Retired Educator Named French Mayor for the Day

Retired educator Yolande Bosman of Middlebury has been named Waterbury’s French Mayor for the Day. Festivities planned include a flag-raising and reception on Monday, June 24 at Waterbury City Hall, a French Mass Saturday afternoon, June 29 at the Shrine of St. Anne and a celebratory French-Canadian dinner that evening in the church’s Rita P. Frigon Hall. All events are open to the public; tickets are required for the dinner. (Dunn photo)

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury resident Yolande Bosman, retired director of World Languages for Region 15, will reign on Monday, June 24, as Waterbury’s French Mayor for the Day. Festivities that day will begin with a flag-raising ceremony at 10 a.m. at Waterbury’s City Hall, followed by a reception in the Aldermanic Chambers.

The French Mayor for the Day is installed each year to coincide with the feast day of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of French Canadians and Franco-Americans.

“My family is of French-Canadian descent,” said Dr. Bosman. “My oldest brother and I are American-born, but my second and third siblings were born in the Canadian province of Quebec.”

The honorary mayor is chosen by a committee connected to the Shrine of St. Anne, the massive French Gothic church built in the early 1900s by French-Canadian immigrants to Waterbury.

“I was baptized in St. Anne’s Church,” said the Waterbury native. “My mother and father were married there. I went to school there and I taught fifth grade there in the mid- to late-60s, before I had my bachelor’s degree.”

A graduate of Waterbury Catholic High School for Girls, Dr. Bosman earned a B.A. in French and psychology in 1971 from Southern Connecticut State University, followed by a master’s degree in anthropology and psychology from Fairfield University, a sixth-year certificate in administration from the University of Bridgeport and a doctorate in educational leadership and curriculum from Nova University.

She taught French and psychology at La Salette Seminary in Cheshire before joining the faculty at Region 15’s Pomperaug High School, where she was made an administrator in her fourth year.

Dr. Bosman worked at Pomperaug for 43 years, teaching generations of students a love for French and other foreign languages.

In the mid-1980s, she began a student exchange program that eventually included France, Italy, Spain, Russia, China and Japan.

“Region 15, in my opinion, was very receptive,” she recalled. “We had incredible leaders, a superintendent and assistant superintendent who were open to this and allowed me to initiate these programs.”

While at Region 15, Dr. Bosman taught a course called Developing Capable Young People to teachers all over the U.S. and beyond.

“We trained teachers from California to Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts and Maine,” she said. “The thing I loved most was teaching 200 teachers at the University of Beirut in Lebanon.”

“Region 15 was a wonderful place to teach,” she said. “They encouraged me to do it.”

In her years as an educator, Dr. Bosman encouraged students to learn about other cultures through community service. In the mid-80s, she initiated a twice-weekly outreach program involving 250 students at a soup kitchen at St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Waterbury Green.

She also started a Big Brothers-Big Sisters-type program at Driggs Elementary School in Waterbury, where Pomperaug students “adopted” young students and worked with them during the school year.

“I did this because we were required to do it at the seminary,” she said. “I thought, why not require it as a character-building program? Since then, the whole idea of community service has been recognized by Region 15 administrators as an integral part of what the kids do.”

As a member and chair of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on American and Francophone Cultural Affairs, Dr. Bosman was directly involved in 1995 in initiating the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, a 600-mile path from Newport, R.I., to Washington, D.C., which in 2009 was officially designated as a national historic route by President Obama.

“I worked with extraordinary people who wanted to preserve history,” she said. “I’ve been a very blessed person.”

Because of her connections as past president of the Alliance Francaise of Northwest Connecticut and with local author Jini Vail, PHS students were invited to visit the Comte de Rochambeau, a descendent of the French general, at the family’s chateau on the Loire.

“It was incredible to be received by them,” she said. “The students were enthralled.” 

In the early 1990s, at the invitation of French President Francois Mitterand, Dr. Bosman attended Le Sommet de Chaillot in Paris, the fourth summit meeting of the heads of state of 46 French-speaking countries.

“That was a very powerful experience,” she said. “There were so few females present. We sat in on a senate meeting in Paris.”

Though that meeting was nearly 25 years ago, she recalled that the topic of discussion was climate change.

From 1995 to 2014, Dr. Bosman was invited to serve as honorary consul for France, representing the French government in Connecticut.

“For any French person in need of assistance, anyone who was jailed unfairly, anyone who needed a passport, I was the liaison to the French consul in New York,” she explained. “My home became the French Consulate for Connecticut.

“I’m blessed to have crossed paths with amazing people,” she said.

Voices asked Dr. Bosman what her “platform” might be for her brief stint as mayor.

“It will absolutely be about love,” she said. “It will be for promoting empathy and understanding of each other’s cultures so we can work together more harmoniously, to value everyone’s background instead of thinking we’re superior to one another.

“We need to do this,” she said, “not only as individuals, but as a country — as a world.”

French Canadian Day in Connecticut was signed into law in 2013 by Gov. Dannel Malloy to “officially recognize the heritage and substantial contributions the French Canadians have brought to the state.”

A French Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at All Saints-Todos los Santos Parish, located at the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, 515 S. Main St., Waterbury.

A traditional French-Canadian dinner honoring Dr. Bosman will follow the Mass in St. Anne’s Rita P. Frigon Hall.

The menu of typical French-Canadian dishes will include Tourtiere (meat pie), Soupe aux Pois (pea soup), Poulet en Morceaux (chicken), Puree de Pomme de Terre (mashed potatoes), Sauce (gravy), Legumes (vegetables), Petit Pan Francais (French rolls), Beurre (butter) et des Desserts (desserts).

All are invited to attend these events to celebrate Dr. Bosman and the contributions of French-Canadians across the state.

Tickets for the meal are $20 for adults, $10 for children, free for children younger than 5, and can be purchased by calling Ron Bouchard, 203-756-6329, or the parish office, 203-756-4439; at O’Rourke and Birch Florist, 170 Freight St. in Waterbury or at Dinova’s Four Corners, 600 Middlebury Rd. in Middlebury.

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