Connecting with memories of Noel Krauss in New Caledonia




Noel Krauss is second from the left in this undated photo, in the home of Jacques Fonce, his friend for many years in Noumea, New Caledonia.  The photo is at least 30 years old.  Shirley is on the left, and Jacques is on the right.

Our visit to the capitol of New Caledonia (Nouméa) was a pleasant surprise.  Caroline's mother, Lisa, had reminded us that her uncle (Caroline's great-uncle), Noel Krauss, had spent time in New Caledonia, and that Lisa still exchanged annual holiday cards with one of Noel's friends there.  We tracked down his email, exchanged a few messages, and voilà!  Eighty-seven year old Jacques Fonce met us at the Nouméa cruise terminal at 8:30 sharp.


Jacques and Caroline meet for the first time in Nouméa.
Jacques retired many years ago as the chief plant quarantine inspector for harbors and airports in New Caledonia, and has a long family history in Nouméa. His great-grandfather moved from France to New Caledonia in the late 1800s to work on the construction of a military base. Jacques still has his ancestor's uniform, sea chest, swords, and pistols.


Later, Jacques' grandfather became mayor of Nouméa in the 1920s.  Jacques met Noel while he was attending a course on biological control at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and they continued to interact throughout their professional careers.

Jacques gave us a guided tour of Nouméa, including showing us where Noel lodged (a starkly simple room near the police station downtown... apparently Noel was not one for luxury).  There are some beautiful beaches and beachfront areas in Nouméa, with pedestrian and bike lanes.  Jacques took us to his home, one block from the beach, and we met his companion, Shirley.


Jacques and Shirley, with their shell collection that is to be donated to a local museum.

Jacques was very kind in meeting us.  He normally lives in Manila December through March to avoid the heat of the Nouméa summer, and actually returned to New Caledonia a month early to greet us.  He is a very spry 87 year old who is meticulous about his health, eating primarily vegetables (including baked taro), exercising regularly, and avoiding the sun (he has suffered his share of skin cancers) and alcohol.  He is also a trophy-winning weightlifter (last year he benched 95 kg) and coaches others at the gym.



So we met Shirley, then went for an hour walk along the beach.  Returning to the house, Shirley had prepared a lunch of bread, eggs, boiled local shrimp, and cheeses.  Oh, and I had a Number 1 beer!






Jacques and Shirley shared stories of their times with Noel in New Caledonia and with Beatrice, Lee, and Lisa in Honolulu.  One story that surprised me was that Noel smoked.  I didn't know this (perhaps he had quit by the time I met him).  Apparently, he smoked a lot, and rather than removing his cigarette from his mouth and knocking off the ashes, he just let the ashes fall where gravity pulled.  So his shirts always had little holes where the ashes burned through!


In Honolulu, Caroline's Aunty Bea is at the head of the table, and to the right is mother Lisa, and a younger Jacques Fonce.
In the afternoon, Jacques excused himself to go to the gym for some coaching responsibilities, and Shirley drove us to the local aquarium, where we had the opportunity to put some names to the species of fish and invertebrates we had seen in Lifou.  The aquarium also had a sea turtle exhibit containing green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles.




We found Nemo!

Lunch with Shirley and Jacques.




Note the unique scute pattern and head shape of the hawksbill sea turtle on the bottom of this photo.  "Tortoise shell" products usually imitate this species.  I think the turtle on the top is a loggerhead.


Poster seen on our walk along the beach.

Caroline talking story with Jacques Fonce.

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