Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Wednesday’s Child: Gaston Desgroseilliers, A Brief Life

Gaston Desgroseilliers and his sisters in 1937
Gaston Desgroseilliers (lower right) and his sisters, 1937

Top row: Mariette (left) and Madeleine.
Middle row: Simone (left), baby Normande, and Marianne.
Bottom row: Jacqueline (left) and Gaston.

(This lovely, but somewhat blurry, photo is the only one that my Mom has of her brother. Gaston looks about 2½ years old. I’m assuming that the baby in the picture is his little sister Normande, who was born in early 1937.)

On 21 February 1935, on a cold winter day, Gaston Desgroseilliers was born in the village of Hearst, Ontario, Canada. He was my uncle, my mother’s younger brother. Like his elder sister Marianne, who died young, I never got to know him. (I've written about Marianne's story here.)

One day in the spring of 1941, six year old Gaston, his father Eugène, his uncle Jean-Paul Beauvais (his mother's brother) and a few others went fishing on Georgian Bay, not far from where the Desgroseilliers family lived in Parry Sound, Ontario.

On the way home, Gaston sat in the back seat of the car. The door suddenly opened when the vehicle turned a corner. Gaston fell out. The car stopped and Gaston, who seemed alright, was helped back in. He worried that his mother wouldn't let him go fishing again, so he asked his father not to tell his mother about the accident.

But Gaston wasn’t alright. At home, he became feverish and ill. Two weeks later, on 6 May 1941, Gaston died at the hospital. He was only six years old. His parents Eugène and Juliette never fully recovered from the loss of their son.

In February 1987, I wrote to the Town of Parry Sound to see if I could find out where Gaston was buried. (My mother didn't know for sure where Gaston rested.) I soon received a reply from the Cemetery Records department, and later a follow-up reply. The letters contained information about the cause of death and the burial location. I was grateful to receive these details, but they came with an unexpected twist.

Mom had always believed that Gaston died of head injuries, but according to the death certificate (with its information transcribed into the Cemetery’s Interment Register), the cause of death was “acute lung trouble” (a type of pneumonia). As for Gaston’s place of burial, Mom only knew that it was somewhere in Parry Sound. Now she learned that her beloved brother was laid to rest in an unmarked, single grave in Hillcrest Cemetery.

Rest in peace, mon uncle Gaston.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. Such a sad story for the life of young child, and it is a loss that is never ever really recovered for those still living.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Karen. My mother still talks to this day about her little brother and what he meant to her family.