Christiane Neuville, a former president of the John Jermain Library Board and champion of libraries and education died on Wednesday, August 8. She was 85 years old.
Mrs. Neuville, who served two consecutive three-year terms on the board — three years as president — is credited with helping to usher the library through approvals for its expansion. During her tenure, the library successfully passed a $10 million bond to double the size of the JJML, and hired the architect who designed the addition.
Mrs. Neuville was actually one of three people who were elected to the board the first time in its 100 year history the library actually had elected members. Prior to 2006, board members were appointed by other board members.
During a period of controversy over the library’s future in the community, Mrs. Neuville was seen as a voice of reason.
“She was a peacemaker, but she was never afraid to tell the truth,” said JJML director Catherne Creedon this week. “She had an ability to calmly state really difficult truths.”
Creedon said Mrs. Neuville’s last board meeting was in December 2011, “but she remained active through July, helping with fundraising and development.”
Born in Lyons, France on April 29, 1927, she was the daughter of Jeanne Lilaz. As a young woman, she split her time between Lyons and Paris, and lived in Paris during the German occupation.
She met Jacques Neuville there and they were married in 1948 and together emigrated to San Francisco later that year. She later would live in Sausalito, where she became president of the Sausalito Library Board.
Her passion for education drew her to teach at the Hamlin School in San Francisco, and later, in 1973, to become one of the founding faculty members of the San Francisco University High School. There she assumed many roles, including registrar, college counselor and instructor in French.
Mrs. Neuville’s husband died in 1988, and she remained at the school until her retirement in 2000.
She then sold her home and headed to Sag Harbor.
“She didn’t know a soul,” said her daughter Charlotte Neuville, who had friends in Sag Harbor whom she visited.
“That’s how my mother discovered this village,” she said.
Undaunted, Mrs. Neuville quickly made friends in Sag Harbor, and established a group of other French émigrés and Francophiles to meet monthly to enjoy conversations about French culture.
“They made tremendous French feasts,” said Charlotte.
Indeed, Mrs. Neuville became skilled in traditional French cooking, being self taught after she first arrived in the U.S.
“I used to beg her to make a hamburger like my other friends ate,” said Charlotte, “instead I’d get these elaborate French meals.”
Asked why her mother was drawn to the John Jermain Memorial Library, Charlotte said, “My mother wouldn’t define herself as a political person, but she was a passionate liberal and a voracious reader. I think she saw the library board as an opportunity to contribute to an integral part of the community.”
In addition to her daughter Charlotte, Mrs. Neuville is survived by her daughter Madeline Bohrer. She is also survived by four grandchildren, Nell Neuville Merlo, and Mathew, Ashley and Mason Bohrer; and two great-grandchildren, Dominick and Haylee Bohrer.
The family asks that memorial donations be made to the Christiane Neuville Reading Room at the John Jermain Memorial Library.
A private memorial service will be held at a later date.