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April 16, 2008


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Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

    Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, French Canadian, beloved mother, wife, and a member of the Blacksburg community, in which she and her family have lived since 2001, passed away on April 16, 2007, while engaged in her passion, teaching Intermediate French at Virginia Tech. Jocelyne was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1958 and lived both in Quebec and Nova Scotia before moving to Blacksburg.

Her family, friends, students, and colleagues will remember her community spirit, her love of nature, and her dedication to the preservation of her francophone heritage. She would approach anyone she heard speaking French to welcome them to the local francophone community. Before she moved to Virginia, Ms. Couture-Nowak was instrumental in the development of the École Acadienne de Truro, Nova Scotia, to ensure access of francophone families to a safe school environment and French language education. The school opened in 1997. Her youngest daughter, Sylvie, was one of its first students.

Jocelyne met her future husband, Jerzy Nowak, while both were teaching at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro in the 1990s. The couple left Truro after her husband was appointed as head of the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech.

Jocelyne’s brutal death contrasts sharply with her peaceful life, filled with family hikes in the bucolic countryside of her homes in the forests of Nova Scotia and Southwest Virginia, her flower-filled home gardens, her congenial gatherings with friends and students, and her cherished family. She died in the school setting that had been the touchstone of her life.

Jocelyne’s joie de vivre touched all those who encountered her. An unusual blend of energy and grace, she was characterized in her memorial service as “effervescent” and a “vivacious swirl of life force.” Without a doubt, Jocelyne possessed the wonderful gift of bringing joy by living joy. May that spirit, her spirit, be lived by those who so remember her.

Contributions in Jocelyne’s memory can be made to the Jocelyne Couture-Nowak Scholarship for French Majors, Virginia Tech Foundation (0336), University Gateway Center, Blacksburg, VA 24061; or the Jocelyne Couture-Nowak Memorial Garden Fund, Virginia Tech Foundation, Department of Horticulture, 301 Saunders Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061; or The Sylvie Couture-Nowak Educational Fund, First National Bank, 601 N. Main St., Blacksburg, Virginia 24060.