When the Allies hit the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Michele Anguenot scoffed at the rumors she heard at her school in eastern France.

That day happened to be her 16th birthday and, she told her family, she thought the invasion reports were a birthday hoax dreamed up by her school friends.

"It took her until that night," her son, Christian, said in a phone interview, that her family "convinced her that it was real."

It was not her only memorable birthday. When she turned 70, she was a Peace Corps worker in a West African village.

Michele Anguenot Turek, 83, executive director of the former Philadelphia Child Guidance Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from 1988 to 1993, died Tuesday, April 10, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at her cottage in Bethany Village, a retirement community in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

In the French town where she went to school in 1944, her son said, "nobody was supposed to have radios . . . but when she got to school that day, some friends told her" what their parents had heard secretly.

But that day the rumors of the World War II breakthrough were competing in the girl's mind with a well-established tradition among some French schoolchildren.

"They would tease and make something up on somebody's birthday," her son said. "It wasn't uncommon to play a practical joke on their birthdays."

And so, for her, the day was memorable, if strangely so.

Born in Besancon, Mrs. Turek earned degrees in English and Latin at the Universite de Besancon in 1948, then earned a nursing degree at the Ecole de la Croix St. Simon in Paris in 1950.

Before returning to St. Simon to earn her master's in social sciences and social research in 1955, she used her nursing skills for three years in Algiers, teaching at the Hospital of the White Sisters - a title based on the nuns' white clothes.

"It was a sense of adventure," her son said, that took her to Algeria, at the time a part of France.

"She had wanted to become a doctor, but at the time, it was a little bit difficult for a woman to become a doctor."

While teaching in Algiers, she assisted in surgeries, but, her son said, "she wanted to do more."

So with a 1955 Fulbright scholarship, she traveled to the States and earned a master's in social research at Bryn Mawr College in 1957.

Remaining in the States, she began her career in mental-health administration as a therapist at Jewish Family Services in Chicago, working there from 1958 to 1959 and again from 1962 to 1966.

She then became an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, teaching graduate students until 1972.

Returning to the Philadelphia region, she was director until 1988 of Community Services for Human Growth, a mental-health clinic in Paoli, her son said.

Mrs. Turek retired from Children's Hospital in 1993, when she was 65 and worked part-time at bookstores. But it was not enough.

From mid-1997 to late 1999, the Peace Corps assigned her to the French-speaking West African nation of Cameroon, where, her son said, her job was "very basic - teaching people to dig latrines, to wash your hands after using the toilet."

But the job also focused on women's health, her son said, teaching "AIDS awareness and safe-sex practices."

If her 16th birthday had been memorable, so was her 70th - in the tiny Cameroon village of Idool.

She returned to the States and again worked part time at bookstores, first in Valley Forge and then in Mechanicsburg, retiring only in 2011.

Besides her son, Mrs. Turek is survived by daughters Caroline Antonelli and Mylene Pollock and six grandchildren. Her former husband, William, whom she nursed in his final illness, died in 1995.

A reception is to take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 5, in the Bethany West residence common room at Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg.

Contact Walter F. Naedele

at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.