It is with great sadness that I have to report that early this morning our dear friend Emile passed away, peacefully in his sleep after a short stay in hospital. He was cheerful and alert, with his customary good humour until the end.

In recent years Emile had had a triple heart bypass, then a pacemaker and finally a stent. In the end at the age of 86 his heart was worn out.

We first got to know Emile immediately after we bought our French house 6 years ago. I think it was the day after we had moved in that Emile and Yvette turned up and explained that they had an arrangement with the previous owners to manage our big field and cut it for hay. Would we like to continue the arrangement? We were pleased to do so. 

With his customary politeness he told us where he lived and invited us round for a coffee. Being English we did not think he meant it. In England you have to know someone for at least 6 months before going for a coffee. The next week Emile was back and wanted to know why we had not come for coffee. So, the very next day we went to Emile’s.

We were greeted as old friends with kisses and handshakes. We were shown around and had coffee at their kitchen table as is proper in France. On that day we had our first taste of Emile’s legendary Calvados. I made the mistake of drinking half of my coffee and Emile just filled the cup with the calva. Mrs. Parish (not for the only time) had to drive home.

From then on, we were taken under their wings as newcomers to France. Their advice and assistance were so helpful as was Emile’s generosity. We soon had a delivery of Emile’s homemade cider in a crate as well as a bottle of his calva. We had a tree fall down and Emile was there with his chainsaw to cut it up and then he came with his tractor and attachment to split up the logs. Never once did he expect anything in return.

Emile and his tractor making our hay

Emile also made sure we were always invited to the various village repas and before we went, it was always round to Emile’s for an aperitif and after back for a coffee and calva. In between times we had a regular visit from what we all called the “little red car”. As Emile’s health declined the visits were more frequent as Yvette organised trips out to stop Emile working or driving his battered old tractor. He didn’t regard driving the tractor as work so carried on driving until quite recently. The visits always followed the same pattern. They would arrive at the door and we would ask if they would like a coffee. Emile would reply “Si tu veut”. The polite French response meaning “if you would like”. They would only stay for about 10 minutes. Time enough for details of the next repas and essential news.

And from time to time we would all go out for a meal together.

Lunch with Emile and his special friends

Emile was such a truly nice man. He had a wicked sense of humour and liked nothing more than a pretty young woman to talk to. He was proud to welcome a whole load of English people who came to live in France and to offer them friendship and hospitality. He was sometimes bemused by the English but he was never critical of them. In fact, I never heard Emile be critical at all he always had a cheerful and positive approach to life which is why we all loved him as a dear, dear friend.

We will all miss him but we do have so many good and happy memories of him.

In France the funeral usually occurs within a few days and has been fixed for Saturday. I will of course give a full report.

Emile Lepetit – 1932 -2108

Dans la tristesse