Do you sometimes worry about getting older?
Meet Monique Purkett, still active, engaged and contributing to the world at 88. When I sat down to interview her recently, I had no idea all she had been through and all that she contributed to the world. She is a role model for all of us in our later years and truly someone to admire. The story of Monique’s life could be a movie. In fact, it would be three movies!
A magical wartime love story
“Young 17-year-old French girl meets and falls in love with American soldier during the German occupation of France.” Doesn’t this sound like something right off the pages of a screenplay of a war love story from the 1940’s?
She was the oldest of three with a sister six years her junior and a brother 12 years younger. When the war ended French families invited American soldiers into their homes. At 17 Monique felt awkward doing so, but her 11-year-old sister felt no discomfort and found and invited Sam, the man who would eventually become Monique’s husband. She and Sam wed when she was 18 and he was 20.
Living abroad, then coming to America
After the war Monique and her husband remained in Europe for several years. They had two sons and a daughter. Sam worked at the military’s exchange system in Germany, Morocco and Spain. It wasn’t until 1958 that Monique made her first trip to America, and the whole family came to live in the U.S. permanently in 1964. Monique worked hard and made sacrifices to assimilate into the American culture. She did this gladly.
Sam joined the V.A. Administration and his job took him to several locations throughout California including Santa Monica, Fresno, Pleasant Hill, and San Francisco. Monique taught pre-school for 25 years and she describes this time as some of the most enjoyable of her life. Sam and Monique eventually retired in Santa Rosa and their children live in Oakland, Placerville and nearby Petaluma.
An active life of family and service after widowhood
After 56 years of marriage, Sam passed away in 2002. Monique’s family in France encouraged her to return home. She resisted; “America is my home. My life is here with my children!“ she told me with quiet determination.
After Sam’s passing Monique got involved in her community to keep busy and to continue her ways of doing for others. She currently volunteers 15 hours a week at a local hospital and has set a goal to reach 8,500 hours of service before the end of 2015! She is an avid gardener and loves needlepoint, sewing and cooking. Her children are her best support and she maintains an exceptionally close relationship with all three.
Her beautiful character shines bright
Petite, gentle, with a welcoming demeanor and yet Monique can be described as determined and strong. Self-effacing yet self-assured. That’s how I viewed Monique after spending some time learning a smidgen of her life’s history.
Look at her picture again. Look into her eyes. Do you see all that she is? Do you see a life of challenges as well as sweetness? Do you see the strength of her life choices? Monique readily shared, “the care and support of all the people surrounding me is part of what I am today.”
We can learn a lot from Monique. I did. I learned you can be strong yet soft, lead a challenging life yet show no signs of it externally and give to others while taking care of yourself.
Thank you Monique, not only for who you are, but for what you bring to those of us who appreciate knowing your story. You are an excellent role model for those of us who are making the most of our elder years.
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