A St Lucian Icon: Lady Floissac
She walks toward a white-cushioned wicker chair on her shaded poolside deck. Her domicile overlooks the smooth curve of Vigie Beach in the distance. The wind laps lightly at the folds of her cotton skirt as she takes a seat.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said as we exchanged pleasantries. Her voice was soft and inviting; her handshake firm. Meeting the demure and easygoing woman, one could easily think Lady Floissac may have become a household name from riding her husband, Sir Vincent Floissac’s, coattails. But the truth is the Lady was a force to be reckoned with in her hey-day, taking on issues of public concern and attending world conferences with one single goal: to be heard.
“I was very active in the public arena, maybe too active,” Lady Floissac said, recalling her stints held as president of both the SJC Past Pupils Association, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
“I also joined the Women’s Association with Grace Augustin, Lucille Lord, Mrs. Valmont, and Lady Simmons, and we were active for a number of years. Back then public speaking was not so popular and it created a lot of friction within the association, but we worked in many different islands and I enjoyed it thoroughly,” she said.
“I remember one particular issue the club adopted regarding parking on the Square. We held many public meetings and were very vocal. The Honorable Sir John Compton who was Prime Minister at the time was against us and gave us a really tough time,” she chuckled. “He, aided by Sir George Mallet, got on the market steps and said enough things about us. But we never gave up. And long after the association was defunct, they finally put a wall around the square and created designated parking.”
Another particularly memorable occasion that she holds dear was representing Lady Janice Compton at a meeting of the Americas among the Wives of the Heads of Government.
All of this publicity, she juggled with a 30 year long career.
Lady Floissac’s education began way back during her formative years when she was privately educated, she later attended the St Joseph’s Convent during which she eared a scholarship to attend London University to study dietetics. Upon graduating, she secured a stint at Victoria Hospital as a nutritionist, the first of its kind in St Lucia, but due to the lack of funding, the position was made obsolete after two years.
She then went on to teach at her high school alma-mater for 22 years, and subsequently worked in the extramural department at the University of the West Indies, Morne Fortune.
“Being an extra-mural was a very time-consuming job,” she said. “We had to take exams, create graduation exercises, organize courses and visits from the other UWI territories, and create chorale groups among other duties.” Retirement soon loomed, but it was short-lived.
“When it was time for me to retire, I did. But my daughter, Heather, needed some help with Artsibit Gallery. She was given the idea for the gallery by a cousin who had just come back form Canada and he found there was a dearth of galleries in St Lucia and he wanted to start one. So he approached her. But in time, when things got a little too much to handle she asked me if I would take it over, which I did.”
The idea of taking on a role in completely unchartered waters daunted her not in the least. She plunged into it determined to learn as she progressed. She held exhibitions at the gallery and at the Alliance Francaise. To boost her knowledge she traveled to neighboring territories like Santo Domingo, Trinidad, Barbados, and Martinique, visiting art galleries, talking to their owners, and buying prints. The exhibitions, she said stimulated a lot of economic activity, while a St Lucian-employed interior designer improved the interior of the gallery.
But after many years, the fateful day came when things took a turn for the worse. “By then we had a number of art galleries in St Lucia, and our location wasn’t ideal. I was at the corner of Mongiraud and Brazil Street, and it was taken up with minibuses. So patrons of the gallery, most of whom owned vehicles, couldn’t find parking. It didn’t augur well for the gallery, so I decided it was better I withdrew.” Since then, Lady Floissac has retreated into genuine retirement. She occupies her days reading, exercising and playing bridge. When asked how she has adjusted to the quiet life, she laughed: “My husband used to say: I never believed that one day she’d actually be quiet!”
Written by: Petulah Olibert Source: The Voice