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Manon Meilgaard 1928 - 2008
Manon Meilgaard collapsed and died on Thursday,
January 10th at 12:30 pm, probably due to an aneurism or stroke. Her
Wake took place January, 19th,
Manon lived an extraordinary life. Born in 1928 in the East End of
London, no glamorous future could be expected in the stratified English
society where a Cockney accent was the mark of a lower class person. But
Manon was bright and ambitious. While German bombs of WWII fell on her
native city, she taught herself to speak standard English, rather than
the Cockney dialect.
Manon trained as an assistant nurse and traveled whenever she could,
first to Jersey, then France, where she lived for a period of time
working in Paris at a cafe, allowing time to perfect her French. In the
late 40s she met her first husband, a Czechoslovakian pilot who had
fought on the Allied side in the Royal Air Force during the Battle of
Britain. Lured back to communist Czechoslovakia in 1948 on the pretext
that his mother was dying, his passport was confiscated, and he was not
allowed to leave the country. Manon joined him and worked as an English
tutor, both of them living happily together. Due to the political
atmosphere of the time, they were both arrested and separated by the
authorities. Manon spent several weeks in prison until the British
Consulate was alerted to her presence there. The Communists released her
on the condition she sign separation papers, annulling their marriage.
She never saw her husband again; it is possible he was shot during
Stalin's purges of anyone who had fought with the forces of the West.
Returning to England, Manon became a stewardess in the fledgling British
Overseas Airline Company (BOAC), which was later to become British
Airways, and in 1951 saw service on board the Comet, the World's first
passenger jet. Again, Manon had inadvertently taken her life in her
hands, as these aircraft suffered from structural metal fatigue. Manon
lost several friends, crews of unfortunate Comets that disintegrated in
Manon became pregnant out of wedlock and, due to the sensibilities of
the time, settled for a marriage of convenience with a BOAC pilot
friend. After the birth in 1953 of her son, Stephen Goodfellow, they
settled in Lagos, Nigeria, which was the halfway point of her husband's
flight route between London and Cape Town, South Africa. The marriage
didn't last, and Manon settled in London with her son.
In 1957 Manon met Morten Meilgaard, a Danish chemist researcher who was
to become her lifetime partner. They moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in
1958, where they lived until 1967. During this time Manon worked as an
assistant and translator for the director at the Zoological Museum in
Copenhagen, and in 1966 she gave birth to her second son, Justin
Meilgaard. Manon started to write poetry in Denmark and continued to do
so throughout her life.
Morten, Manon, her mother and two sons moved to Monterrey, Mexico in
1967 and lived there until 1973. During this time she volunteered at the
local hospital and continued to write poetry.
In 1973 the family moved to Detroit, and in the late 80s, Manon received
her B.A. in English at Oakland University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.
In the early 80s she took employment with the Metro Times and worked
there in the capacity of art and food critic until the early 90s.
Manon also worked as co-editor of "The Bridge," a prestigious journal of
Fiction & Poetry, which began publication in 1990. Manon was its first
Asst. Fiction Editor and helped the journal win two grants from the
Michigan Council of the Arts, as well as a Seed Grant from Poets &
Artists in New York.
Manon lived life to the full measure. Wherever she went, her vivacious
spirit and intellect lit up those who had the pleasure of her company.
As Manon gradually lost her memory, her instinctual delight of enjoying
the company of a total stranger never left her.
Manon donated her body to the University of Michigan Medical School. A
memorial will be arranged upon the receipt of her ashes, some
Click here to read some of Manon's poetry...
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