Remembering Pepere

12 months ago

To the editor:

He died at the age of 68. Cause of death? Doctor said “overwork.” His name was Joseph Jean. He was my grandfather. 

Many years ago after getting totally wiped out in the Great Crown Hill fire of Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1930, he mortgaged everything he owned, which was little, and bought 140 acres of land on Dunstable Road in Nashua. He build a house, barn and hoped to start a new life with his wife and family.  

“Pepere” was my mom’s father and also father to Sandra, Yvette, MarIange, Noella, Marguerite, Gertrude, Beatrice, Claire, Evelyn, Yvonne, Amede, Charles and Henry. 

Pepere Jean didn’t  trust tractors (smelly gas-stinking machines), loved his horses Mud and Blanc, milked three or four cows by hand at 5 a.m., fed and cared for hogs, chickens, et al, then worked at the Nashua Shoe Shop to feed, house and clothe his new human arrivals to the world. Joe would return to the farm and begin his new workday with milking cows, cleaning the barn, feeding hogs, chickens, seeding, reaping, fertilizing, cutting crops and hay behind his horse until late at night. 

One night, authorities had to intercede and beg Joe to stop, as a neighbor had reported the horse and Joe were lathering badly. He did so reluctantly rather than face a night in the Nashua hoosegow.

 Should a holiday interrupt a scheduled workday, Joe Jean would cut wood for the coming winter, only to find so often that neighbors a few miles away would steal his chopped and split section of the wood pile during the wee hours.  

Life was hard. Much later on, as a little kid (I am 80 years old now) I lived it, saw it and was awed by it. After his barn burnt to the ground a few years later, Pepere resolved to go on. 

To this day I cannot understand why we in this know-it-all society consider ourselves the epitome of knowledge and  happiness. Are we really that clever?  Are we really that happy?  

Last time I visited “Pepere” at the Funeral Home and walked up to his humble casket, he had a nice smile on his face.

Lou Ouellette
Madawaska