By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The day was wild enough that we were going to have to do our interview in two parts. Madame Jocelyne Papelard-Brescia, (the French woman who has spent her life caring for the graves of over 5,000 WWII American soldiers who died in France,) was going to visit the Vets’ Museum at 10 am on Monday. Mayor Ronnie was going to be a part of the ceremony honoring her, and then wanted to include that event in his comments for this column. Those details will follow below, and Yvonne Dempsey also wrote about the event in this edition of All Things Soldier on page 4. By way of background, Evan Thornton had contacted the Mayor regarding Joceylne’s visit to our area. Evan had been over to visit the grave of his grandfather, had met her there in France, and knew it would be a blessing for Athens to hear her story.
When I arrived the first time at City Hall, the Mayor was on the phone with City Councilman Chris Seibert, and they were discussing the recent award given to Emma Tarokh. Emma is a 5th grader at Athens Intermediate, and was just chosen as the Alabama State Games Female Athlete of the Year. “She was not just chosen for her soccer playing,” he said, “but her attitude, team spirit, effort, and motivation.” Mayor Ronnie and Chris hammered out a plan to honor Emma at Monday night’s City Council Meeting, and her dear grin said it all as the Councilmen applauded her.
We moved on to other things. First was any update on Pilgrim’s Pride. “We are still waiting to hear from ADEM regarding the second test, the underground one,” the Mayor said. Additionally, he mentioned that other cities who are dealing with blighted properties have reached out to him for moral support. “It is a complicated process,” he said. He also said that, “We are sad to see that K-Mart is closing. It’s been there a long time. Time will tell what happens with that property, but there has been some interest expressed in it, and I am glad about that.”
Mayor Ronnie then moved to one of his favorite topics, the budget. “We’ll do a whole column on that soon,” he said, “but for today people need to know we are moving forward to finish by the October deadline. Electric was finished earlier this summer, and we are working on police, fire, gas, water, and water treatment right now.”
It was time for the Mayor to get to the Vets’ Museum to meet Mme. Jocelyne, so we prayed and set a time to meet “back at the ranch.” When he came back, he said that “She broke down and cried. She had no idea we were going to do this. I gave her a key to the city and made her an honorary citizen of Athens. Everyone there gave her a standing ovation.” He went on to tell me that he really wished the kids from the Mayor’s Youth Commission would have been able to attend in order to gain an appreciation for what the U.S. did to liberate France. “It was a moving, wonderful experience, and she was overwhelmed by Southern hospitality,” he said with the right kind of pride. It indeed had been a grand day in our grand town, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll, again.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner