The first explorations of a possible Sister-City relationship, or jumelage in French, began in the late 1990s, with several informal meetings between people from both countries who already knew each other, and discussions about possible educational, cultural, and economic exchanges between their cities.
Sue Marcos, former long-time president of the Greater Albion Chamber of Commerce, had lived in France, in the Noisy-le-Roi/Bailly (NlR/B) area, for several years in the 1960s and still had friends there. One of those French friends, Alain Frène, spoke with Sue about a possible exchange of people from Albion and NlR/B for cultural and economic purposes.
Ironically, William Wheaton, then-mayor of Albion, was also acquainted with the region because he had been stationed during World War II at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers of Europe, which was located near Noisy-le-Roi.
Anna Merritt long-time owner of Albion’s Anna’s House of Flowers, was another early visitor to the NlR/B area and was shown around to various produce and flower businesses with the thought that she might be able to bring interns and employees to work at her flower business here in Albion.
All of these early visitors received an extremely warm welcome from the French people and were enthused about further exchanges between our cities. Some of the Albionites involved in these early discussions included Sue Marcos, Judy Dobert, Mike Williams, Vera Wenzel, Carmella Calderone, Glen Walquist, Laura Waldo, Canduace Cloy, Bill Wheaton, and Lou Steinbecker.
The first contacts between our two city governments occurred in 1997 with a memorandum of understanding that an official relationship would commence in the year 2000. In 1998, the cities of Noisy-le-Roi and Albion each began to form a Sister City committee. The first Chairperson of the Albion committee was Marjorie Ulbrich. Michelle Mueller became the second Chairperson a few years later, and the committee is co-chaired currently by Mary Slater and Albion College foreign languages professor, Dr. Dianne Guenin-Lelle.
In the year 2000, a delegation from Noisy-le-Roi came to Albion during the Festival of the Forks for the signing of the official Sister City document here, and in 2001, a group of 13 Albion officials and citizens traveled to Noisy-le-Roi for a signing ceremony full of international pomp and circumstance.
A Department of Transportation sign, showing Noisy-le-Roi as Albion's sister city, was mounted at one of the city entrances in 2001 with a photo capturing the participation of Albionites Michael Soltis, and Willie and Nancy Lewis in its unveiling.
At some point in the mid-2000s, representatives from Noisy-le-Roi attended a convention of French cities participating in Sister City relationships around the world. It was apparent at that convention that Albion and Noisy-le-Roi had the one of the most vibrant of on-going Sister City relationships between France and the United States.
After a long peripheral involvement, in 2008, a letter was received indicating Noisy’s intention to include adjacent city Bailly in the Sister City relationship, and in 2010 an official signing of that document was held here in Albion.
In addition to the relationship between the three City Halls, very important formal cooperative arrangements between Albion College and the University of Versailles, Saint Quentin, and the L'Ecole Superieur de Vente, were also established.
During the now more than 15 years of the mutual relationships, there have been over 600 persons traveling back and forth across the Atlantic, from children as young as 9 years old to senior citizens. Youth from Albion have traveled to France for school and other cultural experiences, and French children have come to Albion for school programs, piano competitions, basketball games, and summer camps. Exchanges of college-age young adults have occurred for college/university experiences and programs and summer internships. Adults of a wide range of ages have participated in several cultural exchange programs.
Dozens of Albion families have acted as hosts for visitors from France, and Albion’s visitors to NlR/B have had the opportunity to truly immerse themselves into daily life in French homes. We have come to know and care for each other as family, and we look forward to many more years of partnership.
For more information contact a Committee Co-Chair:
Dr. Dianne Guenin-Lelle