Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Memoriam: Fred Belair

Today – December 18 – marks the 123rd anniversary of my paternal grandfather Fred Belair’s birth. Although his baptismal record states that he was born on 26 November 1889, my Pépère Fred once told me that he didn’t believe he was born in November and that someone at the church must have written an incorrect day and month of birth on his baptismal record. Years later, December 18th would be a very special day for my family for three reasons: it was my grandfather's birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary (they married on December 18, 1954) and my younger sister's birthday (born on December 18, 1960).

Born and baptised in Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham, Gatineau County, Quebec, Canada, Fred was the seventh child and fifth son of his parents Pierre and Angélina (Meunier) Belair. He received the names “Jean-Baptiste Ménésippe” at his baptism in the local parish church. Although he used either of his baptismal names as a child and young adult, he preferred to be known as Fred as an adult.

In the summer of 1896, Fred suffered a tragedy when his mother died a few days after giving birth to her eleventh child, a son Joseph who lived two days. His mother Angélina was only 41 years old. With seven surviving children, widower Pierre remarried within a year of his wife’s passing. Fred’s father and new stepmother Mathilde had five children, two sons and three daughters. (After Mathilde died in 1923, Pierre married a third time, to widow Rosalie Lavictoire.)

About 1911, Fred left home to seek work as a labourer in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA. During World War I, Fred worked in a munitions factory. During the 1910s and 1920s, Fred also worked in the shipyards of Wisconsin and Minnesota and on the railroad in Canada. He was employed as an ironworker for the Dominion Bridge Company in Montreal in the late 1920s-early 1930s. Later, in the 1940s, Fred was a cook in lumber camps in northern Ontario, Canada.

Fred and Julie Belair on their wedding day 1926
Fred and Julie Belair on their wedding day, 1926.

In October 1926, Fred married Julie Vanasse in Ottawa. They met through his half-sister Almina Belair, who was one of Julie’s friends. After their wedding, Fred and Julie settled in a part of Ottawa known as LeBreton Flats, which was a poor working area west of the city centre. While here, their first child, Maurice, was born in August 1927. Later, another son and two daughters completed the family unit.

Fred and his family lived in many places in the 1930s and 1940s, including Timmins, Ontario and Blue Water, near Sarnia, Ontario. After they returned to Timmins in the 1950s, Fred retired and he and Julie settled in a small apartment. After Julie passed away in March 1967, Fred continued to live in their one-bedroom home. It wasn’t until advanced old age that he moved to Peterborough, Ontario to live with his daughter Darlene.

In October 1989, Fred’s family and friends gathered in Timmins to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Fred Belair with his children on his 100th birthday 1989
Fred with his children on his 100th birthday, 1989.

Fred died in Peterborough in January 1991; he was 101 years old. His funeral took place in Timmins, and he was interred next to his beloved Julie.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. My goodness Yvonne, your Grandfather certainly lived to a grand age and lived a most interesting life. The Gravestone he shares with your Grandmother, his beloved Julie, is very beautiful. Thankyou for sharing his story. Best Regards,Catherine

  2. I knew my grandfather all my life, although I didn't see him regularly in his last 10 or so years. I loved listening to his stories about when he was younger. Thanks for commenting, Catherine!

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. I enjoyed reading about his life. How awesome to have lived to such a grand old age!

  4. Yvonne, I was just looking at your surnames and notice that we share some of the same names in our genealogy. Gagnon, Drouin, Huot, Beauvais, and Messier.

  5. Gettouttahere, Michelle :) I'm really interested in seeing how we might be related to Huot, Beauvais and Messier. These names aren't as common as Gagnon, Drouin. We should get in touch!