This morning Ginger and I attended the memorial service for Rene Julien Defourneaux I've known Rene since shortly after I joined All Souls back in 1996. I should say we've been friends since then, because he was a generous man who loved people, and made friends easily- and easily doesn't mean lightly; he always cared.
As cheerful and affable and amusing as he always was, it would be easy to miss how extraordinary he was, and his life had been. The description of The Winking Fox, a book about his experiences in the Army: "The Winking Fox is the captivating self-account of a U.S. Army Officer, who as a young Frenchman shortly before WWII, came to the United States to join his father who had emigrated twelve years earlier. In 1943, disheartened and discouraged by the desperate military situation, he joined the U.S. Army. Trained as an intelligence specialist, he was recruited by OSS and trained as an agent by SOE he parachuted alone into occupied France to organize and train French resistance groups. After the liberation of Paris, he was transferred to Asia where he served as second in command of a team parachuted into Japanese held French Indochina in support of a group assembled by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyên Giap. Shortly after WWII he was recalled to active duty and served twenty years as an Army intelligence officer with duty in Europe, Asia and the United States."
But that only begins to touch on his fascinating life. From the memorial order of service: "During Rene's lifetime, his vocations and avocations could be listed as: artist, bread baker extraordinaire, smuggler, tool and die maker, photographer, carpenter, spy, private detective, coin and stamp collector, importer/exporter, author, raconteur and public speaker." And that list doesn't mention father, Kiwanian, promoter of Indianapolis, bell ringer for the Salvation Army, and much, much more.
I wish I could have known him better. Goodbye, Rene.