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The French ambassador to the United States spent his day in northwest Ohio on Wednesday, touching on shared economic and cultural interests, and showing grateful respect to the generation that saved his country from Nazi Germany.
Francois Delattre, 50, who was appointed in 2011, got a French-flavored reception, in the cuisine served to him in Findlay and Toledo, and with a tour of the Art of the Tuileries Garden exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art.
He spared no adjective in his praise of the exhibit of the art of the gardens outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.
“This exhibition is an absolute delight and it’s an understatement. This is well-conceived, well realized, and — here I speak as a Parisian — you feel like you’re in Paris in two seconds,” Mr. Delattre said. He promised to praise it to the new director of the Louvre Museum, whom he expects to meet in two days in Washington.
“The first thing I will speak to him about and the crowd will be this partnership between the Louvre and the Toledo Museum of Art,” Mr. Delattre said.
Toledo Museum Director Brian Kennedy said the museum gave the ambassador a book of photographs of French works in the museum’s collection, works that were loaned to and by French museums over the years, and exhibitions of French art over the years. Also given was a set of clippings from The Blade of previous French ambassadors' visits to Toledo, the last one being in 1971.
At the museum Mr. Delattre greeted a group of French high school students who are staying in Toledo for two weeks to tour the area and attend classes at the University of Toledo and St. Francis de Sales High School.
Following his tour of the Tuileries exhibit, Mr. Delattre attended a private dinner given for him at the home of Allan and Susan Block in Sylvania Township. There were a dozen guests in addition to the Blocks. Mr. Block is the chairman of Block Communications Inc., parent company of The Blade.
French wine was served before dinner in the Blocks’ contemporary living room.
The dining room table was elegantly set with charger plates, cloth napkins, and crystal wine glasses.
Chef Lance Scott, executive chef at Premier Catering was preparing most of the meal. But Mrs. Allan Block (who studied pastry at Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi and cuisine at Ecole Ritz Escoffier in Paris) made the dessert herself. She made a lemon tart that was served with coffee, champagne, or Sauternes as an accompaniment.
The ambassador returned to Washington through Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Earlier in the day Mr. Delattre was honored in Findlay where culinary students from Owens Community College and hospitality students from the University of Findlay served him a traditional French meal.
He spoke to several hundred people in the University of Findlay’s Winebrenner Theological Seminary Auditorium where a student choir sang the American and French national anthems.
Mr. Delattre was squired around northwest Ohio by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), who is a co-chairman of the French caucus in Congress. Mr. Delattre credited Mr. Latta with helping to build the caucus from nothing a decade ago to a group of 100 members of Congress.
Mr. Latta said Ohio exports $225 million worth of goods to France every year, and that 1,000 people in his 5th Congressional District are employed by eight French companies. Major French employers in Ohio mentioned by Mr. Delattre include yogurt manufacturer Dannon Co. in Minster in Auglaize County, and a number of suppliers of the French airplane builder Airbus.
Mr. Latta, who said his mother’s family was half-French, recalled the relationship between France and the Americans all the way back to French support of the Colonists in the Revolutionary War.
“The French threw their weight behind the U.S. at that time and they didn’t leave us,” Mr. Latta said.
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Sitting on stage with Mr. Delattre at the University of Findlay was Clyde Shull, 95, of Upper Sandusky, an Army veteran of World War II.
“Mr. Shull was among the very first troops to go ashore in North Africa on Christmas Eve, 1942,” Mr. Delattre said. “After fighting in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, he landed at Utah Beach on D-Day and from there continued through France into Belgium and Germany.
“Today I would like to express to him and all these young Americans who risked and often sacrificed their young lives to fight during World War II France’s eternal gratitude. Mr. Shull is our hero forever, an example I believe for all of us, and we will never forget,” Mr. Delattre said.
Mr. Latta said Mr. Shull was born in Wyandot County and was drafted in 1942. He said Mr. Shull received eight Bronze Stars for his service, which included fighting at the Bridge of Remagen in Germany.
Mr. Delattre celebrated what he said is a strong economic and cultural partnership with the U.S., including the fight against international terrorism.
“We are together on every single important issue,” Mr. Delattre said.
“French-American relations have never been closer than they are today,” Mr. Delattre said. “Our two countries are each other’s closest allies in the fight against terrorism.”
Much of Mr. Delattre’s comments during the day were economic.
He said the United States is France’s largest commercial partner outside the European Union and that the U.S. is the No. 1 foreign investor in France, and growing.
“France is one of the top five foreigner investors in the U.S. with more than 3,000 French companies supporting more than 600,000 jobs in this country,” Mr. Delattre said.