January 25, 2022
Monique Brancart Lehner died on January 4, 2022 in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, after suffering for several years with Alzheimer's.
Monique was born on July 26, 1930, in Schooten, Belgium, to Reine and Arnold Brancart. At the time, Arnold was working for Caltex in Switzerland. The couple had returned to Reine’s family home in Belgium for the birth, and Monique retained a Belgian passport for the next thirty years while never once living in the country. Soon after the birth, Arnold was named Director for the Middle East, and they moved to Alexandria, Egypt, a city and country they came to love passionately. Monique lived in Alexandria for seven years, and then in Saigon for two years. While there she contracted malaria, and so was sent to the Couvent des Oiseaux in the healthier mountain climate of Dalat, a French convent school established by the empress, Nam Phur’o’ng, who had studied with the same nuns in France. In September 1940, when the Japanese moved south and invaded Indochina, all European women and children were evacuated. As refugees, Reine, Monique, and her younger brother, Claude, lived in Long Beach, California during the war. In 1945 they happily returned to Egypt, this time to Mahdi (Cairo), where she attended the Cairo American School (and was much admired by Edward Said, per his memoir) and where she was the Junior Diving Champion of Egypt. Monique spent one year at Prealpina, a Swiss boarding school for young ladies. In 1948 she met her husband-to-be, Philip Lehner, aboard the Queen Elizabeth. Monique was traveling with her family to the U.S. in order to attend Smith College. Philip and his father were returning from a business trip. At Smith, Monique majored in geology, intending to return to Egypt and work on the Sinai Peninsula. Instead, after dating Philip for three years, she married two days after her twenty-first birthday, in 1951, and moved to Philip’s hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts. They lived there for the next sixty-four years. As soon as her fifth child, Brigitte, started school, Monique began to study, at Harvard and the Radcliffe Institute, American Architectural History, then a new academic discipline, as well as the decorative arts, and Central Asian carpets. And in 1974 she belatedly received her BA. Monique served as president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and on their national board. While her five children attended Milton Academy, she served as a trustee of Milton. With Minxie Fannin, she co-founded Fannin-Lehner, a preservation consulting firm. They surveyed New England towns for historical and architectural assets, nominating properties for the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks, working with local Historic Commissions to implement preservation plans. Monique also lectured widely on oriental carpets, worked as a historic color consultant, and served on the board of the Hingham Land Conservation Trust. Monique grew up bilingual, as well as speaking adequate Arabic; in her married life, she learned Spanish and Portuguese. Above all, Monique was devoted to her children, and was creative and tireless in helping them follow their dreams. She taught all her grandchildren about fenestration (about which she cared deeply) in all its myriad forms. Monique made their home in The Orchard, the American home for Philip’s business friends from around the world, for her extended family, and for her children’s friends, creating a global meeting place in Hingham. In 2015, after Philip’s death, Monique moved to the Hudson Valley to live with her eldest daughter and son-in-law. All who knew her were unfailingly impressed by her good cheer and graciousness, as well as her continued grasp of 3 or 4 languages, even as the illness progressed. She died peacefully.
Monique is survived by her five children and their spouses: Christine (Charles Branch), Carl (Sandra), Michael (Monica), Peter (Fritz Beshar), Brigitte Kingsbury (Hal); fifteen grandchildren: Reine, Tristram, Myric, Jessica, Walter, Erica, Caleb, Peter Kim, Christian, Madeleine, Nadine, Eliza, Marina, Matthew, Dylan; and five great-grand-children. She is predeceased by her beloved husband, Philip, in 2013, and by her much-loved younger brother, Claude Brancart, in late December 2021. There will be a service in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York in late spring or summer. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Hingham Historical Society, http://hinghamhistorical.org or Untermyer Gardens, www.untermyergardens.org.