Audrey Ethel Gomez
and her husband Louis Conrad Franco

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John Franco (1860-1942) at his home in Halifax Street,

St. Georges, Grenada

(Photo courtesy of his granddaughter Jenny Franco McNamara)

My great-aunt Audrey Ethel Gomez was born at the family home in Belmont, Laventille, Port of Spain, Trinidad on 3 June 1889. She was just a year younger than my grandmother Elsie (Gomez) Sheppard, and was the second child in a family of nine children. 

 

Her parents Joseph and Christina (Pereira) Gomez were living in Sangre Grande with their family  when Audrey married a handsome Grenadian, Louis Franco.  My grandparents Charles and Elsie (Gomez) Sheppard hosted their wedding reception at their home in Port of Spain.  Grandma Elsie was the eldest of the Gomez family, and was at the time seven months pregnant with their fifth child, John.

Their father Joseph Gomez had died of a stroke six years earlier when he was only 47, and so the duties of father-giver fell to Albert Mendes.  Albert was not only a close family friend, he was married to Mary Antoinette (Marykin) Pereira, Christina's sister and the bride's aunt. He was also my grandmother's godfather.  He and Marykin had hosted my grandparents' wedding reception at their own home seven years earlier.

 

The newly-wed Franco couple honeymooned at Santa Charlotte Estate, Manzanilla - a cocoa estate owned by Albert's brother, Alfred Mendes.  The newspaper of the day carried an article about their marriage which took place on 15 June, 1916 at St. Ann's Presbyterian Church.

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The Franco and Gomez families were to become even more connected, when on 10 August 1916, just two months after Audrey's and Louis' marriage, Audrey's brother Joseph Gomez wed Louis' sister Caroline Franco in Grenada!  According to the newspaper article above, Joseph had performed the duties of bestman at his sister's wedding.

 

Audrey and Louis happily settled into married life in  St. Georges, Grenada where Louis ran his wholesale provision business. His father John Franco was a successful and wealthy wine merchant who owned several properties including a hotel called The Halifax Inn in St. Georges.  Family stories relate  that  John owned twenty-five buildings in the town of St. George and that his nickname was "30,000" - he made that much selling wine!  In his day, he was considered the wealthiest person in Grenada - so it is said.   Louis' mother was Clementine Pace, a lady with roots in Malta.  It is remarkable that she owned and ran a bakery next door to their Halifax Street home, although she was the mother of ten children!

Two years after their marriage,  Audrey and Louis welcomed their firstborn child, Wilfred Louis Franco.  But tragedy and grief was to strike just six years into their marriage.  The beautiful Audrey died in childbirth with her second son George, when she was only thirty-two years old.  The entire family was devastated. Louis was left to care for their four year old son Wilfred and infant George - how would he ever manage?

Family came to the rescue.   Louis remarried, but it seemed  that the situation with the little ones and their stepmother was an unhappy one.   The family relates that my grandfather Charlie Sheppard went to Grenada and returned to Trinidad with young Wilfred.  It had been arranged that Audrey's younger sister Ivy Gomez would take care of him.  Ivy was single, and lived with her widowed mother Christina.  Nurtured by these two loving women, Wilfred grew up in Trinidad, where he lived for the rest of his life.

 

In Grenada, little George was embraced into the Franco home in Halifax street where Louis' maiden sister Louise became his foster mother.  Family members recall that she affectionately called him “my boy Georgie” and that they lived in the attic.  Her sister  Agnes and her three children - Monica, Gordon and Audrey - also lived with their father John in the Halifax Street family home, as her husband had died young.   As was often the custom in those days, the Franco family shop occupied the bottom floor, and their home was above, with large windows overlooking the street.   My father visited his family there and related a hair-raising experience they had at Morne Jaloux.

In "The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes, 1897–1991", Alfie recounts: "We stayed with my father’s first cousin on his father’s side, John Franco, and his large family of girls, two or three of my age.  The family lived in a spacious house in St. George’s, as quaint a little town as I have ever seen.  The atmosphere was quiet, peaceful, benign".  He also describes a fire that took place in Clementine Franco's bakery at Easter time.   Alfie's stepmother was Leanora (Lea) Franco, another of John Franco's daughters and Audrey Gomez's sister-in-law.

All colourful tales of  intertwined families and their dramas - I'm sure that there are many more of these, just waiting to be told.

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l/r George and Wilfred Franco

(Photo courtesy George's granddaughter Jenny Franco McNamara)

Copy of Audrey's Birth Certificate

The children of Audrey Gomez and Louis Franco

Many Thanks to Jenny (Franco) McNamara, Audrey (Franco)  and her sister Audrey (Franco) Aboud, Jessie (Hendry) Tamas, and other family members for their valued contributions to this story.

Valerie Sheppard  ~  14 August, 2021