Claudette Pinede (née Pierre-Noël) passed away on January 24, 2021, surrounded by her family and friends. Those who knew her over her 81 years of her life, will remember her laughter and the wellspring of joy that rose from deep inside her.
Claudette was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Vaugirard Pierre-Noël, a publisher and distinguished newspaper editor, and Laura Pierre Noël (née Latortue). As a young girl she loved dogs, camping, and singing along with her brother. After graduating at the top of her class, she attended State University where she earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Science. She was then granted a merit scholarship from the French government to attend the National Graduate School of Biology and Biochemistry in Paris. There, she met Edouard Pinede, whom she would marry. Their first child, Nadine, was born in Paris, and their son Didier Edouard, in Port-au-Prince.
Back in Haiti and facing persecution under the brutal dictatorship of Francois Duvalier, Claudette and Edouard were forced into exile. They moved to Canada where they settled in Montreal-Nord, home to a burgeoning community of Haitians in exile. Claudette earned her teacher certificate and worked as a research assistant at the University of Montreal before teaching Chemistry at Pie IX High School. When Edouard accepted a job in English-speaking Ontario, Claudette immersed herself in learning her third language, attending night school with her mother, Laura.
When Edouard was transferred to the US, Claudette began teaching Biology at Convent of the Sacred Heart, a prestigious private school in Connecticut. She also earned her M.Sc. in Biology. To provide her children with educational opportunities, Claudette became a teacher at Greens Farms Academy in Greens Farms, Connecticut. Her math and science students respected (and sometimes feared) her exacting standards; she could gain the attention of a class with a single glance – but they also adored her warmth and humor.
Mid-life, Claudette faced the challenge of life after divorce. She moved to Florida where she worked as a Science and Chemistry teacher for at-risk students, then completed training in government social service programs along with workshops on Substance Abuse Counseling, assisting thousands. After her house was severely damaged by Hurricane Andrew, she remained determined to help her community. For her post-Andrew relief work, she received Florida Governor Lawton Chiles’ Hurricane Hero’s Award.
Upon retirement she continued to help those in need, volunteering at Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders Program, or SHINE, where she counseled seniors about health insurance, and other issues. She made a point of working with Haitians who could not speak English, and assisted them in her native Haitian Creole. Her efforts were recognized by the Florida House of Representatives and the Department of Elder Affairs for the State of Florida.
Claudette was active in her parish, a member of its Haitian prayer group, and a building captain in her retirement community. Like many immigrants to the US fleeing violence, Claudette was proud of becoming a US citizen and valued the right to vote. For decades, she was an Election Day volunteer, and like many indefatigable Black women, she comprised the spine of the Democratic Party. She took pride in this and treasured her signed thank-you photos and notes from the Obamas.
Claudette had encyclopedic knowledge and a photographic memory. She relished international travel, and fulfilled her dream of visiting the Holy Land and Greece. Her last foreign trip was a magical Christmas in Copenhagen with family. As a little girl, she dreamed of visiting Hans Christian Andersen’s home land —a land of progressive social policies, particularly for women. She was visibly moved by a visit to the only statue in the world of a Black woman who led a slave rebellion, “I Am Queen Mary,” in Copenhagen’s harbor. That unforgettable day, an homage to her mother and to all women of courage, was described in an op-ed by her daughter entitled “The Rebel Queen.”
Claudette’s family and friends were the most precious jewels of her life. Among the family members who will cherish her loving memories are her sister Dr. Josiane Faublas (née Pierre-Noël) of Plantation, her brother-in-law Serge Faublas, and their children Tanya, Noëlle, and Serge Jr., the proud father of two daughters, Ileana and Issa Bella; her daughter Dr. Nadine France Martine Pinede and her husband Prof. Dr. Erick Janssen of Belgium; her son Didier Edouard Pinede of Connecticut, his daughter Elizabeth Noël Pinede of Washington, DC, and Elizabeth’s mother Claudia Thomas of Connecticut; her nephews Patrick and Joel Armand of New York and Stephane and Pascal Pierre-Noël of Canada and their wonderful families; and scores of other family and friends throughout the world who will miss her. Claudette was predeceased in death by her parents and younger brother, the composer and musician Henri Pierre-Noël of Canada; her older sister Dr. Yolaine Armand, a sociologist of Haitian culture and a university administrator; and by her former spouse, Edouard Pinede.
In lieu of flowers, Claudette’s family is accepting donations to create a scholarship in her name, to be awarded to Haitian girls with a passion for science and math. Donations to the Claudette Pinede Scholarship fund may be made to the Haitian Education & Leadership Program (HELP) at https://uhelp.net.
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