By Marcelle Honorine Gance’s Granddaughter, Paige Gance
I am so thankful that my grandma, Marcelle Gance, lived with us for almost six years. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have come to appreciate what a beautiful person she was. We played scrabble regularly, and during those hour-long games she told stories: about France, her early life, coming to America, the friends she missed in Vestal, NY. She was incredibly brave to come to America after WWII, knowing only her husband, my grandpa, and barely speaking any English. She never lost her French accent and we used to joke with her at the kitchen table over her pronunciation of certain words. We loved to help her bake banana bread. Marcelle was an amazing baker, and she loved sharing that gift with people. I recall the dining room table in her old home in Vestal covered in multicolored Italian Christman cookies (she was raised near the French-Italian border). I don’t remember the first time I heard the story of Marcelle baking over 200 loaves of Pain Brioche for her church during the holidays because I heard it so many times. But I always heard it from someone else; my grandma didn’t seek praise for her deeds. I knew the proceeds from the bread she sold went to St. Jude. She also donated money throughout the year. The newsletters they sent her contained stories of the children she helped sponsor. My grandma didn’t have much to give monetarily, but she gave gladly. It touched her heart to see these sick children get better under St. Jude’s care, and I’ve always associated this charity with my grandma.
There was a time when my grandma had nothing to give at all. She survived the German occupation of France during WWII. Food was strictly rationed, and to the day she died my grandma couldn’t stand for food to be thrown out. She wasted nothing. For her to make loaf after loaf of bread was in a way a celebration. Not only did she have enough for herself, but she could freely give the rest for the cause she cared about deeply.
I miss my grandma; she had so much left to teach me about goodness and charity. I’m still reminded of her every time I see a cardinal or a ladybug. To have the Honorine Tournament in her name means so much to my family, and she would be immensely proud of the good we have accomplished in her memory.