Queer Places:
Storystraat, 2870 Puurs-Sint-Amands, Belgium

Michel Conrad Marie Joseph Eugène de Buisseret (November 5, 1901 - July 14, 1967) was born in Wien, Austria, the third son of Conrad Marie Joseph Léonce de Buisseret Steenbecque de Blarenghien and Caroline Sherman Story (1874-1914), a daughter of the American general John Patten Story. She was a relative of William Sherman (1820-1891), American officer and one of the principal leaders of the Northerners during the Secession War. Conrad was serving as secretary to the Belgian legation to the United States at the time and was later appointed ambassador. From their marriage six children were born: Jean-Gaston Marie Joseph (1897-1965), married Anna van Nuffel, François William Marie Joseph Gerard (1899-1933), died unmarried in Rome, Italy (he was serving as charge d'affairs of the Belgian Embassy to the Quirinal), Michel Conrad Marie Joseph, Guy Marie Joseph (1902-1921), died unmarried in Annapolis, MD, of "an obscure malady of the brain" according to the Washington Post, Robert "Bobby" Marie Joseph (1906-1988) m. Lorraine P. Cowles (1909-2006), and Beatrix Caroline Marie Josephe (born 1910) married first, Roland Toutain, and second, Pierre Vanlaer (1904-1985).

The family owned the castle Ter Meeren in Breendonk. During a holiday with his brother Robert at Termeiren Castle, shortly before the outbreak of WWI, Conrad de Buisseret was recalled to his post of ambassador at Petrograd, the then capital of Tsarist Russia. He left, as he himself said, his wife and children in Breendonk temporarily behind. Not so long after his return to Petrograd, the great war broke out and he received, through a diplomatic courier, the news that his wife was seriously ill and his arrival was urgently needed. He left immediately, but was not allowed to enter the country by the German occupiers and had to travel back to Russia unscathed. There he learned that his wife had died during a surgical intervention in a clinic in Etterbeek on 30 December 1914. During the German invasion of Belgium, she had made herself very meritorious in the care of wounded soldiers. In her honor, the connection between the Schaafstraat and the motorway became Caroline Sherman-Storystraat (decision of the city council of 19 January 1937). Caroline Sherman Story (1848–1923), her elderly mother, performed a heroic feat in crossing the ocean alone during the worst period of the submarine disasters to bring the young de Buisserets to America to live under her care until the conclusion of the war.

Termeiren Castle was dynamited by Belgian troops in August 1914, during the first days of the war, because it was supposedly a hindrance to the defense of the nearby fortress. The beautiful park, with its graceful lanes and its centuries-old trees, also had to disappear for the same reason.

In his farewell letter as mayor of Breendonk, Robert de Buisseret wrote on 14 March 1921: "In 1917 my brother, Count Conrad, was overcome by a terrible ailment, no doubt also an outgrowth of the war; for more than 35 years he has represented our country in foreign countries, his last post was Russia. His children are now staying in foreign countries and will most probably not come to live in Breendonck anymore."  Count Conrad had remarried during the war to a Russian dancer who had been associated with the Bolshoi Theatre. He was married on 27 December 1917 in Neuilly-sur-Seine (Fr) to Lydia Sokal, born in Moscow on 28 December 1890. In 1918 they were born out of their relationship in Menton Irène de Buisseret.

The children from his first marriage were still registered in Breendonk in the 1921 census, except for Guy, who stayed in the United States and died that same year (on December 8) in Baltimore. The two eldest sons had volunteered during the first war. This may also explain the efforts of their mother Caroline Story in the German invasion. Count Conrad was removed from the population register on 7 June 1921. He died in Ghent in 1927.

In the spring of 1936, Count Michel de Buisseret visited Taos, New Mexico and developed an instant crush on Walter Willard Johnson. The two men had first met over drinks with mutual friends at a bar. Later, they became reacquainted at Florence McCormick’s dinner party. After dinner when the dancing began, the two men slipped into the hallway to dance with each other while the other guests remained “in the living room.” They left the party early to visit Michel’s hotel room where they engaged in sexual activity.

Michel de Buisseret married Virgina Cock (1891-1976) in Ixelles in 1965. In 1966 he adopted two cousins, Raoul and Olivier de Betzenbroeck, who have since been called the Buisseret de Steenbecque de Blarengien.

Michel de Buisseret passed away on July 14, 1967 in Ukkel (Uccle), Bruxelles, Belgium. With his death, the families de Buisseret Steenbecque de Blarenghien were extinguished in the male lines.


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