My Grandma Makes the News

Below is an article published in the BFP regarding my grandma…

S. Burlington grandma: A living lightning rod

Published: Sunday, August 20, 2006
By Ed Shamy

When Germaine LeClair moved out of her Burlington neighborhood in July 2000, her neighbors told her they were glad to see her go.

Not that she was a troublemaker, mind you. LeClair was then 79 years old, a mother and a grandmother.

Then, as now, the widow lived on her savings and made some extra cash darning socks and ironing other people’s clothes. She liked to read and write and cook and still does.

Sounds like a dream neighbor, but for one problem.

As LeClair sat atop a metal office chair in her garage just days before her move, sorting through her belongings, lightning struck her house — and her.

“I heard the thunder, and that’s all I remember,” she said. “I must have looked terrible, because some lady said she’d call 911.”

Firefighters arrived quickly and asked LeClair, still sitting in her chair, if she felt alright.

She could utter only, “Well …”

When she was finally able to speak, she told the emergency crew, “I feel better than when I was hit the other two times.”

That’s when her neighbors decided they might prefer if sweet, elderly Germaine LeClair moved away. The woman attracts lightning strikes like dropped lollipops attract ants.

The first came when she was 18, still living on the family farm in Quebec. She was sitting beside an open window, she said, with her arm on the sill.

“It really wasn’t much lightning to think about,” but then a sudden crackle and — whammo! — Germaine goes out cold.

“I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel anything.”

She took a lightning-free break for the next 31 years, busy as she was getting married, having six children, moving to the United States and running a dairy farm with her husband in Charlotte.

That electricity drought ended when she was 49, she said. Again, she was indoors, sitting beside two open windows in the farmhouse when lightning zapped an elm tree nearby — splitting it from top to bottom — and traveled into her kitchen.

“I remember my brain was shaking and I was making funny noises with my throat,” she said. She couldn’t speak when her husband and children rushed in from the barn to see what had happened.

When she gathered her senses, she announced to her family, “I told them I’ve been hit by lightning once again.”

This came as a surprise to the mister and the kids, since she’d not yet told them about the first time, when she was a teen.

Thirty years would pass before lightning found her again, at age 79, and spooked her neighbors in the South End of Burlington.

“I don’t know why me,” she said, bowed but unbroken this week on the final approach to her 85th birthday.

The only lasting damage, she said, has been a quirky deafness that has pestered her for years.

“I’m deafer on some days than others,” she said.

She’s also dizzy and has a bum hand, but LeClair chalks that up to eight decades of wear and tear and not lightning strikes.

Just to be on the safe side, should you feel the urge to visit Germaine LeClair, check the weather forecast. Visit only if clear skies are expected. Ask her for a rain check if thunderstorms loom.

Ed Shamy’s column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact him at 660-1862 or eshamy@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com

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