February 12, 1936 - February 12, 2015
Lydie Castan Hanley, AKA Christiane Gilberte Hortense Lydie Castan Hanley, passed away of natural causes a few days short of her 79th birthday in Dallas, TX. Sadly, she was found in her bedroom at home on her birthday, 12 February 2015, by retirement community staff, after not answering cell phone calls from her stepsons. The cause was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Health problems were not apparent, and her death was sudden and unexpected.
She was born in Toulouse, France in 1936 to Maurice Antonin Philippe and Illuminacion (née Alonso) Castan. She was visiting New York with a friend in August 1969 when she met James E Hanley in line for elevators in the Empire State Building. Also present were two of his sons, with him on a road trip from Dallas to visit relatives on the East Coast, and a niece from New Jersey. A conversation ensued, with the linguistic aid of the friend, and after a period of correspondence, they were married in Dallas County in April 1971.
She had studied at the Academy of Toulouse, and the University of Toulouse, earning a Law degree, worked in the legal department of a bank in France and lived in Paris for a time before her marriage.
She taught French at Berlitz in Dallas, and at home to one of her young stepsons, initiating him into French literature, geography, culture, cuisine, and poetry (making him memorize many Fables by Jean de La Fontaine, for instance), as well as a small record set of traditional children’s songs, and some view master pictures of France.
She was an excellent cook in the manner of traditional French cuisine home cooking, with many courses including Appetizer, Entrée, Salad, Cheese, and Dessert. Often she would write out the menu with the names of the traditional dishes, and spent many hours in the kitchen preparing a meal.
For a long time she inhabited a modest house in University Park with a nice backyard adorned with flowers, various plants, and three towering pecan trees which yielded many nuts over the years, sometimes piles and piles. We had many family meals in that house over decades, visiting every week to cut grass or rake leaves before the meal. But the tradition, which continued occasionally after she lost her husband in 2004, kind of tapered off in the spring of 2014, when she seemed quite down after losing her cat in a quite empty home, increasingly in need of repair. Things were looking up when she sought a place with less burdensome responsibilities, and we found her a lovely retirement community in Dallas, where she eventually took up residence.
Last year she decided to move into the nice independent living retirement community, in the Fall, and was slowly moving items to her new place, with the help of her stepsons. She was prepared to enjoy her new life, looking forward to tranquility and simple pleasures, such as seeing a neighbor’s cat who liked to sit in the windowsill as she walked by on her way to the elevator. She also enjoyed three dachshunds one of her stepsons would bring along in the car when taking her shopping or helping her move things from her home. They would curiously sniff her ear from the backseat and she would chuckle and pet them.
Lydie enjoyed shopping, cooking, nice things, books, philosophy and French literature, flowers and plants, an occasional concert or French movie, and her beloved cats Champagne, Boulogne, Baby, and Kitty. Holiday and birthday meals were especially festive. She was a proud advocate of French culture, language, literature, and cuisine.
She was a faithful but private Catholic, and often read Imitation of Christ and Pascal’s Pensées, though she did not regularly attend church, as she did not drive and was more introspective than gregarious, though she often engaged in written correspondence with friends and family. She supported charities such as hunger relief for children and animal welfare. She was very kind, considerate and thoughtful of others.
She was very sad with each feline loss, and lost her last cat last year. She was very disappointed with the misguided invasion of Iraq, and had a general dislike for the senseless destruction of warfare and terrorism. She liked beauty and virtue, which was reflected in literature, poetry, art, and music, as well as honorable persons.
She never quite learned how to drive properly. She did get a driver’s license, but once, on a trip through Mexico, we were coming up to a mountain pass with a rather steep incline and precarious views into deep valleys while she was giving it a go in the driver’s seat. Her husband decided to take the wheel, so she proceeded to shift directly to park while the car was still moving, without much application of brakes, and what followed was quite a jarring sound which went on for a short eternity. Luckily we made it to our destination, and having old cars fixed up was one of her husband’s most enduring passions. She never did drive much, if at all, and always appreciated help buckling her seat belt–especially with those newer kind with the shoulder harness that tugs against you.
She is survived by two stepsons, Paul and Philip, in Dallas and Indiana. She had no children, and was an only child (with no siblings as far as we know), and did not talk much about her family, though her mother lived through part of her marriage and warranted a mention now and then. Her father was an avid stamp collector. A cousin, Marie José Bragante, came to visit in Dallas one time shortly after she married. We will have to look through her papers, correspondence, and address books to track down French relatives.
Her parents preceded her in death. In 2004, she was predeceased by her husband, 84, for whom she patiently cared during the final years of his life. She was also predeceased by her stepson Michael in 1986, and her four cats of her Dallas years, three of them American, and one European, found during a trip to France in the 1970s, in the Bois de Boulogne of Paris.
Burial service: Wednesday 25 February at 1:15 pm in the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, where she will rest with her late husband, a WW2 veteran of the Army Air Corps and Air Force Reserves. The small gravesite ceremony for immediate family (her two stepsons) is open to friends who might be notified or find out in time and be able to attend.
She will be interred in Section 21, Grave 151, and flowers may be sent there for the burial, or donations may be made in her memory to charities such as hunger relief, children’s welfare, animal shelters, or the like.
Arrangements are under the care of funeral director Roman Martinez with Aria Cremations and Funeral Home and John P Brooks Family North Dallas Funeral Home, 972 607 4400.
We contemplate a life well lived, in kind consideration of others, particularly concern for her stepsons, aided through the trials of life by her adoration of her affectionate cats; a final rest well earned for a peaceful eternity; and lasting memories of her significant influence, with a nostalgia for the magic she brought to our family and some wonderful memories of early youth and beyond.
She lived a life of kindness and generosity, with patience and fortitude, in the face of both beautiful repose and the vicissitudes of challenging adversity.
Trop et trop peu de vin.
Ne lui en donnez pas : il ne peut trouver la vérité.
Donnez-lui en trop : de même.
The truth is found somewhere between too much wine and too little.
–Pensées de Pascal
Bon soir, bon soir, ma mère…
Good evening, Mama…
–Chanson: Il Pleut, Il Pleut, Bergère
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Arrangements are under the direction of:
Aria Cremation Service & Funeral Home
1820 N. Belt Line Road
Irving, Texas 75061
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