Letters From Leton: The Frenchman and Aunt Leen Leen

I know what you are thinking. Is this the latest romance novel from a famous author? Or a story of a chance encounter?

No, it is the story of two people born roughly around the same time but worlds apart. They have never met, but they are kindred spirits.

Earlier this month (May 6, 2019), NPR Morning Edition featured a story of a Frenchman who was five years old when the D-Day invasion occurred. He had moved a year earlier from Paris to his grandfather’s home in Normandy since there was little food in Paris. As the American liberators arrived, the young French child learned two English words – Freedom and Hershey’s (Candy Bar)  – kids will be kids.

Fast forward to the mid-80s. The Frenchman is married to an American woman and living here in the United States. He asked his American Father-in-Law about the celebrations for WWII Veterans. He was shocked to learn that while in Normandy each year schools are closed, the French Flag taken down and the U.S. Flag raised, but no celebration occurred here in the U.S. to celebrate D-Day or Victory in Europe (VE Day).

So, he started an annual dinner celebration and invites any WWII Veteran to attend.

A few years before the birth of the Frenchman, a woman was born in Appalachia of modest means. Fast forward many years, and she, as a young lady, is helping to raise her niece. Her niece, as a young child, can’t pronounce her name (Pauline), so she calls her “Aunt Leen Leen”.

Over the years the bond between Aunt Leen Leen and her niece becomes, in many ways, like a surrogate mother with Aunt Leen Leen encouraging and nurturing her (and many others) until her niece’s tragic death in a car accident on May 3rd, 2019.

While the stories of these two people can be construed as being very different, in my mind they are very similar. Two people who care for and cherish others and see the value of people, regardless of relationships or backgrounds.

It is a reminder to us that we too can make a difference that lingers through history.

So thank you Mr. Frenchman and Aunt Leen Leen (my mom) for showing others how to care.

– Leton

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“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.