Madame Degaut – my inspiration for her character

All my readers have asked what inspired me to flesh out my characters in The Coin.  I usually invent them, with a very clear idea of who they are and look like, rarely basing them on real people whom I’ve met.  There is one exception in The Coin:  Madame Degaut.

Her description in the novel is as follows:
“…a small woman with chocolate brown hair and a heavily suntanned face, wrinkled dry like a prune.  Heedless of her advancing seventy-one years, she held herelf straighter than a rod, her stocky build making her look as strong and healthy as she was.  She had lived off the land throughout all her life, working and struggling side by side with her husband as an equal…”
Although she is a very minor character, I based her on my real neighbor and friend in France, Madame … (I will not divulge her name for privacy issues).  She was the owner of the property where we lived, residing on the other side of the divided house.  My description of her resembles the real woman and so does her character and actions.  I was mesmerized with her stories of what they suffered, did, and experienced during WWII, was astounded by her knowledge of plants (herbs, spices, and mushrooms), and was eager to try anything she cooked.  I used to see her, just before lunch, going around her property, searching for dandelion leaves for a salad.  This habit was formed through the lean years of finding anything to eat during the great war, and many French still do it to this day.  I will share tomorrow an article of people who still hunt for dandelion leaves today for salad fixings.
If you know of someone who does this, please share.  Would love to hear from you.