Raymond Fouquet, December 26, 1920 to December 15, 2013, Bio and Rememberances
Raymond was born December 26, 1920 in a small town that was a suburb of Paris. Growing up he loved sport, soccer was one of his favorites; he played in a soccer match on his wedding day. He also embraced bicycle racing and was a keen participant in local events.
During WWII, Raymond was pressed into forced labor and transported to Germany. Granted leave to visit his family, he never returned and ultimately joined the French Army. Following the war, Ray met the lovely Marie, the companion of his life, at a summer resort.
Raymond was trained to be a welder but that work was scarce so he became a waiter. Following other family members, Ray and Marie immigrated to America and settled in Chicago. In 1956, they moved their family, now including daughters Raphaele and Michele, to Los Angeles.
Ray continued to pursue his career and worked in some of the area’s top restaurants including Chasen’s and Matteo’s. Raymond and Marie were part of the growing French community in Southern California. They watched as the interest in finer dining, beyond steak and potatoes, grew. In 1968, Ray took the plunge and opened the La Grange Restaurant on Westwood Boulevard.
Ray had always retained his interest in cycling and his waiters would join him on rides. Some customers would join in from time to time as well and that was the genesis of the La Grange Club.
With guidance and encouragement from Raymond, the Club grew and became a substantial presence in Southern California. Ray has devoted himself to encouraging promising racers as well as recreational cyclists. That Southern California is a hot bed of cycling is due in no small part to the contributions of Raymond Fouquet, his passion for the sport, bicycles and the people who ride them.
Raymond’s family is planning a memorial service as is LaGrange planning a memorial Nichols ride. Both will be early in the new year.
I would like to share a bit about Raymond, whom I first met in 1971 when I joined La Grange the first time. What was most memorable about him was his positive attitude. During World War II, he was interned by the Germans to work in a factory in France . When talking about that experience, he did not dwell on how horrible it was to be in a prison camp. Rather, he joked about how he would fool the Germans. As the owner of LaGrange he would meet everyone at the door with a laugh and smile. We had wonderful meals there, served by the same fellows we would ride with on Sunday morning going up Nichols. After the Sunday ride we would return to the restaurant and even though the tables had been set for the dinner that evening, a bunch of sweaty, thirsty riders would sit at the tables, drinking water and joking. Raymond never complained that he probably had to reset every table in the place.
As you probably know, his wife was brutally murdered while in her home. I went to the service for her and the place was packed with people who just wanted to be with Raymond at this terrible time. That’s how much he inspired people.
What started as a small club of about 20 riders, mostly waiters from LaGrange and a few Francophiles has, through Raymond’s inspiration, grown to what it is today. He was undoubtedly very proud of what had been accomplished, but would never brag about it. He supported everyone on a bike, from the beginner to the top category riders. He always had a smile for us and a little laugh. For those who knew him, he will live in us every day.
Raymond introduced himself to everyone - I mean everyone - who showed for the 8:30 La Grange Ride Sunday mornings at the restaurant in Westwood. Even if you were in cut-off blue jeans and Keds.
Hardly anybody knew this, because he would always stay at the back of the pack as it wended through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood to the base of Nichols Canyon, but he was the best pedaler the club has ever seen. John McCormick called him "roue de verre" (wheel of glass) because he was so smooth. You could ride behind him blindfolded.
If you raced bikes in SoCal from the 1960's on, even if you didn't ride for his beloved Velo Club La Grange Westwood, this man probably handed up a water bottle to you on the last lap of some road race in April in some godforsaken place like Acton or Willows. May his spirit, the spirit of cycling, live forever.
About 10 years ago was the last time I saw him, after the Nichols ride. I told him my mother had put my original wool La Grange jersey in the dryer and it was ruined. He told me to come by and visit him later, when I came by we had a great visit chatting about old times, right before I left he gave me a mint condition jersey, identical to the ruined one he had first given me in 1980. It was the last one he had but he insisted I take it.
Rode to Santa Barbara with Ray and Bud and the club when he was more than 70 yrs of age.Rode up Laurel Canyon with him many times to head off the Sunday am Nichols pack and then watched him with that great smile on his face drop most of them coming down Sepulveda. His love for cycling and sport and the friendships and camaraderie that it created was only exceeded by his love for all of us.He and Marie were the surrogate family for all of us.
I remember my first Nichol's ride... Raymond was at the Corner.... happy; saying hello to everyone that was there; and kissing all the girls; on both cheeks; of course... what a wonderful legacy he has left.
-Linda Laufer Seltzer
Meeting him reminded me of the reason we all got involved with this sport in the first place. Stories of sportsmanship, friendship and camaraderie. The enduring values of the club he started are a testament to how strong his legacy will continue to be. Chapeau Raymond!
I first met Raymond Fouquet at the beginning of the season in 1992. I had just joined Velo Club La Grange Westwood (VCLGW) as the cycling club was known back then, even though, as today, everyone just called it “La Grange.” I was detritus from the Los Angeles Racing Team (LART) which had just folded. During my racing tenure on LART, I observed some real talent on the part of La Grange racers and had, of course, done the club’s Sunday, Nichols Canyon Ride on several occasions. Since I lived in Culver City, just a short ride for the Nichols Ride start, La Grange seemed like a good fit.
I had ordered a La Grange kit, just shorts and jersey, and had made arrangements to pick up the clothing at the club founder’s home in Westwood. I drove there directly after work. Raymond greeted me at the door. Taking note of the Peugeot sedan in the drive, I smiled and said that he had a very cool car. I then added that I rode a Peugeot bicycle, my third and my first pro racing bike. He seemed delighted to hear this. He invited me in and then went to retrieve my new kit. Upon his return, he said that they were just sitting down to dinner, and asked if I would like to join his family for dinner. I was stunned—I had just met the man, and he was inviting me to dinner. I knew Raymond had been a restaurateur, and I had no doubt that the meal would have been quite good, but I had to beg off with genuine regrets—my wife had dinner waiting for me at home.
This demonstration of hospitality and generosity would not be the last that I encountered in Raymond. My good friend Mitch and I attended our first La Grange Annual Awards Dinner at a restaurant in Thousand Oaks. Raymond greeted us warmly upon our arrival, and honored us by asking if we would like to sit with him at the Founders’ Table. This second invitation to dine with him would not be refused. The table sat at least a dozen people, all of whom seemed to be old comrades of Raymond’s, accompanied by their spouses. All of the table’s occupants, with the exception of Mitch and me, were engaged in conversation, entirely in French. I looked around the table and at the first pause in the conversation, I said: “This brings back wonderful memories of my childhood and holiday dinners at my grandparents’ house with all my aunts and uncles.”
The rest of the table looked at me quizzically.
“They would all be speaking French,” I added.
“You are French?” someone asked.
“Half,” I said, “Canadian French. My mother was a LeBlanc.”
This brought smiles. “Do you speak French?”
“I can understand about two thirds of what you say,” I responded, “but I would never try to speak it—I would butcher it and embarrass myself.”
They laughed at that, and welcomed Mitch and me to the banquet. They asked a few more questions and continued for the rest of the event, to converse only in English.
Mitch leaned in close and asked why our companions were no longer speaking French.
“Because they know that we don’t speak it, and to do so would exclude us from the conversation—it would be rude.”
I had only been a La Grange member for a year when I moved to the Bay Area. I worked for a company whose main office was in Los Angeles, and my family remained in Culver City for the first six months while my son’s school year completed and I could buy a house. I commuted to and from on the weekends, driving to L.A. on Fridays with my bike, and returning Sunday afternoon. I did the Nichols Ride every weekend. Once my family was moved, my visits became fewer, but every time I showed up for the Nichols Ride, Raymond greeted me the same way, a hug and a kiss to each cheek. He was a truly wonderful man with a huge heart. I am deeply saddened that I will never be able to take his hand in mine again, and say thank you for being so kind, so generous, and creating for me an extended family that is still a part of my life even though I hardly ever get to ride with them—I do so in spirit every time I don my La Grange kit and mount a bicycle. Good-bye, my friend.