AUGUSTA — The Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame inducted two Lewiston residents and its first Black member earlier this month.

Suffragist and Lewiston journalist Camille Lessard Bissonnette of Lewiston (posthumous) and Lewiston Middle School teacher Michel Courchesne were inducted during a ceremony Sept. 7 at the Maine State House.

Also inducted was Alain Jean Claude Nahimana, founder of The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center and the first Black Mainer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He died last year at age 49.

There were a dozen inductees in all, including former House Speaker John Martin of Eagle Lake and state Sen. Susan Deschambault of Biddeford.

Dignitaries who attended the ceremony included the French ambassador to the United States, Phillippe Etienne, along with Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau.

Gov. Janet Mills, who studied abroad for a year in Paris as a college student, delivered remarks in both French and English. She noted that more than a third of Maine residents have a Franco heritage.

Other inductees were: James Beaudry of Biddeford Pool (posthumous); Diane Castonguay of St. Agatha; the Rev. Lionel Gerard Chouinard of Augusta (posthumous); Andre G. Janelle of Saco; Lise Pelletier of Fort Kent; Jerome “Jerry” Plante of Old Orchard Beach; and Patricia Vashon of Waterville.


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