At the La Sagesse retirement home, 95-year-old Pauline Briand remembers well Mr. Kerry’s grandmother, who ate English biscuits, spoke fluent French and walked a pair of corgis daily through the village. During the bleakest months of World War II, she picked up milk at the Briand farm.
“Madame Forbes was very kind,” said the tiny Breton as she finished an afternoon snack at the home, near St. Briac’s town hall. “She was the same age as my mother-in-law, and they would chat. She spoke French very well.”
When Nazi troops occupied St. Briac, they destroyed the Forbes home. Undaunted, Mr. Kerry’s grandfather rebuilt the rambling cliffside estate that later became a hub for far-flung relatives.
Among the young cousins summering there during the 1950s, Mr. Kerry was a natural leader.
“He was older than I, so he was always organizing the games. Kick the can, biking, fishing,” Mr. Lalonde said. “He was tall, really into sports, popular. He was our favorite cousin.”
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lalonde still see each other occasionally in Paris and Washington, swapping family gossip and discussing shared environmental interests. But the U.S. candidate has not returned to St. Briac in 20 years. He skipped a family reunion last summer, at the height of U.S.-French tensions over Iraq.
But as Mr. Kerry continues to dominate Democratic primaries, his long absence has not discouraged the paparazzi. The first French camera crews began trickling into St. Briac a few weeks ago. Then came a sprinkling of foreign reporters.
Bemused, St. Briac’s residents give interviews. They clip the articles and watch themselves on evening news.
“All we’ve been hearing in the French media these days is Kerry, Kerry, Kerry,” said bakery owner Medard Perrois, as he ducked into a cafe one bitter afternoon. “But when the elections are over, St. Briac will return to oblivion.”View Entire Story
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