LOWELL – Dr. Jacqueline Charette passed away last September at the age of 82 after a five-year battle with lung cancer.
However, the passion of his life lives on.
In two countries.
A longtime Lowell resident who has been a music teacher at UMass Lowell for over 30 years, Charette is honored monthly with a small exhibit in a town near Paris who is grateful for Charette standing up for her hero of the hometown, Claude Debussy, a French composer who died in 1918.
“She would be very happy and very happy to know that,” said Charette’s brother Norman. âShe would be delighted.
Charette is in the spotlight in the town of Saint Germain-en-Laye, located west of Paris, where Debussy was born in 1862.
French authorities have not learned of Charette’s death at Massachusetts General Hospital for a long time.
When a letter informing authorities of his death finally became known, the reaction was swift and sincere.
In a letter to Norman Charette, the mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Arnaud PÃ©ricard, wrote: âOur city is in debt to Jacqueline and her attachment to the arts and culture. We are deeply saddened by his loss. “
Among the exhibits are photographs, Charette’s 1990 book on Debussy, artefacts and a mini-sculpture by the famous composer. There are plans to move the exhibition to the Debussy Museum, located in Saint Germain-en-Laye, in October.
Due to Charette’s relentless determination, Debussy is honored with two sculptures by Romanian Mico Kaufman, one in Lowell on the south campus of UMass Lowell and the other in Saint Germain-en-Laye.
âWithout her, it won’t happen,â her brother said. “And they also know it in France.”
Charette was not going to be denied. She felt that Debussy deserved to be recognized. Many of the people who donated to the two sculptures were residents of the Lowell area who were impressed with Charette’s passion. Part of the money came from Charette herself.
âShe was passionate about her music. She loved Impressionist paintings and Debussy, of course, was an Impressionist pianist. I think that’s something that appealed to her, âsaid Norman Charette. âHe spoke to her. His music spoke to him.
“Dr. Charette is remembered as a brilliant, dedicated and cherished member of the UMass Lowell and Greater Lowell communities whose influence as a music teacher had international reach. Claude Debussy’s statue on our south campus recognizes both the composer’s timeless contributions to music and Dr. Charette’s passion for music, the arts and his community. We are very grateful to him for his incredible legacy and for this magnificent monument which will be appreciated by our students and the public for generations to come, âUMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney told The Sun.
In 1987, Debussy’s sculpture was unveiled near the O’Leary Library to UMass Lowell. The six-foot-tall sculpture shows Debussy held aloft by figures from some of his creations. Charette raised the $ 50,000 for the commission with the help of Enterprise Bank founder and chairman of the board, George Duncan.
“It was a great effort,” Duncan recalled in an interview with The Sun last week. âI have great memories of that time.
Charette raised funds by selling mini-versions of the sculpture. One hundred were produced and each cost $ 750. Of course, Duncan bought one and it’s proudly on display in his Lowell home decades later.
Charette then turned to the honor of Debussy being honored in his hometown, about 3,400 miles from Lowell.
This took place in 1998. Charette and Normand Charette attended the unveiling of the bronze sculpture in France, as well as sculptor Kaufman, a former resident of Tewksbury who has since passed away.
Charette received the Sun King Medal in 1999. She was the first non-French citizen to receive the prestigious French philanthropic award.
Charette was born in Lowell and graduated from St. Joseph High School. Her love of music led her to Rivier University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree, and to Boston University, where she obtained her doctorate.
She was a member of the Gray Nuns for about eight years before leaving the order. She embarked on a long career as a teacher at UMass Lowell.
âShe grew up learning to play the piano,â said Norman Charette. âIt was a passion for her.
Teaching music to students was what she felt was born to be.
“Do you know what she was saying?” She couldn’t believe she was being paid for it. She absolutely loved students, âher brother said.
Norman Charette said his sister being worshiped 3,400 miles from Lowell is hard to believe.
âThere were times when she was my lawyer. I have the utmost respect for her, “he said.
Saint Germain Municipal Arts Curator Dr Alexandra Zvereva attempted to express her condolences in an email to Norman Charette after learning of his death.
Zvereva said the two monuments, one in France and the other in Lowell, “serve as a link between our two countries and our two cities.”
The idea of ââunveiling a sculpture by Debussy in Saint Germain, her hometown, came to Charette one day while she was walking through London and came across a sculpture by FrÃ©dÃ©ric Chopin, the famous Polish composer who died in 1849.