Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jacqueline B. Mayer

Jacqueline Bechard Mayer was born a French citizen in Brussels, Belgium, on February 17, 1924, where her father was serving as Military Attaché.

She fled the family home in Paris when the German Army occupied that city in 1940 and spent a year in the so-called Unoccupied Zone. From there she made a hazardous and illegal journey to North Africa, where her father then commanded French forces in Morocco. She enlisted as a combat nurse in the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division, seeing front-line service in Africa, Italy, France and Germany. In addition to earning the campaign medals for each of these theatres of operation, she was awarded several decorations, culminating in the Croix de Guerre for heroism under fire in a particularly savage battle in the mountains of central Italy near Monte Cassino.

Jacqueline’s own recounting of these times centered not on her own achievements but rather on the very human and, most often, the very humorous side of her wartime experiences. She took part in the joint US-French landings in southern France on August 15, 1944, often called The Second D-Day. Her retelling of it made no mention of the dangers from enemy fire. Instead she focused on the horrors of sharing a landing craft with more than a dozen of the incredibly smelly mules who regularly served as four-legged ambulances in mountainous regions, and of the indignity of being transported to the beach through water too deep for her to wade by accepting a ride on the shoulders of a six-foot trooper from the Atlas Mountains. Throughout her whole life Jackie gave generously of herself without asking for reward or recognition, and one of the most precious things she gave in abundance was the gift of laughter.

In 1947 in Auch, France, Jacqueline married Hector “Hack” Mayer, who preceded her in death by just two months. All who knew them would quickly agree that their marriage was not only much longer than most couples enjoy but also much richer. The last few years were blighted by Jackie’s descent into dementia, a cruel scourge which eventually forced a physical separation. Their beloved nephew, Thomas Mayer of San Juan, Texas, took personal charge of Jackie’s care. Her final refuge was The Bridges at Mission, a facility which provided expert and loving care for which her family and friends are deeply grateful. Jackie passed away peacefully on January 10, 2010, bringing to a close over eighty five years of rich and productive life.

The Mayers spent several years in California and Arizona before relocating to Racine, where they spent most of their working lives. Both were dedicated educators. Jackie spent many years as an Instructor in French at Dominican College, renamed The College of Racine a couple of years before its closing in 1974. Shortly after that she found an ideal place for making use of her rich talent in personal relations and her penchant for genuine caring. She became Activities Director at St. Monica’s Senior Citizen Home where she gave invaluable service until her retirement.

A memorial service will be held for Jacqueline Bechard Mayer at 7 p.m. this Friday, January 15, at St. Monica’s Senior Citizen Home, 3920 N. Green Bay Road. Burial in the family plot at West Lawn Memorial Park will be a private service at a later time.

803 Main St., Racine (262) 634-7888

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