Obituary: Francine Louise Dissinger, 1942-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Francine Louise Dissinger, 1942-2020

Brussels-born woman survived German occupation and followed American airman to the States

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Francine Dissinger
  • Francine Dissinger

Francine Louise Dissinger passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, on the morning of Saturday, February 22, 2020.

Born in Brussels on October 3, 1942, during the German occupation of Belgium, Francine was the only daughter of Lucien and Marthe Coulise. While her early years were marked by the trials and hardships of living during the height of a World War, Francine experienced a loving childhood equally immersed in both the Walloon and Flemish cultures of her beloved home country. A free-spirited youth who would occasionally interrupt a school class with her antics, Francine was once hushed and chastised by fellow student, Anne Appels. That moment was to be the unlikely start of a legendary friendship that would not wane for their entire lives.

As a young woman, Francine met the love of her life when he quite literally fell out of the sky into her life. During a parachuting demonstration in Spa, Belgium, an American airman landed astray when his main parachute canopy failed to deploy and he relied on his less maneuverable reserve chute. Francine was among the local search party to locate him, and it was love at first sight. In months they were wed and blessed with two children, Isabelle and Chris.

In 1968, Francine — a lifelong traveler — courageously embarked on her next big adventure, moving to America with her young family. First residing in Baltimore, Md., she realized her dream of moving to the country in a few short years when — in New Windsor, Md. — she and Jack purchased an old farmhouse in need of a loving hand. Francine had an extraordinary talent in designing and creating both interiors and clothing. Always working with a meager budget, she could tailor couture from curtains and transform a room with abandoned remnants.

Unforgettable with her impish smile, her lilting French accent and a bright twinkle in her eye, Francine delighted everyone she met with her easy and spirited manner, her zest for the simple pleasures of life, and her voracious appetite to learn and experience new things. As a mother, she was loving, generous and ever thoughtful. She lived frugally and saved earnestly to be able to send her family back to Belgium every two years to visit her parents and friends, and to expose her children to the wonders and joys of traveling — a passion they retain to this day.

When her children left her loving nest, Francine moved with Jack to Washington, D.C., and delighted in the many cultural excursions the nation’s capital offered. There she met another soul mate in friendship, Diane Jones, with whom she shared many adventures, both intellectual and spiritual.

In 1995, Francine became “Bobonne” when her first grandchild, Ben, was born. Gabrielle, Kyra and Camille would follow, and she embraced being a grandmother with the same passion and zeal she provided as a mother and a wife.

When Jack passed away of cancer in 2004, Francine started a fresh chapter in her life, moving up the Atlantic to a new beginning in Underhill, Vt. She quickly knit herself into the fabric of the local community, joining the volunteers of Shelburne Farms as a bilingual guide, making friends with the members of the library’s mystery book club and French club, and surprising herself with her talents at tai chi.

Francine will be missed and lovingly remembered by many, including her children Isabelle Clingan and Chris Dissinger; their spouses Jay Clingan and Linda Dissinger; and her grandchildren Ben, Gabrielle and Camille Clingan, and Kyra Dissinger. Her sister-in-law, Debbie Burkhard, along with her sons Brad and Joshua, were an ever-present part of her household. Among her closest surviving friends are Anne and Jan Appels, Marie-Paule Frenay, Diane Jones, and Nancy Malinsky.

A celebration of Francine’s life will be held in the spring, her favorite season. The family would like to acknowledge the many wonderful nurses and doctors at the University of Vermont Medical Center who contributed to her care and the staff and volunteers of the McClure Miller Respite House, which became a comforting sanctuary at the end of her time with us.

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