Descendants of Huron-Wendat WW I soldier donate war memorabilia to Wendake
'He was a gentle soul': Family members commemorate Delphis Theberge, a WW I corporal driver
As a child, Ben Huot lived for the summers he would spend with his grandfather in La Tuque, Que., fishing, berry picking and rummaging through an old trunk filled with war memorabilia.
Huot and his brother would help their grandfather mix tobacco in the basement, and listen as he told tales of his time as a soldier.
"My brother and I had an insatiable appetite for stories," said Huot, adding the pair wanted to know about every object they would pull out of that trunk.
Huot's grandfather was Delphis Theberge, a Huron-Wendat soldier who served as a corporal driver in France during the First World War, and who received the Medal of Bravery in 1918.
This Remembrance Day, Theberge's family is donating that very trunk, and all of its contents, to the community where Theberge grew up: Wendake.
Theberge's role in battle was to drive a team of six horses that pulled a field gun, and to park it within five kilometres of enemy trenches.
"Probably what I remember the most is his openness, his willingness to discuss what transpired during the war, and his recollection," Huot said. "It wasn't vague, it wasn't fog, it was extremely detailed."
Most notably, Huot recounted, was the loss of two horses, Ginger and Snookums.
"It made him very, very sensitive when he spoke of those animals," he said.
Theberge died in 1963.
Among the donated items are Theberge's medals, his spurs, hundreds of postcards — including dozens written by Theberge himself — and items he picked up on the battlefield: a German lunch box and buttons, among other things.
"He was a gentle soul," Huot said. "A strong man, but a very gentle soul."
"He was kind, giving, and very welcome," he said. "I always found myself privileged to be in his presence."
Huot spent years tracing his grandfather's history, including searching for the field diaries of his division to figure out why he had been awarded the Medal of Bravery.
He finally tracked the diaries down on Christmas Day.
"The day I found it after so many years of research and reading, it was one of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever could have received," he said.
Historian Jean-Philippe Thivierge has been working to highlight the sacrifices of Huron-Wendat soldiers in Canada's wars.
His work was what inspired Huot and his family to donate Theberge's war memorabilia.
Huot said he believes the donation will make the Huron-Wendat people see the value of his grandfather's contributions in the war.
He said the Remembrance Day ceremony in Wendake is not just about his grandfather, but an opportunity to recognize all of Canada's veterans.
Three of Theberge's surviving children, including Mary Commins, the 84-year-old baby of the family, will be at Wendake for the Remembrance Day ceremony, along with about 25 other close relatives.
With files from Marika Wheeler