The Labonté family

Labonté family - 1997 - Roger and Léonne 50th marriage anniversary. From left to right: Robert, Pierre, Sylvain, Marleen, Gilles, Francine, Roger, Léonne & André. ©Courtoisie

I’am fascinated by that generation of men and women who gambled everything they had and left France to settle in New France. After a sea voyage during which their lives were at great risk, they arrived in an unknown and sometimes hostile land. Alexandre Noël, named “La bonté” – one of the first French people to arrive in 1699 – was to be the ancestor of the large Labonté family which we know today.

If crossing the Atlantic was dangerous, deciding to settle in the Upper Laurentians carried its own many challenges. And yet that’s what Adrien Labonté did. In 1883, in Saint-Jovite, he married Onésime Légaré, daughter of Jean- Baptiste and Marie Lauzon.

Adrien and Onésime were relentless workers. Adrian was both a settler who cleared the land, and a businessman. He would stock up with merchandise in Saint-Jérôme where he went every week in a horse-drawn wagon. He made the slaked lime used as mortar for building stone foundations. He also worked at railway construction in around 1898.

Over the years, they had 14 children; one of them, Arthur, born in 1892, is the ancestor of a line of Labontés who became well known in the village of Saint-Jovite. Arthur married Bertha Brissette. Their family lived essentially by working their farm. Which brings us to a contemporary of my father’s, Roger Labonté, born in September 1925.

Roger carried within himself all the qualities of the Labonté family: worker, entrepreneur, socially and politically engaged. He learned his trade as a plumber in Saint- Agathe-des-Monts and from the age of 24, established his own business. Despite how busy he was, he was a volunteer firefighter and a member of the Chevaliers de Colomb. He married Léonne Perreault on July 27, 1946, in Saint-Jovite.

It was thanks to the friendship between my father and Roger that I got to know this great family of builders, but because I was still young, I considered them to be bons vivants – people who liked to live well. Quite rapidly, Roger’s business expanded and the quality of his work became well known.

©Courtoisie

During this time, Roger and Léonne had seven children: Francine, Gilles, André, Robert, Pierre, Sylvain and Marleen. All members of the family had duties – the boys as well as the girls. The plumbing business was a family affair. Léonne handled administration and managed the business with an iron hand.

In spite of all her responsibilities, she joined the AFEAS (Association féministe d’éducation et d’action sociale) and became its president for seven years; she was also a member of the Filles d’Isabelle. As for Roger, he became a municipal councillor and proudly served the community for three terms. His sons all enjoyed hunting and fishing.

Speaking of which, a number of years ago, my wife and I decided to spend a bit of time in the hunting and fishing camp in the ZEC (Zone d’exploitation contrôlée) called Maisonde-Pierre. It was mid-winter and as authentic Québécois, well-used to the rigors of winter, we decided to go there by snowmobile.

I mentioned it to a few friends; Robert and his cousin Bernard (nicknamed “Ti Boeu” – little ox) offered to come with us. Definitely a good move! It seemed that my talent on snow did not include snowmobiling. Very soon, on a trail covered with loose snow, we got stuck and the Labonté literally got us out of the hole. I think they knew that I’d have trouble, but everything was done very discreetly, as if they were just along for the outing.

While the time spent in the woods with relatives and friends was sacred, work, done with pride, remained a family priority. Roger always had the idea that he would pass on the business, divided into equal parts, to his family, and that’s what he did.

As for Gilles, he developed his own company, which did well enough to allow him to buy back the Labonté plumbing business. To respect the wishes of his father, he, in turn, divided the business between his brothers and the next generation. We can bet that the Labonté family will be involved in Saint-Jovite construction projects for many generations to come.

 

More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan

 

Peter Duncan93 Posts

Membre de l’équipe canadienne de ski alpin de 1960 à 1971, skieur professionnel de 1971 à 1979 et champion américain en 1965, Peter Duncan a participé aux Jeux olympiques de 1964 à Innsbruck ainsi qu’à ceux de 1968 à Grenoble. Intronisé au Temple de la renommée du ski au Canada, au Panthéon des sports du Québec et récipiendaire de la médaille du gouverneur général, Peter a longtemps été commentateur de ski à la télévision./ Peter Duncan is a Canadian former alpine skier who competed in the 1964 and the 1968 Winter Olympics. He was named to the Canadian National Alpine Team in 1960 at the age of 16 and competed at the national level for the next 10-years until 1970 before retiring.

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