Genevieve de Bidart Merrill (Ginette) died peacefully at home on December 20, 2019 surrounded by her husband, children and grandchildren She was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France on September 27, 1924, to Maurice Emile de Bidart and his wife Françoise Hauser.
Her early education was in the lycées of France. Coming to the USA with her family in 1939, she completed her education in the Lycée Français of New York, and then at Vassar College, from which she graduated in 1944, having majored in the Classics. Encouraged by her professors, she continued her education in Classics at Radcliffe College, receiving a Master of Arts.
She returned to Vassar, where she was appointed instructor in French. In January 1948, two close friends, one a professor at Vassar and the the other at Radcliffe, arranged a meeting between Ginette and Edward Merrill, a chemical engineer trained at Harvard and MIT, who had also majored in classics at Roxbury Latin School. Ginette and Edward discovered strong mutual interests and were married on August 19, 1948.
Ginette soon became an instructor in French at Wellesley College and taught courses in French literature for several years. Two children were born: Anne in 1955 and Francis in 1959.
In 1976 the Merrill family moved to Belmont from Cambridge, seeking more usable and more sunny land. They were unaware that the Belmont property was known as Howells’ Redtop. It had been built for the famous writer/novelist William Dean Howells and his family by the architects McKim, Mead, and Bigelow in 1876. Redtop had been declared a National Historic Landmark because of the fame of Howells, and his wife Elinor Mead Howells had a major role in the design of the house with her brother: architect William Rutherford Mead.
Ginette became interested in the story of Redtop’s creation, and the original occupants, and over several years published a book on Elinor Mead Howells and several articles in the Harvard Library Bulletin about the Howells family. She became a member of the Howells Memorial Committee of Harvard University for the 150th anniversary of his birth. Notable visitors to Redtop in Howells’ time included Mark Twain and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Ginette for many years was a member of the Alliance Française of Boston. She also was a member of the century old Thursday Club of Belmont, devoted to reading out loud important works of literature.
She spent a part of every summer in France visiting her mother, aunts and cousins. When her children were old enough to travel, they joined Ginette and experienced living in France.
As they grew up from toddlers she became increasingly devoted to her beloved grandchildren — James, Sasha and Julia Merrill — and enjoyed summer vacations with them on Nantucket. Going to James’ school baseball games — she became interested in baseball and an avid Red Sox Fan — and had many long discussions with James about the sport. Attending the soccer and basketball games of Sasha and Julia, she watched them develop as competitive players. With Sasha she reviewed school assignments in French. And she would bring the grandchildren into the gardens of Redtop to pick vegetables and raspberries. Ginette and James also bonded over their Beanie Baby collection where they spent hours together selecting new additions to the collection.
Ginette will be greatly missed by her family which has already held private services.
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