Jean Claude Manner

A good friend of mine passed away a couple of days ago. Jean Claude Manner. I am not sure how old he was but he did tell me he was captured by the Nazis in the early 1940’s and forced to work in a factory brazing plumbing when he was a boy.
When WW2 ended he returned to France and went to engineering school to become a metal fabricator. He understood engineering but valued beauty a great deal more.

I was intimidated a bit when I first met Jean Claude. It was his way to refuse to speak to someone unless introduced. He was sitting in a chair in the studio of a local craftsman. I can say I remembered not meeting him. Later, we met again when someone brought him to my shop.

It took me a while to figure him out once he started coming around. He was a man with a great deal of respect for his culture and the way people communicate with each other. He existed within our system of ideals while maintaining his own European identity. He also like to mess with your head with his French sense of humor (though I am sure it was his own)

For me it wasn’t easy because he would visit me at work when I really like to stay on task and not be Mr. Social. I told him at one point that I had studied French so when we would meet, we would exchange greetings in French.

Jean Claude created things of incredable beauty. He could work with any material and I will go on to say he was a craftsman who could find the beauty in any piece of material. Those who make things will identify with this rare quality. To Jean Claude, it was all art and some just didn’t see it.

I have had others in my life who’s significance wasn’t fully realized until it was too late. I guess that is just how it goes.

Anyway, JC, Ill miss you man. Rest in peace.

Jean Claude Manner

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5 Responses to Jean Claude Manner

  1. Skip says:

    This is a man I will miss very much. When I think of him the memories will make me smile, especially the weld naps.

    The preserves of his that he gave to me have a new meaning now – it will be bittersweet to eat the last of them.

    Bon Voyage John Claude.

  2. Colleen Sheehy says:

    Oh man. I am sorry to hear of this loss, and yet happy to know he has been a part of your life and others. I hope his story can be told to many. Je suis désolée

  3. Greg Cope says:

    Frank and others who knew JeanClaude:

    It was a rare pleasure to have spent 4-5 years on and off working with Jean Claude on a major restoration of our 19th C house here in Francestown, NH (1989-2005). He built three fireplaces, from cellar vaultings to parged caps, finished and installed soapstone sinks, did precise and elegant tile and stucco work, solved some carpentry problems, created others with much sparky tohu-bohu involving other tradesfolk he didn’t respect. In truth, his way was usually correct, more thoughtful, better-engineered, longer-lived. Now that the house is quiet, his work speaks for him.

    He drove through terrible winter storms to work with us, shared his lunch, had a pride and composure I greatly admired, and yet was often a challenge to collaborate with. I loved his energy, his outsize pronouncements, his hard-won skill, his fearlessness. For his part, I’m sure he thought me both scatter-brained and indecisive. Perhaps he was right.

    As Frank notes so well above, he had a beautiful intelligence in his hands; he knew so many materials from the inside out, as it were…he was intense, generous in spirit, deliberate, creative, outrageous, whimsical…a man I respected for his uncompromising craftsmanship. Indeed, though I trained for two years in preservation at Boston’s North Bennet Street School, no one I met there was a finer artisan, a purer craftsman. Long hours, years of manual labor gave him a mastery that was breathtaking at times.

    Along the way, I also received more than a small share of ‘instruction’ in philosophy, art, culture, medicine, the logic of bodily habits. I can’t start a fire or reflect on my own work without thinking of what I learned from working beside him; he’ll always remain ‘il miglior fabbro.’ Thank you, Jean Claude.

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