Valley Lives - Andre Labelle

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the April 21, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Masham butcher, caterer 'worked hard all his life'

by Mark Burgess

Masham lost one of its most recognizable faces when former butcher, caterer, fireman, church volunteer and political organizer Andre Labelle died at the Wakefield hospital March 29 at age 59.

Labelle was best known as the man behind the counter at Labelle Distribution, the family butcher shop and catering service that handled distribution for Maple Leaf meats in the region. He bought the shop, previously a butter manufacturer, from his father-in-law in 1976 and started running the catering service about ten years later. "He really worked hard all his life," his daughter Pascale said.

Most in the family worked hard with Labelle. His brother Guy recalls that for a while his six siblings as well as Andre's children were all putting in time at the shop on weekends.

Pascale also worked at the catering service when she was growing up and remembers one especially frantic few days when her father was making 2,200 meals - three times a day - for the entire security apparatus when former U.S. President George W. Bush visited Ottawa in 2005.

Valley Lives
Andre Labelle, a well known figure in the Masham area, died March 29 at the Wakefield Hospital. Photo courtesy Pascale Labelle.

"He was so proud of that," she said. "We didn't sleep so much those three days."

Labelle also took pride in his volunteer endeavours, whether in his role as a member of the Knights of Columbus, the administrative council at the St-Cecile church, or playing the role of Bonhomme Carnaval and Santa Claus at community events. He was also known for his devoted electioneering during political campaigns.

"When he decided to help someone, he was there," Pascale said.

Labelle was always active for the Liberal party in both federal and provincial campaigns, going door-to-door, making phone calls and even driving voters to the polls.

Guy remembers one particularly hard-fought municipal election about 25 years ago, when his brother was campaigning for then-Mayor Herve Leblanc. Andre put hay in a barrel on the opposing candidate's lawn and lit it on fire, to mark him as the loser in the election. The opposing camp retaliated by burning Andre's van.

Andre was paralyzed below the chest in 2007 as a result of a staphylococcal infection. He was a patient at the Wakefield hospital from Aug. 2009 until his death. Pascale and Guy thank the staff for their extraordinary work in caring for Andre.

Labelle is survived by his wife, Lise, and their four children - Pascale, Marie-Andree, Melanie and Nicolas.

His six siblings - Guy, Bernard, Claude, Estelle, Daniel and Martine - all reside in the Masham area.

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