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Sunday, May 04, 2008

French Legion of Honor Presented to Maine Franco-American Severin Beliveau

http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=184594&ac=PHnws

France to honor Beliveau on May 13

By JULIANA L'HEUREUX May 1, 2008

A tour of Severin Beliveau's legal office in Augusta is a Franco-American's historic treat. His family's Franco-American history is easily viewed among the pictures and framed archived documents hanging close to his professional work, handsomely decorating the bright walls of his busy legal office.

A photograph of his Franco-American father, Judge Albert Beliveau, born in 1887, is particularly interesting. "These photographs remind me of my ancestral roots as a French speaking Franco-American," he said during the tour. "My father taught me to believe that you can never deny your roots and your heritage."

On March 2, 1992, Beliveau was appointed the honorary French consular agent for Maine. His support for Franco-American and French heritage in Maine and New England will be honored by France, with the presentation of the premier order of The Legion of Honor (Legion d'Honneur), at ceremonies scheduled at the State House on May 13 in Augusta.

"I feel very humble about receiving this honor," said Beliveau. "It's actually a tribute to my French heritage, going back to 1636 when my family arrived in Acadia. In 1671, my Acadian ancestor Jean-Antoine Beliveau married Jeanne Bourg in Port Royal," he said.

Actually, the Beliveau name has French-Acadian origins, before the family became Quebecois, as a result of le Grand Derangement (the displacement).

In the middle 1600s, his ancestors sailed from Poitou in France, to Port Royal in Acadia (Nova Scotia). Beliveau's Acadian ancestral family was displaced by le Grand Derangement during the conflagrations of 1755, when they evaded the British expulsion of Acadians and fled to the Province of Quebec. In 1772, genealogy records show that Joseph Beliveau married Rosalie Richard in Quebec. The family later moved to Nicolet, then to St. Gregoire.

In the late 1800s, the family came to Lewiston, like so many other Quebecois, where the attraction of finding work among the growing textile mills provided economic security. They later moved to Rumford, where Beliveau was born.

Beliveau's legal career followed in the prestigious footsteps of other lawyers and judges in his family. In 1935, his father, Albert J. Beliveau Sr., was appointed the first Franco-American to Maine's Superior Court. In 1954, he was the first Franco-American appointed to Maine's Supreme Judicial Court. "It was when discrimination against French-Canadians and Franco-Americans was very high. My father was their advocate," he recalls.

Beliveau's Irish grandfather, Matthew McCarthy, was the first municipal court judge in Rumford.

Consul General of France in Boston, Franois Gauthier recognizes Beliveau's lifetime of support for the French language and culture in Maine.

"The Legion of Honor is pleased to recognize Severin Bliveau as a tremendous representative of our country's French heritage in North America," he said.

"He is a successful lawyer and businessman who is the head of the 'Forum Francophone des Affaires' in Maine. Severin is a decisive leader in some key projects for improving the relationship between the Pine Tree State and France, such as the governor's successful trade mission to France in October 2005. He is a proud member of the Franco-American community in Maine and New England. His family ties to France are very meaningful to him. We are grateful that he has put his talents to the service of Franco-Americans and France."

The Legion of Honor was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize and pay tribute to people who demonstrate outstanding military and civilian service to the people of France.

Beliveau and his wife Cynthia and four sons live in Hallowell.

Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at:

Juliana@MaineWriter.com

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