Two people from Burlington have been knighted by the government of France for significant contributions to the country.
Ernie Pomerleau and Lise Veronneau can now call themselves ‘chevalier,’ or knight. Knighthoods are rarely bestowed upon anyone who isn’t a French citizen, and are reserved for people who provide exceptional service to France and contribute to the growth and well-being of others for 20 years or more.
Veronneau chairs Burlington’s Honfleur Sister City Committee, which works with the northern French town that Samuel de Champlain departed from when he sailed to the region. She also sits on the board of the Alliance Francaise of the Lake Champlain Region.
She’s now a member of the French National Order of Merit.
“I think it’s really important that the French government is saying what you’re doing is important, and that tells me, ‘keep doing it!’,” she said.
“It’s natural for me to just do whatever people need when they need help,” Veronneau added. “It feels good to do that. I encourage young people to volunteer and get involved in their community. Get engaged. You never know where things are going to go, and look at this!”
Pomerleau has been inducted into the French Legion of Honor, which is France’s highest award for military or civil achievements. He’s the country’s honorary consul for Vermont, helping look after the affairs of French citizens in the Green Mountain State.
“People from France — hundred of thousands go to Quebec,” Pomerleau said. “And then we’re interacting with Honfleur. We want to invite them, and in turn, we want to go to France and we want to go to Canada.”
He and Veronneau have worked with each other frequently since the 2009 Vermont Lake Champlain Quadricentennial.
The two also got to present the Burlington Police and Fire Departments with a flag honoring the more than 250 million people on five continents who speak French. That flag is now flying over City Hall in honor of International Francophonie Month.
French Consul GeneralArnaud Mentré made his first trip from Boston to Vermont, and he said he’s pleased to see the area maintain a strong connection with French-speaking culture.
“We had a discussion (Monday) with the governor about the Francophone roots of Vermont,” Mentré said. “I think it’s a great country you have here. You can feel the history of this part of North America, this great proximity with Quebec.”