|The only (and last) time I remember seeing my grandfather Zéphirin was in June 1944. He was laid out in his casket in the church in the village of Issoudun, his home. I was not old enough to look down into the casket on my own. Someone must have picked me up so I could see him lying in repose with his large, bushy white mustache.
Even if I never rubbed shoulders with him while he lived, I’d like to take the time to write a few words about him – my paternal grandfather, Zéphirin Bédard, and his children.
Zéphirin married Antoinette Daigle, who unlike many you are about to read about, was exceptionally kind. She exhibited boundless optimism, which characterized her life, brightening the lives of all who knew her.
At the end of her long life, she went completely deaf, which was fine by her.
“I’m so happy, I don’t have to listen to your bickering anymore!” she would tell anyone who might be listening.
Zéphirin and Antoinette had six children. The three boys, my father, Delphis (1897-1964) and his brothers Joseph (1897-1964) (also known as Joe), and Henri (1902-1964) married and procreated. The three girls, Léda (1899-1969), Diana (1904-1994), and Jeanette (1912-1957) never did, with two staying single and one joining a religious order early in life.
They all lived in the village of Issoudun.
After my Grandfather Zéphirin’s death, we went to Issoudun often to visit my widowed grandmother, Antoinette. By the way she always acted when we arrived at her house, she seemed always happy to see us.
Diana also lived in Issoudun, but to go see Diana was another story – it was rarely a pleasant experience. Any conversation with her soon degraded to gossip about the neighbors, so we would always try to leave quickly to visit Maman’s oncle, Ismaël Charest, who lived across the road from Diana.
Ismaël married to Josephine. They would talk to us about their kids, François, Agathe, and Yvan. One of the boys worked as a prison guard in Québec City. In looking at family photographs later, I saw that one of Yvan’s boys looked exactly like Pierre Bédard, my brother Jean’s son, almost a doppelganger.
Ismaël served as the Mayor of Issoudun for many years. He told us that in France, there was a town that shared the same name whose mayor was also named Ismaël Charest. The two met at one point to celebrate this quirky fact.
The village of Issoudun never really grew, keeping the same population over the years. This, along with the fateful plane crash, tagged the village.
One day, Marcel Couture, who lived as a boarder at my aunt Anne-Marie’s made us all laugh when he read an article aloud in the paper about the ongoing recovery efforts to repatriate victims of the 1957 DC-4 crash in the woods outside of the village.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough! The government wants to keep bringing down our population again!”
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