French Canadian Interview Project

Mimi Raiche was born April 11, 1943 in Kankakee, Illinois to Lawrence and Victoria (Fortin) Raiche. She had an older sister Celeste. What is extraordinary about Mimi is that she has lived in the same house in Kankakee her whole life. Her birthday is very special because it falls on the same day as her godmother. When Mimi was born her godmother was only thirteen and they had to talk over the situation to make sure a thirteen year old could be a godmother.

Mimi attended school at St. Rose of Lima for her first eight years of schooling. She then went to High School at St. Joseph Seminary. Her graduating class was only twenty-one people. Mimi then continued her education by going to St. Francis College in Joliet.

Mimi had a very traumatic incident at the age of eight. She was out playing in the river behind her house when she thought she saw a garbage can floating downstream. When she went to check it out, she was horrified to find a dead body. The corpse was a patient by the name of James Stark from what is known today as Shapiro Developmental Center. Her more pleasant memories are of her family sitting around the table reminiscing about old times. Mimi's allowance at the age of six was only twenty-five cents a week. By the time she was in high school, it had risen to three dollars a week. To earn the money, she would run errands for her family.

Mimi is a very religious Roman Catholic. She says, "It was a sin to miss mass". She attends St. Rose of Lima Church. She thinks the most important thing about her French Canadian heritage is the ability for them to keep their identity through all of the moving around. Mimi has many interesting hobbies that include boating, gardening, decorating for Christmas, taking care of pets, and making her own Christmas cards. Mimi cared for her mother Victoria until she died at the age of 99 on November 1, 2002.

Victoria (Fortin) Raiche's Biography

Victoria was born on November 20, 1902 in her parent's Manteno farmhouse. Victoria describes the farmhouse as a "white brick veneer house with red brick veneer trim on all the windows and doors." Victoria's mother's maiden name was Mariah Genevieve Bergeron and her father's name was Xavier Louis Fortin. Her parents were both French Canadians and were born here in Kankakee County. Victoria had two siblings: a sister Marie Louise, who was four years older and a brother Alexis Philip, who was 19 months younger than Victoria. Victoria's father was a farmer of corn, oats, timothy hay, wheat, dairy cows, pigs and chickens. Victoria's father, along with his brother, farmed 320 acres of land. Her mother was a homemaker.

Victoria described one of her favorite childhood memories. Her father always bought fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration. One time when her father was not home, Victoria and her siblings got into a "little mischief". One morning, they got out the firecrackers called "ladyfingers" and climbed up onto the roof of the pigsty and began to throw the lighted fireworks. One firecracker landed directly beneath a pig's belly and went off. The pig was terrified and ran off into the meadow approximately 1/4 of a mile away from the barn. When her father came home that evening and began to do his nightly chores, he noticed that one of the pigs was missing. He questioned the children and they confessed. Her father then went out into the night to retrieve his pig. Victoria says, "We didn't get into trouble, my father had a great sense of humor."

Victoria went to St. George Convent School to get ready for her first communion. The children attended school overnight Monday through Friday and came home on the weekends. Victoria says that when she came home on the weekends her mother would always make her favorite meal. This lasted for two months until she had her first communion. Then Victoria went back to Country School. Then from fourth to eighth grade, Victoria went to St. Joseph's Convent School. Victoria attended high school at St. Joseph's Seminary High School for four years and graduated in 1922.

In 1923, Victoria began teaching at the Country School District 152. She taught grades ranging from first to eighth at the school for a total of 26 years. Victoria stated that she earned her bachelor's degree in education and also took continuing education courses at Loyola, DePaul, and Illinois State Teacher's College. After the Country Schools closed, Victoria transferred to Kankakee School District 111, where she taught one year at Jefferson--which back then was a "little red schoolhouse"--and then 18 years at Steuben School. Victoria stated, "There was an ordinance in Kankakee County at that time that required teachers to retire, so at age 65 in 1968, I retired". At the time of her retirement, Victoria was ten credit hours short of receiving her master's degree.

Victoria stated that after she retired, she was called by St. Theresa School to teach a class which was difficult to discipline. St. Theresa School administration felt they needed an older, more mature teacher. Victoria said, "They convinced me," and she went back to teaching for six more years. Victoria said she would have gone on teaching but had to have emergency surgery on her gallbladder and that put an end to her teaching. Victoria also taught religion to the children who attended public schools for 54 years. Bishop MacNamara High School awarded the Pope Pius X Papal Medal to Victoria for her long years of teaching religion.

On June 17, 1938, Victoria married Lawrence F. Raiche. Victoria stated, "I had known him all my life, we went to the same parish and dated for years." Her husband owned and operated the Lawrence Raiche Gun and Lock Shop. Together they had two children, Celeste and Mimi Elizabeth. Victoria has said that starting the Nun's Picnic in Kankakee County is one of her and her husband's biggest accomplishments. Victoria's husband was a member of the Knights of Columbus and when he asked them to sponsor an annual Nun's Picnic in Kankakee County, they agreed. For four years, the Raiche's held the picnic in their backyard. Proudly, Victoria stated, "the Nun's Picnic has gone on for 64 consecutive years and nuns from out of state even attended."

Victoria lived in Kankakee with her daughter Mimi until her death at the age of 99 on November 1, 2002. When asked before she died, how she viewed her life, Victoria stated, "I have lived a beautiful life and for that, I am grateful."