PARIS: Former French President Jacques Chirac’s family bade him a final farewell Saturday at an intimate ceremony in the southwestern village where he grew up.
“I can only say thank you in the name of my father and mother,” the statesman’s daughter Claude Chirac said in a tearful address at Sainte-Fereole, a small village in the Chirac fiefdom of the Correze region.
“In childhood and adolescence, Jacques Chirac was made here,” said mayor Henri Soulier.
Born in Paris, Chirac, who died aged 86 on Sept 26, moved as a young boy to Sainte-Fereole where he was elected a municipal councillor in 1965 before becoming a Correze lawmaker two years later.
He continued to represent the Correze department until becoming president in 1995, serving as head of state until 2007.
Chirac’s widow Bernadette, 86, did not attend the gathering of some 200 people in a picturesque village square decked out in portraits of the former president showing key moments of his life in public service.
Soulier said he had proposed and Chirac’s family had agreed to rename the square after him in the village which they had insisted would be the site of the final homage to his life.
Prior to the ceremony, local leaders had accompanied the family to lay a wreath at the tomb of Chirac’s parents.
The group then stopped by the village hall and the family home, of which Claude Chirac’s husband Frederic Salat-Baroux vowed “we shall never sell this house. One is always from somewhere and, for Claude, that’s here.”
Claude recalled how she was “often at Sainte-Fereole with Laurence,” Chirac’s other daughter, who died in 2016.
“We would leave Paris on Friday and our parents would leave us there before travelling around the department,” she recalled.
“My mother is very emotional today that she cannot come … it’s an exceptional homage. It is very comforting to her. And I want to say thank you for that because she really needs it,” Claude said.
Local authorities said meanwhile some 3,000 people had participated in a day of “memory and friendship” to honour Chirac at nearby Sarran, where Bernadette was first elected a municipal councillor in 1971 and which houses a museum dedicated to his life.
Among those attending Saturday was former Socialist president Francois Hollande, who was a political rival of Chirac in Correze, as well as Chirac’s grandson Martin Rey-Chirac.
Dozens of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, last Monday paid their final respects at a funeral service in Paris alongside dignitaries including former US president Bill Clinton, a day after 7,000 people queued to view Chirac’s coffin at Invalides military hospital and museum.
He was then laid to rest at a cemetery at Montparnasse in Paris.