Suzanne M. St. André, formerly of Pawtucket, R.I., died Sept. 20 at her home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she had lived for the past 24 years. She was 91.
An accomplished seamstress and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, she was born in France in 1921 to the late Emile and Marie Louise (Tissandier) Guibert. Her strength of character and devotion to family were apparent from a young age. The second of seven children, she was often tasked with caring for her five younger siblings, even dashing through flames as a 12 year old to save her two-year-old brother from a fire she had accidentally set while lighting an oil lamp.
A young woman at the end of World War II in a liberated France, she met the love of her life, Adolphies Wilfred St. André, by a twist of fate. Her father, who admired Americans, invited the lucky American soldier over to the house for dinner when he learned the young man spoke French. That chance dinner developed into a life together. They were married in France in 1946 and moved to Rhode Island later that year. With her sister’s help, she crafted her own wedding dress from parachute silk, as fabric during the war was in short supply.
After briefly settling in Central Falls, R.I., Mr. and Mrs. St. André made their home in Pawtucket, where she remained for more than 30 years. They raised four children, Emile, Raymond, Ronald and Suzanne, who formed the centerpiece of their life together and the foundation of a large, extended family that she held so dear.
Energetic and hard-working, Mrs. St. André supported her growing family with her talent for sewing, skills first learned when she was apprenticed to a master seamstress at the age of 14. Those skills would yield countless beautiful garments, including wedding dresses, a family Christening gown well as a family First Communion dress, and bring pride to her and her family.
After working as a seamstress for several years out of her Pawtucket home, she began to impart her artistry onto others. She served as a teacher to girls ages eight to 18 at the YWCA in Central Falls from the 1960s to 1980s; taught sewing at Notre Dame High School in Central Falls from 1969 until the school closed in 1977; and taught evening sewing classes for adults at Tolman High School in the 1970s and 1980s. Even after a stroke in 1988 left her dominant hand immobilized, she persevered in stitching, knitting and crocheting.
A lifelong learner and avid reader, Mrs. St. André took adult education class at Roger Williams University in Providence and completed her GED. At the age of 47 she
faced her fears and received her driver’s license, though she never took much to driving.
Following her stroke, Mrs. St. André moved to Martha’s Vineyard to live with her daughter and her family. Kind and unfailingly good-humored, she made numerous friends here who were captivated by her genuine smile and loving spirit. She often entertained her daughter and grandchildren with an exhaustive roster of French songs.
Though the Island’s ferry boats provided a physical hindrance, she remained in close contact with her extended family, spread at times across the United States, France, Madagascar and Japan. She enjoyed regular, lengthy visits with her son Emile and his family in Maine, as well as frequent visits with her sons Ronald and Raymond and their families in Rhode Island, and delighted in her role as a grandmother and great-grandmother.
Kind, gentle and intelligent, Mrs. St. André never had an unkind word to say about others. She lived her life in grace and beauty, loved her family equally and unconditionally, and was so loved in return.
She is survived by her sons Emile St. André of Belfast, Me., and Raymond St. André of Cranston, R.I.; a daughter, Suzanne St. André of West Tisbury; eight grandchildren, Jill, Julie, William, Nichole, Justin, Ashley, Matthew and Marina; six great-grandchildren; and two sisters and a brother. She was predeceased by her husband and her son Ronald, as well as a brother, and two sisters.
Many relatives and friends attended the funeral for Mrs. St. André, held Sept. 24 at the Costigan-O’Neill Funeral Home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Consolation Church in Pawtucket. She was interred at Notre Dame Cemetery in Pawtucket beside her husband.
Tu seras toujours dans nos coeurs.