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‘69’s French Invasion Raises $25,000 for CSF



Fifty two classmates and spouses experienced what many of us felt to be the trip of a lifetime in ‘69’s first overseas mini-reunion – the France Invasion of September 2010. Organized (and the word gained new meaning) by Dick and Marian Bott with plenty of assistance from Jesse Okie (Chef de la Cuisine), Bruce Freeman (Chef du Personnel), Dan Harman and Curt Kehr (Chefs de la Communication), George Sheridan (Ministre de la Culture), and the Charriers (Factotums Généraux), the main excursion lasted eight days and took us from Paris, through Giverny and Bayeux, to the invasion beaches of Normandy and finally to Mont St. Michel. To top it off, through the combined generosity of the Forbes family and the trip participants, over $25,000 was raised for the Class of 1969 Community Service Fund.


Opening night found us at the Botts’ historic Paris apartment for a get-to-know-you wine-tasting, more than proforma since most us knew fewer than half of our fellow invaders well enough to pick them out of a line-up.



Four days of thoughtfully planned, museum intensive exploration of the City of Light followed, guided by our two delightful and knowledgeable art historians, Alice Jouve and Louise Aujay. We barely scratched the surface at Le Louvre but gained a somewhat tighter focus on medieval Paris and the Impressionists at the more manageable Cluny, l’Orangerie and Musée D’Orsay. Patrimony weekend (when many buildings are open to the public for the only time in the year) and a variety of Paris walks (one of the Père Lachaise cemetery led by our very own George Sheridan) provided plenty of quasi-guided exercise and opportunity to master the Paris mass transit system. In fact the Best Old Bus of All, Route 69, provided our lift from Père Lachaise to the Tour Eiffel for lunch. Another highlight was the lunch arranged at the French Sénat by honorary classmate André Maman, who spoke movingly of the context set in World War II for French-American relations as a backdrop to the second half of our trip. Pictured in this sumptuous setting are Étel and David Fisher, who, together with Fred and Lori Shearer, provided able representation of our Europe-based classmates. David’s exceptional (he and Étel invite all Princeton Alums in Germany to their house for Thanksgiving Dinner!) service as President of the Princeton Alumni Association of Germany and in expanding and improving the Princeton German Summer Work Program brings honor to the Class (click here for more information about PAAG, including their latest Newsletter).



Other memorable dinner venues (it did seem like we ate a lot) included the Seine yacht Acajou, Le Procope (the oldest café in Paris where we dined in the Franklin Room) and Maison de l’Amerique Latine, where we managed to herd the cats together long enough to take the one and only group photo on the entire trip.




Then off to Normandy, via Monet’s studio and stunning gardens at Giverny. On the way to our home base at Chateau de Balleroy we stopped off in the wonderfully preserved medieval town of Bayeux, home of the renowned Bayeux tapestry (which is not a tapestry at all, we learned, but an embroidery), an early graphic novel of the first cross-channel invasion, the one in 1066.




The Forbes family graciously opened Chateau de Balleroy to their fellow Princetonians, and in lieu of most of the normal charges, we created a Forbes family PICS fund within the CSF. Like so many other aspects of the trip, we had unexpected good fortune of favorable exchange rate movement and the additional generosity of several of the participants resulted in combined gifts of over $25,000 to the Class legacy program.  The many and varied accommodation levels at Balleroy (Ducal suite to maid's quarters) provided the perfect opportunity to relive the joy of Princeton room draw!







As many have said, the invasion beaches at Normandy cannot be described, only experienced, and it was a privilege to have that experience in the company of fellow '69ers and their spouses, all of whom by this time had formed a unique bond. Serendipity once again played a role in Ste. Mère Église as our guide William Jordan (part historian, part character actor) noticed the presence of 90-year-old resistance fighter André Heintz, who recounted his personal recollections of the first morning of the liberating invasion and the landing of scores of US parachutists in this picturesque Normand town. Our last dinner together at Balleroy featured classmates’ personal stories of their relatives who were a part of the The Greatest Generation. Our Normandy experience reached an emotional peak when the six vets in the group were invited to help retire the colors at the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.



A half day at the living architectural museum of Mont St. Michel rounded out the main part of the trip, but for that dozen who had not had quite enough food and wine, three days in Burgundy ensued. An early cold snap had accelerated harvest, and we landed in a hive of activity, which did not prevent the Burgundians from receiving us with their accustomed charm and enthusiasm for introducing all comers to the magic of chardonnay and pinot noir. Rick Kitto took on much of the planning for this part of the trip, and a shot of him leaving the restaurant in Mont St. Michel reveals his suitability for the task.




Classmates who joined in the trip included:

Jay Bestman and Pam Weinberger

Dick and Marian Bott

Thacher and Lloyd Brown

Andy and Jerry Brown

Jim (Bison) Brown and Ann Brophy

Bill and Anne Charrier

George Cowen

Frank Dalton

Vince and Clotilde Farrell

David and Étel Fisher

John and Tina Fox

Bruce Freeman

Jim and Carla Green

Dan and Leigh Harman

Cary and Alice Haywood

Peter Hooper and Nancy Sullivan

Curt and Vicki Kehr

Mike and Tertia Kiesel

Rick and Chris Kitto

Ken Mertz

Alan and Rosemary Meyers

Jack and Pam Meyerson

Jesse Okie and Mary Harrington

Sheldon and Diana Reaven

Bruce Rosenberg and Debbie Solomon

Fred and Lori Shearer

George Sheridan and Jill Blackhurst-Sheridan

Tom and Joan Weidner


Chef de la Cuisine Jesse Okie was even inspired to doff his toque and grab his poet’s quill to render Operation Tiger Tour.

All in all, a magnificent time.  Click here to view the photo albums of the trip.


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