You What?

Melissa Dessaigne, executive director of Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House
May 6, 2019
Jeffrey Crane
You What?

Do you have a nickname? Pretty boring ones: Missy, Missers

Describe yourself in three words. Determined (aka stubborn), passionate (aka crazy), caring (aka people lover)

In what city did you grow up? Although I was born in Fort Wayne, I actually grew up in Quito, Ecuador, where my parents were working. We lived there until I was 12 years old and then moved to Auburn for my junior high/high school years. 

What book has had the greatest impact on you? I love to read, and am usually in the middle of multiple books at one time. There are too many to list just one as having the greatest impact, so here are a few: The Bible; The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; The Poisonwood Bible; Leadership and Self Deception

What is the first movie you ever saw in a theater? We were living in Ecuador, so all of the movies got to us a bit late. I’m pretty sure it was ET. Or a Star Trek movie.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? There wasn’t a specific occupation I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to do something that helped people. As I got older, this evolved into wanting to work as a translator/interpreter for the United Nations.

What is your favorite part of your job? I love speaking with the families who stay at the House, hearing their stories, offering encouragement where I can and knowing that we are easing some of the burden they face when their loved ones are in the hospital. 

What do you actually do at your job? I have the privilege of being the executive director at the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House. 

What do you love most about Fort Wayne? I don’t think I can pick just one thing! Moving here from London 4 years ago, I have to say that I really love Fort Wayne summers: the fireflies, the beautiful late sunsets, barbecues, late nights with the kids. I also love the spirit of generosity of the people in our community. I love that it is a big small city with a lot of opportunities to get involved and make a difference.

What was your first job? I picked strawberries in the summer on the Reinoehl Berry Farm with all of my best friends. We got to eat as many berries as we wanted to!

What is your greatest accomplishment? In 2007, my not-yet husband and I climbed to the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. It was an incredibly difficult climb, with ice picks, axes and crampons. I was entirely out of my depth! It was the hardest, scariest thing I’ve ever done, but the exhilaration of finally reaching the summit and looking out above the clouds was incredible

Who is your hero? Ever since I read the book The Hiding Place as a young girl, one of my heroines has been Corrie Ten Boom. Her story taught me about the opportunities we have at every junction of our journey to choose our attitude and responses to life, and she exemplified how choosing love eventually always wins over evil. 

What is your dream job? I’ve always dreamt of being a travel writer. I am passionate about travel and painting a picture for people through the written word.

What is your biggest pet peeve? My biggest pet peeve is hearing people (including myself!) talk about how they want to change something in their life, but not take the steps necessary to effect that change. 

Do you have a motto you live by? If so, what is it? It’s not really a motto, but our family tries our best to live up to our four family values: authenticity, grit, passion and adaptability. 

What would you choose as your last meal? Osso bucco made by my mother-in-law

What three items would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island (other than food and water)? Does my husband count as an item? If so, I’d take him because he’d be the one to get us off the island! And if he couldn’t get us off the island, we’d still eat really well because he’s an amazing chef. 

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I would probably go back to South Africa. My husband and I spent 10 days there in 2015, but could have easily spent many more weeks. It’s a stunning country. New Zealand is another place I’d like to see at some point. 

How often do you exercise? Four to five times per week, except when I’m on vacation.

What does your workout regimen consist of? Running is my preferred workout, but it’s not usually doable with my schedule, so I try to do Insanity Max workouts in the morning.

What profession would you never try? Probably truck-driving (see the skill I’d like to master question…)

If you could solve one major problem, what would it be? Without a doubt, human trafficking. That human beings are bought and sold for any reason whatsoever is abhorrent to me.

Where will you go on your next vacation? This summer we will be going to Spain for my goddaughter’s baptism.

Name one person who has inspired you in your life. My husband inspires me all the time to be a better person.

Do you make up jokes or steal them? I’m a joke thief and usually butcher them.

Who was your favorite teacher? Why? My geography professor at Bowling Green State University. He believed in me and challenged me to chase my dreams.

What skill would you like to master? Driving without my GPS! I am famous (or infamous!) for getting lost just about anywhere. I even got lost on my home cross country course in high school! If I tell my husband to turn right, he knows he should probably turn left.

What song best describes your work ethic? Set the World on Fire by Britt Nicole

Scrambled, fried or poached? Fried. And if Eggs Benedict was an option, I would choose that hands down.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? My husband tried to convince me that lamb brain was a delicacy. After trying it, I disagree.

Are you a dog or cat person? Definitely not a cat person! They don’t like me, and the feeling is mutual. We have a crazy two-year-old Brittany spaniel at home.

Do you get up when your alarm goes off or do you hit the snooze button? I snooze once, then hit the ground running

Coffee or tea? I’m a coffee girl

How would your grade school teachers describe you? Probably as a perfectionist and rule follower 

If you participate in a sport, do you prefer it to be an individual sport or a team sport? Most team sports seem to have a ball involved, and my hand-eye coordination is not very good. I was cut from the basketball team in 7th grade, so that’s probably why I chose cross country and track. It’s the best combination of an individual AND team sport.

iPhone or Android? iPhone

Mac or PC? Mac at home; PC at work

What is the most productive time of day for you? Early in the morning and late at night. The rest of the day is usually full of meetings and kids’ stuff.

When was the last time you tried something new? This week! I went kayaking in a bioluminescent bay under a clear starry sky. Spectacular!

If you had to teach someone one thing, what would you teach? I would want to teach them a lesson I’m still learning on a daily basis: how to master your thoughts. Our mind and thoughts hold so much power over every aspect of our lives. 

Wine, beer or cocktail? I should say wine since my husband is French, but I also enjoy a good G&T

If you could know the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which mystery would you choose? Where do mermaids live? If I could solve this mystery, my daughter would be the happiest person in the world!

What is your favorite…

Vacation spot? South of France

Holiday? Why? Christmas - we have a wonderful mix of the best of French and American traditions

Sports team? Not a big sports watcher. If I had to pick one, it’d be the USA track and Field team.

Drink? Gin and Tonic with Elderflower

Candy? Kinder Bueno

Pizza? La Reine pizza: ham, mushroom, garlic and an over-easy egg in the middle

Flower? Gerbera

Season? Summer

Fort Wayne feature? Parkview field

Fast food restaurant? Chik Fil A

TV show? Madam Secretary

Hobby? Writing


Flavor of ice cream? Coffee gelato

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