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An Exceptional Man

Betty and Her Father The late painter, novelist and lawyer Pétion Savain, my father-in-law, was an extraordinary and incomparable man.  Not only he was incredibly avant-garde, but even now, that is to say thirty five years after his death, people who had the pleasure of knowing him, often recall his proverbial hospitality and his legendary generosity.

In order to place accurately this odd character, let me remind you that, in a time when the Haitian society was fixed in the conservatism, Pétion Savain has had the courage of wearing flowers printed pants, and to have his beard dyed mauve.

To illustrate his hospitality and his generosity, I will quote two examples which will surely enlighten you.

One day, strolling round his house of Fontamara, he came across someone who was lounging in the shade of a mango tree. “What are you doing there?” asked the painter.

- I have been living here for one month, quietly answered the young man.

- No problem.  Are they taking good care of you? Do they feed you?

- I have no complaint.

- In that case, you can stay here.

My father-in-law didn't even know exactly how many people were living in the basement of his home, and were having their meals there free of charge.

In conclusion, I will tell you briefly an anecdote that is as singular as it is unbelievable.  One evening, during the 60's, in a public vehicle providing transportation between Port-au-Prince and PetionVille, Pétion Savain met by chance a man who was dreaming about traveling to the United States, in order to work.  At that time, to obtain an American residence visa was much less difficult than today, and according to the unknown passenger, he didn't need more than eight hundred dollars to have his documents in order, and carry out his project.

Pétion Savain, who didn't even know that man, had toward him an unprecedented generosity impulse.

- Can you swear, said Savain, that if you have these 800 dollars, you will effectively travel to the United States?

- I swear, hastened to answer the lucky passenger.

My father-in-law had just pocketed 800 dollars, for the sale of some paintings to an art gallery of PetionVille.  Without a second of hesitation, he gave this money to this man that he was seeing for the first time.

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