An Opportunity to be Better - Biographies

Gérard and Solange (Parisot) Torlotting

Both Solange and husband Gérard were born in 1942, in the very middle of World War 2. But they were born 450 miles apart!

When Lorraine was annexed to Germany during the war, families with members who had skills the Germans needed or who were thought to fit into the new order were allowed to remain. Gérard was born in Metz to parents Marcel Torlotting and Yvonne (Chery) Torlotting. They had not been required to move.

In contrast, the Paul Parisot and Marie Louise (Crémer) Parisot family was expelled. It was common for land or farm owners to be forced to leave as it was part of the German’s "Lebensraum" program. It gave "living room" to Germans who had been living in areas seen as being overpopulated. The Parisots were moved from Fèves to Mazamet in the Tarn Department in the south of France. This is where Solange was born. Others who had been expelled were located nearby in village such as Lavaur.

Gérard Torlotting and Solange Parisot in 1949.

After the war, the Parisot family returned to Fèves.

Because Gérard's father Marcel was sick, his mother faced difficulties trying to raise Gérard, older sister Nicole, and younger brother Jean Francois as well as work. So Gérard spent much of 1948 and 1949 living in Fèves with his Uncle Henri and Aunt Mathilde Torlotting. He attended school in Fèves with Henri as a teacher and Solange as a classmate.

They both experienced firsthand the Fèves- Morganville generous initiative. They both remember the distribution of the donated goods as well as the visits by the Americans.

Son Hervé later teased them that Gérard probably had some hidden agenda when he would walk down the steep rue Quaraille from his uncle's apartment over the school to Solange’s neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. But they swore that it was not the case. They reminded him they were only 6 years old.

Hervé said their story would be more romantic if, in fact, Gerard had a hidden agenda, but he would accept them at their word. "Still, one might wonder; All the way from the top of the village to rue Quaraille!"

From 1950 to 1954, Gérard stayed with his grandparents in Louvigny, 18 miles south of Metz. In 1952, Marcel died. Gérard prefers to remember these times in terms of the good memories with his grandparents, especially the times playing soccer.

Both Gérard and Solange had to quit school and to start working full time at an early age.

After working a few months at age 14 for a butcher, Solange started a new job with seeds distributor "Maison Fabre." There, she learned the necessary skills to become a secretary.

Gérard started his employment with textile and clothing wholesaler "Maison Kahn" at age 16, preparing orders and making deliveries.

At that stage of their lives, they had no contact, although Solange said she occasionally saw Gérard from a distance when he was riding his Vespa motor scooter in Metz.

In 1960, at age 18, she decided to change jobs. She had 3 offers and chose to work for "Maison Kahn" as a secretary. This brought the couple together again and they were married in 1964. Daughter Sandrine was born that same year. Son Hervé was born in 1967.

In 1970, they built their house in Fèves. Gérard did much of it himself, but Solange was often recruited to help. And if working for Maison Kahn and building their home was not enough, he was also painting houses to make extra cash.

Over time, he grew within the company to become a manager, then the director and then the owner's right hand. What had first been thought to be a temporary job evolved into a career.

After Sandrine and Hervé completed middle school, Solange became the owner-manager of two retail stores, selling what Maison Kahn was distributing at the wholesale level.

Finally, when Mr. Kahn retired, Gérard took over the company and renamed it "MBE" for Mercerie, Bonneterie de l'Est. Solange joined her husband to help manage the company.

Both retired in 2002 and have since traveled extensively throughout the world.

Solange volunteers with "Secours Catholique" - Catholic Relief - teaching French to immigrants. Gérard spent 19 years on the Fèves city council, including 5 years as Deputy Mayor in charge of infrastructure and development. He also has been involved with various associations in Fèves.

The couple on their wedding day.

Of his parents, Hervé said:

Both my parents came from very modest families. But they took their lives in their own hands to educate themselves and to give to my sister and me everything we needed and more.

By the time we were teenager, we lived very comfortably, we had visited almost the entire European community, some African countries and the U.S. At the same age, my parents were working entry level jobs.

While some people struggle to find true mentors, my sister and I have been very fortunate to live with ours and to have the most loving parents. They worked relentlessly to achieve the richest life they could.