Alberta veteran dies while in France at 70th anniversary of D-Day

Charlie St. Germain was one of the thousands of young Canadian soldiers who clambered onto Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. Earlier this month, the 89-year-old travelled to France for the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion

Charlie St. Germain, 89, was laid to rest Thursday in Peace River, Alta.

Charlie St. Germain was one of the thousands of young Canadian soldiers who clambered onto Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.

Earlier this month, the 89-year-old travelled to France for the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion. But this time, Charlie St. Germain didn’t come home. 

Charlie St. Germain insisted on going to France for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, his daughter Linda Denison said. (Courtesy of the St. Germain family)

"He passed away in France,” said his son Kenny in Peace River, Alta. on Wednesday. “I think in some ways he's happy he did.”

“To him, I think that was the best situation ever and he was close to his brother.”

Joe St. Germain was Charlie’s oldest sibling and his only brother in a large Métis family. When Joe signed up to serve in the army, Charlie, then 17, lied about his age so he could join too.

“He idolized the ground that Joe walked on,” said Charlie’s daughter Linda Denison. “And he was going to catch up to him.”

Charlie sailed to Europe two weeks after Joe left. But Charlie was never able to catch up. Joe died in Italy on Dec. 28, 1944.  

“I think that bothered him. All his life. That he never ever got to see Joe,” Kenny St. Germain said. “You always want to have one last chance to see them before somebody dies."

Trying 'to catch up to Joe's spirit'

Charlie returned to Europe twice after the war, in 2005 and 2009. The last trip was particularly significant. He was able to find Joe’s grave with the help of a friend.

“Dad told me the story that he’s finally going to catch up,” said Derrold St. Germain, who accompanied his father to Italy. “And he did it. It’s a powerful story.”

Charlie suffered a heart attack earlier this year but he was determined to make it to France one more time.

“He insisted on going,“ Denison said. “There wasn’t a soul that could talk him out of it. Nobody.”

“I think it was like he was even trying to catch up to Joe’s spirit.”

On June 5, Charlie checked into the hospital for dehydration. On June 6, his health took a turn for the worse. He died several days later.

Charlie St. Germain was laid to rest in Peace River on Thursday. He will buried next to his wife.

With files from the CBC's Marion Warnica

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