by Sarah Squires
On December 21, at about 5:30 in the afternoon — just after the winter solstice when the light began its return to earth — Violette Lucille Lacher, of Wiscoy Ridge, began her last long journey to be reunited with her husband, Henry.
She was born in Meudon La Foret, a western suburb of Paris, on January 15, 1927, to Marguerite Egly and Roger Flandrin. The violets on the bed stand inspired her name and foreshadowed her lifelong love of flowers. She came of age at the height of World War II, and while volunteering to guide American soldiers on tours of Paris, she met Henry, the love of her life. They corresponded by letter and, eventually, he proposed. In 1947 at 19 years of age, Violette sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new life in America.
She and Henry were married in Pittsburgh, Penn., on March 15, 1947, moving to Minnesota soon after to farm. They spent their early married life in Wiscoy valley with no electricity or running water, later moving to the ridge where they began their family and lived for nearly 70 years.
Violette was as tender with a merengue as she was strong with a pitchfork. While her main domain was the house and gardens, she was quick to lend a hand wherever needed, be it driving a tractor for haying, unloading the wagon for the hay mow, or cleaning barns. She always had a house cat and she delighted in her bird feeder, which supported an abundance of woodpeckers and song birds. She raised chickens, rabbits, and a succession of dogs, but most importantly, she raised her three sons — Roger, Carl, and David — passing on her love of nature, fine craftsmanship, animals, art, learning, and all things French.
Violette lived with gusto. She enjoyed working with people and over the years taught many to cook and bake and crochet and draw, to mend and knit, to take stains out of clothes, to garden and to preserve food. In her dresser, she kept a file of “how-to” information, which she shared readily. When people knocked on her door, they were greeted with “Hello, what can I do for you?” She could stretch a meal for two to serve 10 in 15 minutes, and the meals were not only tasty, but aesthetically pleasing. She routinely picked up hitchhikers and brought them home for a shower and a home cooked meal before sending them on their way. Neighbors often stopped by for coffee and conversation, her beautiful French accent a quality that many found endearing. Just as her grandchildren could always count on a full cookie jar, others could always count on Violette to bake pies and breads for benefit sales. She loved to sing French songs with Ginette and her sisters and to clean her house with Pink Floyd blasting over the vacuum. She was an avid learner and could find a genuine interest in just about anything. She attended many musical and theatrical events in Winona and never missed performances — even late-night bar engagements — by her grandchildren. She enjoyed public television and public radio — especially programs about language, gardening, cooking, animals, antiques, and French films.
Violette was the calligrapher for the Pickwick Mill, the Old Settlers, and Eastern Star. For 13 years, she provided and arranged flowers for the Congregational Church, picking them from her garden or from the fields and forests on the farm. She was an election judge at the Wiscoy Town Hall and a member of Pickwick Eastern Star for more than 50 years. She volunteered at Treasures Galore and shared her collections of stamps, election buttons, and old valentines at the Collectors’ Club. She belonged to the French club and eagerly anticipated the rare visits to and from her French relatives. She held several jobs: guiding tourists through Hiawatha Caverns, sewing seat covers for Whittiker’s Marine, picking apples for Riverdale Orchard, and arranging flowers for West End Greenhouse and Dan’s Flower Gallery, but her main job — the one she lived to do — was taking care of Henry and her family.
Famously resourceful, Violette taught her family to produce what they use, to recycle, to share, to buy second-hand, to carpool, and to entertain themselves simply. She grew and preserved most of the vegetables her family ate, and believed in using an entire animal, even serving organ meats, tongue, and brain in addition to the more familiar cuts of beef and venison from the farm. She taught her boys to tan skins, refinish furniture, and frame pictures. Birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated with family potlucks at home, rather than going out. She knew that the important luxuries are not the things we have, but the family and neighbors who are part of our daily lives, that pleasure in life comes more from creating and serving than from consuming. Although Violette passed through this world with a light step, she left indelible prints on the hearts of many.
Violette was a loving wife, devoted mother, doting grandmother, and proud great-grandmother. She is survived by her three sons, Roger (Deborah Von Arx), Carl, and David; her grandchildren, Aaron (Kerrie Kaspar), Elsa (Corey Stocco), Regis, and Gabrielle will miss her and help pass on her legacy of love of family, conservation of nature, moral integrity, and culture to little granddaughter Surrender Miles and great-granddaughter, Colette Lacher; her younger sisters, Annie (Michel) Brunet and Francois Meixner reside in France and Germany, as do many Flandrin cousins, nieces and nephews. Henry’s brother, Fred, is still in Akron, Ohio. Her Lacher nieces and nephews live in Pleasonton, Calif., Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Rushford, Minn. Husband Henry; brother-in-law, Halvor; and sisters-in-law, Marge and Marguerite, preceded her in death.
A celebration of Violette’s life will be held at the First Congregational Church, 161 West Broadway, on Saturday, January 3, 2015, from at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Memory sharing will begin at 1:30 p.m. Bring a potluck dish and a memory of Violette to share. Please direct memorials to the organization of your choice.