchand does not think her tale is anything special.

"It's a story," she shrugged. "Lots of people have them."



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