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Valley Lives - Laurent Robert

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the March 09, 2011 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Chez FM's 'Chuck' always made fun part of job

by Trevor Greenway

Laurent Robert will always be remembered as one of the most reliable people in the Gatineau Hills. The former public works crew chief at the Municipality of La Peche would jump out of bed in the middle of the night if a tree toppled over or a culvert washed out a road.

"If there was an ice storm and he needed to clear the road, he would be there," said his daughter, Liette. "It didn't matter if it was 3 a.m."

Laurent died of leukemia on Feb. 24, leaving behind Lorraine, his wife of nearly 40 years, and his two children, Liette and Pierre. He was 62.

Lorraine is still trying to digest the reality that her hubby won't be walking through the door at the end of each day.

Valley Lives
Laurent Robert snuggles with daughter Liette in the early 1980s at the kitchen table of the family's Rupert Farm. Little Liette, who was 'daddy's little farmer,' was suffering from croup and needed comfort from the big family man. Photo courtesy the Robert family.

"We have not been apart for 40 years," said Lorraine, sipping coffee at the family farmhouse in Rupert, where Laurent was born. "That's what is going to be the hardest."

During a two-hour interview with the Low Down, the family's attention would wander over to the recliner chair where Laurent used to rock, hoping to catch one more glimpse of the family man.

Laurent was born in 1949 at the Rupert farm, where he learned the joys and challenges of farming early. He began working full time on the farm at age 12, to help his father, Emile, who was not well enough to run a farm of 600 pigs, 200 chickens and 50 head of cattle by himself. Laurent took to the work.

"He loved working his farmlands," said Lorraine, referring to cutting hay, plowing fields and caring for the animals.

Liette also enjoyed working on the farm and became "daddy's little farmer." The two would be out at five in the morning, feeding cows and horses in the bitter cold or heading up to auction sales together, where Laurent would sniff out old antique tobacco cans, lanterns and other nostalgic items.

Valley Lives
Laurent Robert as a boy, playing on the Rupert farm where he spent his entire life. Photo courtesy the Robert family.

Laurent later applied for a job as a grader operator with the municipality and was eventually promoted to crew chief. He spent 38 years with the La Peche crew as the "go-to guy." His death leaves a very big hole to fill.

"He was the only crew chief we have ever had; he is going to be greatly missed," said La Peche Mayor Robert Bussiere. "He had a lot of knowledge and experience and he was very reliable."

Bussiere and others at the municipality called him a team player who worked as hard as he could every day. When he had to leave work in July 2010 because of illness, he worried most about his co-workers.

"Even when he was sick, he was worried about his guys," said Liette.

It was clear at his wake just how dedicated to his work he was, as his hard hat, lunch box and scuffed up work boots were on display at the McGarry Memorial Chapel in Wakefield.

At home, he was a joker who liked to fool around with the kids and always made sure his family was well taken care of. They felt his love, too. "He always gave confidence to the family that everything would always be okay,' said Lorraine.

"He was strong, patient and very giving. He was quiet, but you always knew he was there."

Although Laurent hadn't been feeling well for the past few years, the family did get to spend a great year with him in 2009, taking automobile trips to Upper Canada Village, Kingston, Drummondville, Que., as well as other destinations in Eastern Canada.

Laurent is predeceased by his parents, Juliette Meunier and Emile Robert, his sister Delphine and elder brother Jean-Paul. He is survived by his siblings Jacqueline, Claudette, Lucille, and Jeanne, along with his four grandsons Benjamin, Florent, Sebastien and Olivier as well as many nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters-in laws, friends, neighbours and co-workers.


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