NORTHAMPTON – “You were always there for me, and in some of our early conversations you made me promise that I would outlive you,” wrote Gerry L’Heureux in his 2015 memoir. to make a promise? You and I would grow old together.’
Gerry’s memoir, “Celebrating Marie’s Life,” chronicles the 28 years he was married to his late wife, Marie L’Heureux, who died in 1999 after a 14-year battle with breast cancer. He only has a few copies of the book he wrote for his grandchildren, and he shared one with the Gazette this week.
Gerry, a retired chemistry professor from Florence, donated this year in Marie’s honor to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, as he has regularly done since her death. Named after a former Gazette executive, the Toy Fund started in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression.
Now 81, Gerry met Marie, née Twarog, at a Christmas party at the Holyoke group home where he worked in 1969. He was a tutor and Marie lived next door; the two met briefly when Marie went to the party with her mother, but they fell in love when they both vacationed on Cape Cod in the summer of 1970, and the couple married at the former St. Hyacinth College and Seminary Chapel. in Granby in 1971.
“I think our wedding rivaled that of British royalty at Westminster Abbey. Marie was beautiful, radiant and princess-like as she walked down the aisle,” Gerry wrote in his memoir, which also includes reflections on Marie of the couple’s two children, Nicole and Danielle, and stories of the grandchildren Marie never had the chance to meet. to meet each other.
The couple’s romance would last until April 15, 1999, three days after Marie’s 53rd birthday. Gerry wrote that his wife died at the family’s house on Florence Road, “clapping hands” with her loved ones.
“I like to put a smile on the faces of children I’ve never met. It’s the kind of thing that keeps the memory of the past mixed with the present, alive and well,” Gerry said in an interview after his donation. “I buy so many gifts for the grandchildren, it’s outrageous. I laugh when my wallet gets empty and I laugh when they open the presents. Many children are not as lucky as my grandchildren.”
The Toy Fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for every child ages 1 to 14. Eligible families must reside in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and Holyoke in Hampden County. The Toy Fund raised $82,376 last year.
Marie L’Heureux, born April 12, 1946 in Holyoke, was a graduate of Holyoke Catholic High School; she earned an associate degree in business administration from the now-defunct Northampton Commercial College and moved to Northampton in 1971. At the time of her death, she had worked as an administrative assistant in Smith College’s graduate office since 1981.
Marie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985. During her illness, she co-chaired the American Cancer Society of Hampshire County’s Daffodil Day fundraiser and was active in the organization’s door-to-door fundraising campaign.
She loved gardening, took painting lessons, took sewing lessons and loved live theatre. She and Gerry traveled to Paris in 1996 and attended mass at the famous Notre Dame.
In his memoirs, Gerry tells of a time in 1998 when he and Marie were at a wedding. Suddenly she started to cry and said to her husband, “I will never see my two daughters walking down the aisle, nor will I ever get to know my grandchildren.”
“Not long after her death, I had five successive grandchildren, all of whom live in Florence,” Gerry said on Thursday. “Am I not lucky? I have five grandchildren who adore me and I try to make up for the absence of Marie.”
Gerry now lives with his partner of 20 years, Claire Wheeler, who also lost her husband to cancer.
“Although I am no longer a husband,” Gerry wrote in his memoir, “Marie rests with me in my sweet memories and will always remain with me in a deeply spiritual, loving way. … Marie celebrated life to the fullest. I think I can say the same about myself.”
Donations to the Toy Fund can be emailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, PO Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazette at https://toyfund.gazetteet.com.
CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst is checking for eligibility for families and the Gazette is covering the costs associated with the ride, freeing up all donations to fund vouchers, which can be used until December 31.
The following stores are accepting Toy Fund vouchers this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once There Was a Child, 1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.
Brian Steele can be reached at email@example.com.