PETIT DE GRAT: A community group has helped to preserve a monument to those who served and died in World War II.
Last year, Legion Branch 150 service officer Junior Boudreau helped form the Petit de Grat War Monument Restoration Committee comprised of Robbie Fougere, Joan Clannon, Donald Goyetche, Edgar Samson, and Rena Boudreau to restore the memorial in front of St. Joseph’s Church.
Erected by family and friends, the monument honours five Isle Madame men who were killed in World War II between 1939-1945: merchant mariners Pierre Clannon and Benoit Clannon; Jean Remi Boudreau, with the navy; and soldiers Arthur David and Fulbert Marchand. The monument also honours all volunteers and conscripts who served during the war.
“This is a monument that was built by the Petit de Grat people way back in the 1950s and I wanted to restore it and it should be because it’s a war monument,” said Boudreau. “It is something that was paid and made by the community so we want to keep it going because it is in memory of five soldiers that went away and didn’t come back. They volunteered their lives.”
After receiving little attention since it was constructed seven decades ago – aside from some masonry work in 2003 – the monument recently fell into complete disrepair.
“It was becoming an eye sore,” Fougere pointed out, noting that pieces of the statue on the monument were falling off. “Those people are no longer with us so if the present community doesn’t upkeep these things, then they tend to disappear.”
The committee formed last September, immediately started planning the restoration and conducted fundraising last winter. The committee then awarded a tender to AML Paints which started in June and finished in early July.
After cleaning and patching the monument, Boudreau said AML Paints put on a coat of primer then finally a clear finishing coat to protect it from the elements.
“They pressure-washed it with steam, high heat or heated steam which will take everything out of it to make sure everything looks good,” Boudreau explained. “Then they patched everything up.”
To help fund the $11,000 restoration project, Goyetche, who is also legion branch 150 president, noted donations were collected from residents, as well as from the local business community, using advertising and word-of-mouth. The Department of Veterans Affairs contributed $4,4000 from its Commemorative Partnership Program and the Legion’s Poppy Fund gave $2,500.
In addition to the generous help of the legion, Fougere noted that the Petit de Grat Beautification Society wants to plant some flowers and construct an accessible walkway to the monument in the spring.
He said that these types of projects transform what was a drain on the community into an asset.
“They’re drawing cards,” Fougere stated, noting that when St. Joseph’s Church opened for Celtic Colours visitors last weekend, many people walked by and visited the new monument.
Now that work is complete in Petit de Grat, Boudreau said the committee plans to restore monuments in front of the former St. Hyacinth’s Church in D’Escousse and the cenotaph at legion branch 150 in Arichat.
Not just preserving history and helping the community, Boudreau added these are the types of projects in which the legion should be participating.
“It’s part of the legion’s work, stuff like this,” Boudreau noted. “It’s actually for the young generation to keep reminding them of the sacrifices that were made for them. That’s what it’s all about. We can’t forget it. These guys gave their lives for us and that’s why we can have freedom today.”