Writing the “milestones” of Claire’s life, as we were recalling different people who have had the occasion to be “walking along” with Claire, we have already included many testimonies, but we have received so many that we have grouped below some more messages which indicates what Claire has been for so many people who met her, unfortunately not all of them because there are too many.
From Dr. Cahn Vasudevan, London
I come from a village 8 kms from Polambakkam. I recall vividly, as a young boy, seeing “a white lady on a bicycle” often on the road to Polambakkam. I was so fascinated that I wanted to know about her, to meet her, to speak with her. Dr Vellut was my inspiration to study medicine myself in the late 60’s.
From Irène Alessandri, Huguette’s niece (Mauritius)
Here also in Mauritius, we mourn Claire who was a sister to my aunt Huguette.… Very difficult to consider mourning for her, they talked on the phone every day.… My aunt Huguette, almost paralyzed, blind and ill-hearing person, for whom daily made life was making sense through this exchange. I dropped Claire at the airport 2 years ago, she knew she could not undertake such a journey anymore and we made her ‘farewell’ … May she rest in peace.
From Mrs Vijaya Yellapurkar, Pune (India)
I miss Claire. She was working with my late husband Dr Yellapurkar. He had told her my desire to learn french. Then we met and she started writing letters to me in French. I went to see her in Belgium. She took me on tour. I met her two sisters and Cécile from Karachi. Agnes was my regular host. Agnes came to me in Pune. Thank you. Vijaya
From sister Maria Armelle (Trivandrum), little sister of Jesus, in a leprosy project
…I could appreciate her competence as well as her dedication to the people. Many years later (…) I discovered her greatness as well as her fragility… I really admired her willpower and open mindedness, even in times of discouragement.
From Denis von der Weid, director Antenna Technologies (Switzerland)
She is one of those that I am most indebted in my life. We were in harmony on all issues and she always encouraged me ! Memories in Polambakkam, for long periods during 4 years, are still very much alive, unforgettable. Her last e-mail dated 16 June. I feel close to you and your family who had the chance of seeing her regularly.
From Geneviève Sokal, medical doctor, her godchild
I was very fortunate to have an exceptional godmother, she has been my mentor and my guide in many things that I have undertaken. She had a remarkable energy, capable of long walks near Malmedy, even to take the train not so long ago, she could endure many things, she was often very positive and enthusiastic. She made me discover and love India and many there must feel orphaned. Too sad not to have now the pleasure of talking with her.
Gathering at Mylasandra, Bangalore
On Oct. 8, 2013, 18 friends of Claire from South India gathered at the ashram of the Little Brothers of Foucauld for a moment of prayers and sharing together.
From Peggy Siret, her AFI-ICA colleague residing at the same Home
The “memory” of Claire remains “tattooed” in my heart, maybe I’m the only last one to have been with her almost daily and to have enjoyed some aspects of her deep faith, of her simplicity, just to the image of her patron St. Clara. Claire was to celebrate her birthday on October 29th, we were from the same year, 1926 ! To Claire: “When death will come to fetch you, when the end of your life will arise, nothing will exist anymore, only Love will remain, God will welcome you, your heart will illuminate…”.
From Claire Thibaut, Louvan-la-Neuve
Claire leaves us a wonderful memory of her time on earth. We need to continue what shet has sown ! She said she felt to have been spoiled by life.… now I will remember this wise saying ! And above all, I will remember the wonderful moments spent with her during 3 months at Polambakam ! I can say that my life has been forged through my stay there !
From Lieve Hoogewijs, Haacht, today she is a voluntary guide at the Damien Museum
“You are welcome at Polambakkam …”. I now realize what impact these words have had in my life. (…) She was, in every sense of the word, a great lady and for me she remains a very dear and deep souvenir.
From the Sisters of the Monastery of Ermeton (Belgium)
Thank you to let us know about the “birth in heaven” of Claire Vellut. (…) We loved to see her in Ermeton and listen to her, every time she came back from India, and even after her final return to Belgium. She now joins back, in peace and joy, so many poor she cared, helped, encouraged, and made alive. She also joined the members of her family, especially Sr Marie-Jean Ricker through which we had the opportunity to know her and to benefit of her openness.
From Agnès Echterbille, Bruxelles
My stay at Polambakkam remains etched in my memory because it has been one of the best meetings in my life. I remember helping her to sort photos of her life as Madras had asked for a curriculum, with her high-pitched voice as she laughed. I had the privilege, over the pictures, to hear all the stories of her life. I had the chance to meet her again in Cairo when I worked in Alexandria. It was as if we had always known each other, she had that capacity… Half an hour of chatting and she gave me a lot of good. Her memory enriches us all… Having crossed her path is a “fortune”.
From Dr. P. Krishnamurthy, Chennai, who succeeded Claire as General Secretary DFIT
(…) Physically she is not here but she lives in my heart and in the heart of millions of others. She continues to live through her ideals and values that she has left as legacy. Claire was not a deity but she had the divinity of being a great human.
From Jean-Pierre Lanthier, Carmen’s brother, Montreal
Claire inquired regularly about the status of Carmen. Not later than 1 June, she sent an email to mark the upcoming birthday of Carmen and even asked about her health. We remember their last meeting in Polambakkam in December 2004, the period of the great tsunami. We all in our family have the feeling of losing a very close friend of the family.
From Cheenu, son of Sadagopan, Chennai
(…) We are all PROUD and fortunate to meet and live with such a GREAT SOUL. (…)
My feelings cannot be expressed in this mail as I am not a learned person with a great command in English or for that matter no language can explain our Love to her and in turn her service to this mankind.
From Dr. Nevin Wilson, Regional Director International Union for Tuberculosis, New-Delhi
I first met Claire Vellut as a young medical student — about 30 years ago. She made a profound impression on me. I then had the opportunity to briefly work under her guidance when I managed the leprosy project among tribal communities in the Nilgiris. She was an extraordinary woman and her strength was her faith in God. Her faith in His constancy upheld her and influenced others including me. She helped me to understand the suffering of patients with leprosy. Along with countless others, patients and care providers, I commend her spirit to the Lord.
From Luc Comhaire, in charge of projects in India at Damien Foundation Brussels
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Claire. I know Claire since 1990 and I had the privilege to cross her path and discuss with her long hours during these years. Her simplicity, her life of service to others and how she could bring light into the eyes of patients are an example to all of us.
From Gabrielle Lefèvre, journalist
There are characters whose disappearance can only affect us as their influence was our landmark in the fight against inequality, social injustice. This is the case of Claire Vellut. We met 33 years ago in Tamil Nadu…
From Rajagopal, Ekta Parishad, whom she met several times in Belgium
We remember meeting Claire a year ago in Brussels and found her passionately engaged in recalling the recent visit that she had made to India. When she recalled this trip to us that rainy afternoon, she spent more time referring to the friends whom she had met and the fun times she had had in spite of difficult travel. We were reminded of the huge contribution she had made on behalf of marginalized people in the country, a rarity that is more unusual by the fact that it was done by one born outside India.
From Swami Japananda, Swami Vivekananda Integrated Rural Health Centre, Pavagada (Karnataka)
(…) We had a very close association with Dr.Claire Vellut and whenever we were in need of guidance and support it was she who helped us in all respects to start the institutions. From then onwards Dr.Claire Vellut was a sort of inspiration for all of us. We remember her simplicity, dedication and total commitment to the cause of serving the most neglected ones. Her life was like a text book for all of us to follow. Even though, she hails from Europe but her heart and soul was dedicated to our country. She was a best Indian amongst the Europeans !