An Opportunity to be Better - Chapter 10 Page 1

Full Circle

In 2013, the Kansas State University choir announced a performance tour of France. Freeland and Vaughan planned to join daughter Katherine, a member of the choir, on the trip. The plan included their other daughter Mariya and Vaughan's cousin's daughter Hannah joining them after the tour was completed.

But the discovery of the Morganville-Fèves connection caused a change in the details of the plan. Rather than Paris being their home base, Fèves' larger neighbor Metz was selected. In addition, Hannah's brother Ryan decided to join them. He had an interest in World War II history, particularly as it related to General Patton. His years of studying French would also be valuable.

Left: Location of Fèves in Western Europe. Right: Fèves is near Metz. In 2013, the city and surrounding area had a population of about 400,000. Metz, with its encircling forts, was a German stronghold during WWII. The battle to capture Metz led to Fèves' destruction. The black square on the island in the Moselle marks the location of Villa Blanche, the home Freeland and Vaughan rented.

The Americans visit Fèves

On May 15, Freeland and Vaughan landed at the airport in Luxembourg. They had originally imagined they would meet up with Gérard and wife Solange a few days later for a tour of Fèves. But Hervé had told Art that his father was nothing if not energetic and they should expect more.

And Hervé was correct. Since Gérard did not speak English, he asked his multi-lingual brother-in-law Francis Pracht to meet them at the airport.

When the couple came through security, Pracht was there, holding a "Morganville" sign. Vaughan asked Pracht where he had learned English. He laughed and said he had been a big fan of Rock-n-Roll when growing up and he learned by listening to groups like the Beatles, singing along and trying to figure out the words.

After the visitors picked up their rental car, the trio set off for the Torlotting home in Fèves with Pracht leading the way.

Francis Pracht was a congenial interpreter and guide. When the youngsters arrived, they called him "Mr. Denim" because it was a dress staple for him.

Signs entering Fèves from the east. Top: route D112; second: to the village; third: to the village hall and school; bottom: to the social center

Several gifts had been sent by the people of Morganville. Since there was to be an official reception on May 31, most of those items were set aside for that event.

But among those gifts was a ceramic of four sunflowers - the official Kansas flower. Because of its somewhat more fragile nature and being more appropriate for home display, it was presented to Gérard and Solange.

After conversation and drinks, Pracht and Gérard guided Vaughan and Freeland to Villa Blanche, the home they had rented in nearby Metz.

Gérard and Solange Torlotting were presented with a ceramic of four sunflowers - the Kansas state flower - made by Morganville's Polly Schwab. Paul and Emma Torlotting are standing in front of their grandparents.

Freeland and Vaughan spent the next day becoming familiar with Metz and settling into their new home.

The following day, Katherine arrived. It was otherwise planned as a slow day so she could recover from the long flight. After months of researching the area and its history, it felt a bit unreal to them to be there.

Katherine and the rental car in front of Villa Blanche. At the top of the hill at the far left was Fort Saint-Quentin, one of the WWII forts surrounding Metz.

On Sunday, the trio drove to Fèves, meeting Pracht and his wife Christiane at the Torlotting home for lunch.

After, Pracht drove the Americans to Fort Hackenberg, a distance of about 30 miles to the northeast. The fort had been the largest in France's Maginot Line and was open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Left: visitors at Fort Hackenberg inspecting damage caused by shelling. Right: Katherine waiting for the electric train that would take the group miles underground.

The tour with the university choir occupied the next week. It included a performance at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, and visits to nearby WWII-related sites.

But the Morganville-Fèves story was never far from Freeland's and Vaughan's thoughts. So while Katherine was with the choir during the Paris portion of the tour, they visited the sprawling Montparnasse Cemetery. It was the final resting place of the Utleys' translator Yvonne Bazin and her husband Leon.

Vaughan peering into the Bazins' burial vault in Paris' Montparnasse Cemetery

The Vaughans and Freeland were back in Metz late Sunday, the 25th, anticipating the early arrival of Mariya, Hannah and Ryan the next morning.

But late flights led to missed connections and the trio did not arrive until late Tuesday evening. The reception in Fèves was set for the following Saturday, May 31. This gave the weary travelers a few days to rest.

Patrick Hug had been the mayor of Fèves when Cathy Haney was working on the Kansas-Humanities-Council project in the 1990s. Unfortunately, Hug and wife Marie were unable to be at the Saturday reception. So plans were laid for the American delegation to stop by the Hug home late Wednesday afternoon.

With three of the four younger generation having arrived so late the previous day after a long journey and many hours spent in airports, all four elected to remain in Metz. Marie had assumed they would be along, creating an abundance of excellent appetizers, which fueled several hours of conversation.

Front yard of the Hug home. (l-r) Solange Torlotting, Gloria Freeland, Marie Hug, Patrick Hug and Gérard Torlotting

May 31 was a beautiful sunny day with comfortable temperatures. The Americans first traveled to the Torlotting home. Gérard and Solange welcomed the group and gave them a short tour of the house and grounds, including the "tree house" Gérard had built for his grandchildren when they were small.

Then, Gérard, Pracht and the visitors left to meet the mayor at the village hall.

May 31 photo taken in the Torlotting backyard. The steps at the upper right lead to a large "tree house" Gérard built for his grandchildren. Katherine is holding her music in anticipation of singing "La Marseillaise" during the ceremony. (l-r) Mariya, Katherine, Hannah, Gérard and Ryan