Monique Mickus, a former translator whose desire to educate her children in a bilingual setting led her to found a five-campus system of French American schools in Southern California, died of cancer Sept. 25 at her North Hills home. She was 62.
Mickus was the founder and director of Lycee International de Los Angeles, a 23-year-old school with 650 students on campuses in Los Feliz, Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Monrovia and Orange.
The school immerses students as young as preschool age in French language and culture. By the time its students graduate from the 12th grade and pass the exams for either a French high school diploma or the international baccalaureate, they can pursue higher education in France.
All of its students go on to college, including a few each year who choose institutions in France.
"What Monique did," said Antoine Chatelet, the French deputy cultural attache in Los Angeles in charge of French schools, "is create the possibility for the kids to participate in culture and education at the Sorbonne, or at UCLA. It is very difficult to build this . . . ability in students."
At the lycee, students as young as 6 learn that an escargot carries a coquille on its back. They line up two by two as French tradition dictates, and chat easily in English and French, in accordance with the "total immersion" approach used to teach its comprehensive curriculum.
Mickus was born in Paris to a family of educators. Her grandfather taught sociology at the Sorbonne and was president of an education league. Her great-grandfather was a historian of the French Revolution who was active in his country's movement to make education free and compulsory.
She was working as a translator for the U.S. Army in Fontainebleau, France, when she met her husband-to-be, John. They were married in Las Vegas and settled in Los Angeles in the 1960s.
When they had children, Mickus enrolled them at Lycee Francais de Los Angeles, founded in West Los Angeles in 1964, but thought the atmosphere was too elitist. With the help of her lawyer husband, she found out what was required to open her own lycee.
"We started with my three children and a friend's two children in a properly zoned little house in the middle of Van Nuys," Mickus told The Times in 1992.
Within five years, the school had 100 students, said Elizabeth Chaponot, Mickus' daughter, who is the secondary school principal on the Los Feliz campus.
About a third of the students are French and another third are American-born. The other students hail from 80 countries, including Bulgaria, Romania and Russia.
The school is accredited by the French Ministry of Education, as well as by the Western Assn. of Secondary Schools.
In addition to her husband and daughter Elizabeth, Mickus is survived by a son, Francis of Paris; another daughter, Catherine Beziat, also of Paris; 10 grandchildren; and her mother, Christiane Bayet of North Hills.
A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in the auditorium on the Tarzana campus of Lycee International de Los Angeles at 5657 Lindley Ave. The family asks that any donations be made to the Monique Mickus Memorial Building Fund, 7100 Hayvenhurst Ave., Suite 107, Van Nuys, CA 91406.