"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me". Prayer of St. Francis
My father Alfred, died at the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 21, 1944, he was 24. I was 2 1/2. My mother, Rita was pregnant and due in Jan. of 1945. She received the news in the hospital after delivering my brother Edward.
A last letter delivered to his parents written by my father.
Tues. Dec. 12, 1944-Somewhere in Germany.
Hello mother and father; I sincerely hope you are both in the best of health and taking very good care of yourself; I hope that it is also the same for all my brothers and sisters. Well, folks, Christmas is just around the corner for you; for me its been Christmas for the last two weeks, but not the kind we used to enjoy back home. I've been receiving a few packages, and yesterday I've received yours. We had a good snack, and you can imagine it didn't last very long. When 10 GIs gather around a box of food, you soon reach the bottom; but thats the way we like it and the way we feel towards each other; it's the same every time one of us gets a package. I enjoyed reading the Leader even through it was of a late issue. Thanks for everything mother and dad for the gift and more for making me feel that I'm not a forgotten man. I've just come back from the rest area in Holland; we've enjoyed two days of relaxation and entertainment. Movies and stage shows, good food and a bed to sleep in; it's really a swell place, but we don't stay long enough, just 48 hours. Anyway it's worth it, just to get away from that foxhole life, for a couple of days. Wish we could spend Christmas day over there but I doubt it, most likely we'll be dodging shells. Frankly, I don't care much where I'll be, as long as I'm still kicking; that's the most important thing. Don't hear much from my brothers and sisters except Helene who writes a swell letter occasionally; I'm always glad to hear from all of you; you can't imagine whats the difference between receiving a letter at mail call and not getting one. It's the only thing we really enjoy over here, like one fellow puts it, and I think it's true: a letter is a five minute furlough at home. I thank you mother for writing so faithfully; I'm always anxious to read your letters; I wish I could hear from all my brothers and sisters once in a while; I imagine they are pretty busy, probably more that I am.. But it sure would be swell to hear from them, to hear from those people whom youre fighting for. For your sakes, dearest parents, I hope Emile got another deferment and that Hector is still in the States, and I hope this mess is all over before they get a crack at it, cause it's no pic-nick for us, and less for you folks back home. So far I've been very lucky, because you folks back home have been praying for me; I'm very grateful to you all.. Thank the Lord that I went this far; I did get a slight wound but it could have been much worse; in fact, one of my buddies who was hit by the same shell has gone back to the States; but he's missing an arm. So please don't let us down, dearest parents, your prayers can help so much and they will Im sure. I must leave you now but Ill try to write again soon; thanks again for everything. Good luck to you all and may God bless you. Give my regards to everyone.
Your loving son, Alfred
Letter 12-3-1944 from Alfred
Click the above link to view letter sent to Alfred's wife Rita on Dec.3, 1944
The following is an excerpt from a book dedicated to my grandmother Evangeline, written in 1948 by my fathers younger brother Maurice.
On the night of Jan. 4, 1945, the Richers on Hevey Street were spending a quiet evening home. Uncle Wilfrid was there, Maurice still home from his vacation. When the phone rang at 7pm, and father was called to the phone, everyone was quite surprised.
It happened seldom that a phone call was for Dad. But as we listened to the one-sided conversation our hearts shrank as if crushed by a great emotion. Fear and anxiety filled our minds as the words came slow, soft and sad: Germany...December 21st...Missing! In that breath taking moment all in the house were silent, all was quiet till the prayerful cry of a mothers broken-heart which echoed and reechoed even unto eternity broke the silence: No, no, my God, no!...In our anguish we were silent, we could not say anything, we could not even pray.
A second telephone call, again Mr. Marineau, told us that Rita had just left for the hospital, and as if by Divine Providence, she had not seen the telegram that was addressed to her. The next morning, news came from the hospital that Rita had given birth to a baby boy.
It was not until the 10th of Jan that the doctor consented to have us reveal to Rita the news of her missing husband. The delicate task was entrusted to Uncle Wilfrid. He went, as is often the role of a priest, to break the sad news.
Upon his arrival, Rita, not suspecting the purpose of her visitor, jovially mentioned a letter she had just received from her dear husband, in which he mentioned the reception of two decorations and a raise in pay. She was happy and proud.
Poor Rita...we, too, had news of Alfred, not so encouraging, not so pleasant...And so, slowly the announcement of the War Department was made known to her. She was brave, she was courageous, she was strong in that moment of great emotion. From the sole witness of her reactions we have the words written from Irene: She was admirable and asked how Alfreds mother and the others were doing?
It was exactly 2 hours later, that a second miserable telegram was received on Quirin Street. When the news was made known to Hevey Street, mother was all alone at home. Her first impulse to seize the phone and call Uncle Wilfrid.
Mother could not speak in the phone. Her whole message was transmitted by her only piercing shout,"He is dead"! Dad was not less stricken by grief than us.
The whole situation revealed itself to him when he crossed the threshold after his days work. And with faith of a Christian exclaimed: Gods will...He wanted it...we can't do a thing! And when they had removed his coat, he sat in his armchair, vigorously, shook his head in a gesture of despair and burst into tears and sobs. When he finally could control the flow of his tears, he got up, took $30 and gave it to Uncle Wilfrid: Masses for Alfred.
Standing left to right
Helen, Emile, Alfred, Hector, Marguerite
Sitting left to right
Germaine, Father Edouard, Maurice, Mother Evangeline, Irene
Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris.
Now this bell tolling softly for another,
says to me, Thou must die.)
by John Donne
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me. All mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.
There was a contention as far as a suit (in which piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. . . .
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Interview with Marguerite Richer Tellier Jan. 2006 Audio-Video
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Interview with Hector Richer Audio Video Jan. 2006
Websites to Richer dit La Fleche ancestors
Richer dit LaFleche Geneology
Richer dit Laflèche Family Association
Photos of Bishop Louis-François Richer Laflèche-1818-1898
Lineage of Bishops of Three Rivers & Photos
Louis-François Richer Laflèche French-Canadian bishop, b. 4 Sept., 1818, at Ste-Anne de la Perade, Province of Quebec;
Diocese of Trois Rivières
Battle of River Coteau