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Françoise Pecqueur, Struck By School Board Member’s Wife, Dies 2 Days Short of 77

| November 14, 2011

Françoise Pecqueur in one of the last photographs of her, taken during her last trip to her native France a few weeks ago.

Note: A memorial service for Françoise is set for Thursday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m., at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church on Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast.

Françoise Pecqueur died Saturday at 12:09 p.m., 42 hours after she was struck by a car driven by Jamesine Fischer, 55, on Columbia Lane near Palm Harbor the evening of Nov. 10. Pecqueur had been walking her dog, Molly, in the same place where she’d walked her for years, near the home of Pecqueur’s companion.

A Palm Coast resident of the B Section since 1996, Pecqueur would have been 77 today. The day of the fatal accident, she had bought the dress she was to wear at her grandson Christopher’s wedding, in March, in Tallahassee.

The incident, under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol since Thursday, is now a homicide investigation. It is surrounded by conflicting and disturbing information in the sequence of events. Fischer, the wife of John Fischer, the Flagler County School Board, reportedly left the scene of the accident, returned, and left again without informing paramedics that she may have been responsible for the collision. A call to police from the Fischer home at Freeland Lane, less than two miles from the scene of the accident, was made about 12 hours after the accident to report the collision, promoting the Florida Highway Patrol to place Fischer under investigation and impound the PT Cruiser she had been driving.

Molly. Click on the image for larger view.

The Cruiser’s windshield on the passenger side is lacerated with a top-to-bottom crack as a result of the collision, which resulted in violent trauma to Pecqueur’s head. A slight woman of thin frame but in excellent health–walking and dancing were her twin passions–she was declared brain dead soon after the collision. Fischer told authorities she thought she had struck a dog. Molly, Pecqueur’s dog, was not inured. It is a tiny poodle weighing about 3 pounds. The dog is being cared for by Pecqueur’s companion, an 80-year-old man who, like the rest of Pecqueur’s family, is contending with the devastation of her death.

Pecqueur’s only daughter, Catherine Vyvyan, who usually lives in Jacksonville with her husband Richard, has been in Palm Coast taking care of her mother’s house and business between intense bouts of sorrow, anger and, paradoxically, joyful memories of Françoise, whom Vyvyan described Sunday night, still in the present tense, as “the most active woman I’ve ever seen in life. Loving. Giving. She’s a giving woman. She’d help out anybody. She’s always doing something for somebody.”

The Vyvyans at Françoise’s kitchen table in her spotless three-bedroom house Sunday evening, exhausted from emotions and sleeplessness since Thursday but periodically boosted by memories of Françoise as Catherine flipped through a photo album and clutched a medallion of the Virgin Mary that Françoise always wore, and that was given to her daughter after she died. Françoise was a devout Catholic. She attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church in Palm Coast.

The Fischers, too, are devout Catholics who attend Santa Maria del Mar in Flagler Beach. Both families have a statuette of the Virgin Mary in their front yard. John Fischer, who spoke about the accident Friday morning soon after the highway patrol had impounded the car, spoke of how his wife had been shaken by the accident–“accidents happen,” he said–and of how they were praying intently for Pecqueur. The Vyvyans were struck that the Fischers didn’t visit at Halifax Hospital.

One of Francoise's many pairs of strategically placed shoes. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Speaking of her unfailing health–until the accident–Richard Vyvyan described how he could not keep up with Françoise’s walking speed: She had walking shoes all over the house, as if strategically placed always immediately at hand for a quick walk. “She’s always been active,” Richard says. “She was full of life. She couldn’t sit down for 10 minutes. She had to be moving all the time.” Half her bedroom’s walk-in closet is taken up by dancing clothes. She spent a couple of hours a day at the gym, and had a stationary bike in a spare bedroom, placed facing a television ad a stereo, with several CDs just brought back from her latest, and last, trip to France.

Françoise Pecqueur was born Françoise Marie Simone on Nov. 14, 1934 in La Gorgue, a tiny town the size of Flagler Beach in the very north of France, within walking distance of the Belgian border and a short drive from Dunkirk, scene of the famous French and British exodus before advancing Nazis in the early days of World War II–an exodus Françoise would have witnessed.

She left France for the United States in the late 1960s. Her late husband’s sister had settled in Memphis after marrying an American during World War II. It was one couple inviting another. Pecqueur would stay in Memphis until 1996. It’s where her ashes will be buried, next to her husband, as she requested. Her husband was a cabinet maker. She was a seamstress all her life. Soon after arriving in Palm Coast she began working at Publix, where she was a cashier for 11 years. Her daughter finally urged her to quit, to enjoy life. Françoise said she would when she’d turn 70. She quit a bit later than that, and enjoy life she did. She spent evenings at various social clubs in town, loved to cook and invite friends over for dinner, maintain her garden, care for friends.

In September she went back to France, her first trip back in eight years. She spent a month seeing friends and family there. She has a brother and sister in France (François and Paulette), nieces and nephews, too, a brother-in-law in Memphis, and more nieces and nephews there. She was due to be at her son Christopher’s wedding with his bride-to-be Jessica in March. Christopher had a request after his grandmother died: he wanted her walking shoes.

For the Vyvyans, it’s been a nightmare since Thursday, quite literally: When she is able to sleep at all, Catherine wakes up in shock at visions of her mother involved in the accident, being struck, being flipped–her mother with whom, as an only child, she had a bond she thought would never be broken, at least not until she had made good on many years of taking care of Françoise, had she ever needed it, in an old age that never seemed to come. Catherine naturally has difficulty walking into her mother’s bedroom, its small toiletries and perfumes on the dresser and a couple of printed icons of the Virgin Mary slid against the frame of a mirror. She has trouble making it anywhere in the house without expecting to see Françoise reemerge, to hear her voice, distinctively high-pitched and insistent with verve, to see her going about her routines.

A life so bright and buoyant, so loving of life, so violently, cruelly stilled: there’s no understanding it for Catherine and her husband, nor many of Françoise’s family and friends rallying around the Vyvyans.

Francoise's medallion. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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20 Responses for “Françoise Pecqueur, Struck By School Board Member’s Wife, Dies 2 Days Short of 77”

  1. deb says:

    R.I.P. Francoise.I had the pleasure of working with Francoise at Publix. The last time I saw her, true to form she was dancing the night away at European Village at an Elvis show. How tragic.

  2. Anita says:

    Dear Francoise, I will miss your putting up with my struggles to remember French vocabulary and your generous encouragement to “persevere” and never quit. My heart goes out to the family. She was one of a kind.

  3. Begonia says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Francoise at Publix. How unbelievably tragic for all families involved. You will ALL be in my prayers.

  4. Emilie ROMANET says:

    I’m also came from France and one of her best friend . We enjoyed dinner together and I join her at Elks on Wednesday … don’t even have time to sing with her . Molly was my gift to Francoise 3 years ago . I also work at Publix … since she retired , she always stay active and always there for me . She gives love unconditionnally . She always there for me when I need her no matter where and times .

  5. roco says:

    I did not know the lady but I send my condolinses to the family. I hope the person that caused this does not walk away without due justice..

  6. Joe A says:

    This is just a terrible tragedy. Having met Mr Fischer, I know his remarks about prayer are genuine. He and his family are good people. This is just a terrible tragedy, no one wins.

  7. Jennifet says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Francoise at Publix for many years before she retired, she was such a sweet lady. She will be missed dearly. May she rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

  8. Heartfelt Sympathy says:

    What on earth was this woman doing out alone in the dark? May her soul rest in peace. What a terrible happening. I pray for comfort to the family as they deal with this loss; I know their hearts are hurting. I also pray for the Fisher family as they deal with all the emotions of this tragedy.

  9. Gabe says:

    This was my best friend’s grandmother and I had the pleasure of knowing her and interacting with her on a weekly, if not daily, basis. She was an awesome human being and she will be missed.

  10. flagler county voter says:

    My prayers go out to Francoise’s family and to the Fischer family.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My heart goes out to Francoise family. I am one of neighbors always looking forward to seeing her smile and out walking the dog. I just found out late last night of this tragic. I am so sorry. May you find peace she is in a better place but it was too soon for her to leave you. god be with you in this time of need and forever. Mom will surely be missed. the Lackey family

  12. My heart goes out to Francoise family. I am one of neighbors always looking forward to seeing her smile and out walking the dog. I just found out late last night of this tragic. I am so sorry. May you find peace she is in a better place but it was too soon for her to leave you. god be with you in this time of need and forever. Mom will surely be missed. the Lackey family

  13. Just one of her many friends says:

    I am sure many of you already know but for those who don’t, this is just an FYI – tonight (Thurs 17th) there will be a memorial mass at St Elizabeth Ann Seton at 6pm. If you can attend I am sure the family would appreciate it. I think we all loved her as much as they did…

  14. debbie says:

    I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Francois for several years. She always had a smile on her face and never had a negative thing to say about anything or anyone. Happy and healthy, active and helpful, full of life and loved her family more than anything. This is such a useless tragedy that has taken place. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her. May her family know that a new angel is now watching over you from above. May her grandson Christopher know that she will be with him in spirit and in his heart on his wedding day in March. She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Peace be with all of her family during this sorrowful time. God Bless Francois, your newest Angel in Heaven…Francois, you will be forever loved and missed… The Curbow Family

  15. Anita says:

    What are the police doing about Mrs. Fischer? She did commit a crime, however upset she may be? Does she simply walk?

  16. Begonia says:

    Do you mean simply walk like Mary DeStefano did when she hit a car belonging to a young man at Publix and left the scene?

    I, too, live in Francoise’s neighborhood. Our streets are very narrow, too narrow for sidewalks, and visibility is very poor when it is dark. Dangerously poor. It is a miracle this has not happened before now.

    Two families are victims here, their lives forever ruined. They are all in my prayers.

  17. Anita says:

    Yes, Begonia, that’s exactly what I meant. De Stefano hit another vehicle. Fischer hit and killed a valued member of the community, and left the scene of the accident. That it was an accident is not in dispute, but perhaps had she stuck around at least long enough to report it and to summon help, Francoise might have lived.

    Two families lives are indeed in ruins, but there was only one victim that evening.

  18. Sharon Gore says:

    To Heartfelt Sympathy: What on earth is wrong with “this woman” being out alone after dark walking her dog as she does every night…alone….after dark? Just because she was an older woman should not mean she is supposed to be confined inside simply because it’s dark outside! That’s why cars have headlights, roads have speed limits, and there are laws against talking on your cell phone while you are driving (or whatever else Fischer may have been doing).

    To Anita: You hit the nail on the head!!! If, indeed, Fischer thought she hit a dog-why didn’t she stop to check? Who on earth leaves after hitting an animal anyway? And honestly…it took her 12 hours to realize she may have actually hit a person? I’m not buying it. It may have taken her 12 hours to sober up – there’s some food for thought! Regardless, there is only one real victim here. And that is Francoise and her family. Fischer may be a victim, but she is only a victim of her own circumstance.

  19. More Amazed Every Day says:

    I am just wondering if there has been a status update on this….what is going to happen to Fischer??
    When she went back to the scene, she knew at that point that she didn’t hit a dog!!!!

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