Meet the Extraordinary Francoise Duffeler
Francoise Duffeler’s appreciation for nature and its spiritual ability to nurture dates back to growing up in the picturesque French countryside. Gothic castles, fragrant gardens and acres of bucolic green space distinguish the Loire Valley, luxuries Duffeler never took for granted.
“Even at a young age, I knew how lucky I was,” she says.
How fitting that the pastoral vineyards that flourish in the region foreshadow Francoise’s future. The wife of founder Patrick Duffeler is a guest on The Williamsburg Winery Board of Directors and a consultant for Wedmore Place, the four-star hotel at Wessex Hundred.
While she didn’t envision an American future, Francoise determined at a young age to live a “non-ordinary” life.
Voraciously curious and well-read, she embraced writing and drawing, often sharing her pencil-sketched portraits with others.
“For so many, life has no color,” says Francoise, who later studied at the Louvre Art School in Paris. “I wanted to color the life that was given to me.”
Francoise attended hotel management school in Bourges followed by internships in hotels throughout France and Switzerland prior to professional positions in Germany and the United Kingdom. A tireless traveler, she has been back and forth to multiple Asian countries, marveling at the limitless array of customs, cultures, and landscapes in each.
One lesson from those excursions resonates among many. Standing amid Ladakh’s dry, barren terrain in north India, Francoise could not find a tree.
“I could never live here,” she thought.
“I was always conscious of how critical it is to be able to breathe fresh air,” she says.
Twice, Francoise climbed the Himalayas in snow, though another trek in the world’s highest peaks is the most memorable. She and five others climbed aboard a dilapidated bus, headed to the mountains to meet a refugee Tibetan family that a friend wanted to sponsor. The bus stopped short of the destination, forcing them to cross a forest to reach a Buddhist temple where the family resided.
“We walked and walked in the dark until we finally reached the place,” she says. “The following day we were told the forest was full of tigers!”
From the mid ’70s until 1981, she worked at several prestigious boutique hotels in the center of Paris near Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the French capital. There, in 1979, she first met a dashing businessman, the head of the creation of the Marlboro Formula One car racing team.
His name was Patrick Duffeler.
They conversed easily — she recalls him driving his car right up to the feet of the Eiffel Tower — and he talked of one day finding a farm in Virginia so his two sons could connect with the homeland of their mother, Peggy.
Francoise and Patrick didn’t talk again for 23 years.
She married Danis Bois, who founded the Danis Bois Method, a soft tissue therapy that involves applying gentle pressure while stretching the body’s connective tissue. Francoise participated in the creation of a school based on sensorial body care training and later organized seminars and symposiums on behalf of the holistic approach to health. After a divorce, she studied esthetics and remains committed to many of its principles.
On a whim on March 20, 2004, Francoise mailed Patrick a postcard, the front of it an old stone house in the middle of a vineyard. She had no way of knowing Peggy had passed only two days before.
Patrick received the postcard on March 29, and they corresponded regularly. One afternoon, he telephoned her.
“Instantly when I heard his voice, I knew it was him,” she says.
After frequent international trips for both, they married in May 2007.
Patrick refers to Francoise as his guardian angel and cherishes her kindness and tolerance. She adores what she refers to as his “original personality.”
Together, they are one of a kind.