County Face: Gerard Belanger of Wallagrass
WALLAGRASS, Maine — At 92 years old, Gerard Belanger of Wallagrass has no intention of slowing down. The retired lumber worker is employed as a cemetery caretaker in Soldier Pond and builds and sells unique wooden lawn ornaments from the Belanger family homestead he shares with his wife of 67 years, Rose Ann.
“I’ve been in crafts ever since I can remember,” Belanger, whose primary language is French, said as his daughter Laurie-Ann Belanger-Boutot of Eagle Lake translated to English.
Belanger’s latest creations are giant wooden sunflowers, taller than he is and available in custom color choices.
“Last week a woman called over here,” he said. “She decided what color she wanted and last Saturday she came and picked it up.”
He also makes clothing racks and spinning lawn ornaments resembling a variety of animals.
“I make some bears, mice, cats and dogs,” Belanger said.
“Sometimes he makes little bird houses too,” his wife pointed out, also in French.
“He always says if he sits down too long, it will be like a lot of people and he will end up in a nursing home. He doesn’t want that,” Belanger-Boutot said of her father.
“I work a little bit on something, then run to the cemetery,” Belanger said.
He got his start in the world of work as a child helping out on his father’s farm in Baker Brook, Canada, while his two brothers were away serving in the military.
“He’s like his father. His father was a good worker until he died,” Rose Ann Belanger said.
His mother passed away when he was just 8 years old, but she left a lasting impression on her son.
“I remember her. She was a hard worker,” Belanger said.
A devout Catholic, Belanger attends church every Sunday in Fort Kent or Soldier Pond. He brings home Communion for his wife, who can no longer attend due to health problems.
Rose Ann Belanger will turn 89 in December. They use the money he earns from selling his wood crafts to supplement the cost of the couple’s many medications.
Such innovative ways to earn income have long been part of Belanger’s lifestyle. He also picks raspberries from his yard.
“When I started that, I had seven plants; now I have 7,000,” he said.
“They used to sell those to the grocery stores in Fort Kent to get us dressed up for school,” Belanger-Boutot said.
Belanger no longer sells the berries, but proudly showed off his homemade jam, smiling as he held the jar upside down, demonstrating that the confection holds snugly to the sides of the jar.
“It’s not watery like in the stores,” he said with a smile.
Belanger offered simple yet logical advice for young people hoping to have a long and successful marriage.
“Get along,” he said.
The couple might not have married if first impressions were the deciding factor.
“I told my mother ‘I don’t like him. I spend my time laughing at him,’” Rose Ann Belanger said. Her mother warned her to be careful what she said because she could be speaking about her future husband.
“It turned out it is true. I ended up marrying him. Nowadays I’m glad I married him,” Rose Ann Belanger said. “He’s a good worker and he’s good for me. I can’t ask for better.”
“And I’m a good cook too. And I make my bed every morning,” Belanger added.
For more information or to place an order for one of Gerard Belanger’s crafts, call his daughter Laurie Belanger-Boutot at 207-444-9016.