Centers Health Care, a rehabilitation and nursing home company with branches across the Northeast does not stereotypically host Bingo nights and leave their elderly residents to watch television throughout the day. Instead its recreational staff plans visits with mini-horses, dance events, Cinco de Mayo celebrations and birthday parties for its centenarians, according to spokesman Jeffrey Jacomowitz.
To mark the 101st birthday of nursing home resident Marcelle Legrand June 6, the staff and patients at the Holliswood branch of Centers, located at 195-22 Woodhull Ave. in Hollis, came out to help her commemorate the special occasion.
In attendance was her son George Legrand, 73, an engineer who lives in Rockland County.
“I am elated,” said Legrand. “I hope I inherited her genes.”
The elder Legrand was born in the bay city of Gonaïves, Haiti, in 1917, according to Latricia Charles, a recreation aide who speaks Creole.
Legrand was the oldest of three siblings and was the matriarch of her family, according to her son and half-brother Jean Robert, 60.
Robert’s mother passed away when he was young and it was Legrand who took care of him, according the Elmont resident.
“She’s not only my sister, but for me she was also my mother,” said Robert. “She is a good person and she has a good heart…she was the head of the family…and she was in charge.”
In Haiti, Legrand was a primary school teacher of children ranging from 7 to 9, according to her son. After having three kids, she decided to work as a seamstress and make custom dresses from home in order to spend more time with them.
Later she married Wilford Delsoin, a broker, but due to political persecution he faced from the regime of former Haitian President François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the couple left their home country in 1966.
“When she left, she went to Chicago,” said Robert.
Delsoin became a manager at a belt factory and because of Legrand’s limited understanding of English she worked at a factory for Tootsie Rolls, the chocolate taffy-like candy company, according to her son.
In 1976, Legrand and her husband moved back to Haiti because of health issues, but once she learned that they both needed a quadruple bypass as a result of heart problems they went to Florida in 1978, according to her son.
While in Florida she had the surgery to clear her arteries, but her husband, who was in his early 80s did not and he died in the early 1980s.
In 2001, she moved to Hollis and lived with her niece, Marie Legrand, but the following year came with bad news: her sister Francia Legrand, a reseller of wholesale goods, died at 75, according to her son.
Despite the losses she faced, Legrand still enjoys life and at her birthday she smiled and bopped her head to Tropicana, the popular music of her home country in the 1950s.
“She was devoted to everyone, not just her son and daughter,” said Robert. “She put herself out there for everybody.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose