MARIGOT–Aline Hanson would not have wanted all the fuss but such is the high esteem the population hold in their hearts for her, it was not surprising that Wednesday’s funeral ceremony attracted a huge outpouring of love and respect, with a Catholic church packed full of mourners and dignitaries and many more people standing outside to listen to the service on two giant screens.
The former teacher and President of the Collectivité passed away on June 29, 2017, at the age of 67 after battling a long illness.
The funeral service was marked by numerous tributes, some songs and poems, in a church that was filled with a sea of flowers. There were so many floral tributes that an appeal went out for more helpers to carry the arrangements out after the service. Messages in the form of written tributes were occasionally read out, including one from the Government of the Canary Islands and another from the President of the French Guiana Region.
The well-attended service saw many dignitaries paying their respects from both sides of the island, Guadeloupe, and from present and former local Governments. The congregation included many heads of institutions, staff and heads of departments from the Collectivité, councils, associations, those from the teaching profession, and many prominent personalities in the community.
Among the Dutch-side dignitaries was Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Silveria Jacobs, Justice Minister Raphael Boasman and Member of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel. Prime Minister William Marlin and President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams were both off-island.
Préfète Déléguée Anne Laubies was joined by President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs and Second Vice-President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe and Mayor of Basse-Terre Marie-Luce Penchard, formerly Minister of French Overseas Territories, and First Vice-President Jacques Anselme, from the Conseil of Guadeloupe.
Those paying tribute to Aline Hanson included Minister Jacobs, President Gibbs, Penchard, Anselme, Senator Arnell who was Aline Hanson’s First Vice-President, Recteur’s representative for St. Martin and St. Barths, Michel Sanz, President of the Sandy Ground Cultural Centre Henry Connor, President of National Order of Merit Association Rose Nicolas and running-mate of newly elected Députée Claire Javois, Micheline Jacques.
“Aline Hanson was an educator at heart with a passion for children, a passion for the importance of education, she served her community with grace, humility, and a willingness to collaborate with her counterparts in the South,” said Jacobs. “Today we honour Aline Hanson’s dash through life, a meaningful dash because of the big difference she made on education, youth and culture. St. Martin can be extremely proud of a strong woman who represented her people, her Collectivité, with pride, heart and soul. I pray that Aline’s memory will live on in all that she has accomplished, all she has touched, in her dash on earth.”
The occasion was particularly emotional for President Gibbs who was taught by Aline Hanson in school and when she was President of the Territorial Council he was leader of the Opposition.
“Aline Hanson didn’t want a national funeral but the population said otherwise. Sorry Madame La Présidente,” Gibbs began. “We are all deeply affected by her passing. She was appreciated and respected for her human qualities, her strength, and her competitiveness.”
He recapped her career, her distinguished awards, and occasionally his voice cracked and tears welled up as he recalled humorous incidents in school.
“She was an icon of St. Martin. I’m sure she’s watching over her sweet St. Martin land. She was the first woman to become President of a French overseas territory and we can be immensely proud of her and what she accomplished.”
Said Marie-Luce Penchard: “I remember her as a politician constantly attentive to the community of St. Martin and its citizens in a spirit of solidarity and justice. She instilled respect and admiration. She was a woman of heart, of engagement and conviction, and above all a courageous woman.”
The service included some uplifting songs, by Natisha Hanson, a poem by Dania Amacin, versions of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” Larry Graham’s “One in a Million You(s)” sung by Albelto Lake and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” adapted for Aline Hanson and sung by Fabien Gumbs. Winston from the Rhythm Boys sang a song with guitar and harmonica.
Throughout the service, Aline Hanson’s daughter Leela Hanson-Connor received sympathy from the public, smiled, laughed, and shed a tear. But mostly she smiled, no doubt pleased her mother was so well thought of.
The hearse carrying the body of the late Aline Hanson then left the church to make its way slowly to the Marigot cemetery led by the Scouts and Guides of St. Martin.