Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Uncle Frank's Adventures in France (Delmar Lemming)

One of my most colorful and endearing relatives was Frank Bergeron, my Uncle Frank, who was a renowned butcher for most of his adult life. He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, which was about halfway between our town and Boston. He settled in Franklin County with my Aunt Gertrude, who was always his beloved "Trudy." Though they never had any children of their own, Frank was the local butcher up Federal Street and everyone loved him. Frank's success with us kids was partly related to a stash of penny candy that crowded the shelves opposite his butcher display window. Those treats kept many children busy while their folks were ordering meat.

In the 1940s, Europe was bombed and in tatters, an estimated 20 million Russians died,some with a name on a stone, others just left by the wayside in the frozen waste. My dad was called up to be a soldier and duly served on bases in Florida and Texas before being shipped out to France. Years later, my father would recall guarding German prisoners in Texas. Though they could not communicate with him, he commented on what nice people they were. Family guys. It was a terrible time for all concerned. A world war that reached even the Orient.

Frank enlisted too but because he was a butcher, he was ordered to take charge of feeding the multitudes on a troop trip headed for France. We have photos of Frank cutting big slabs of beef as hungry mess hands watch with glee. One of them, who fancied himself an artist, sketched Frank a dedicatory cartoon (attached). Although it was war, Frank seemed to have the time of his life. Could you blame him? He was doing what he did best. He knew prime rib like he knew his name and made the most of the adventure.

By the way, although Frank was born in Eastern Massachusetts, his family originated in Quebec and he spoke fluent French. So once he was stationed in France, he won the hearts of everyone he met. He found it easy to woo the locals with his command of their language, particularly in the sing song cadence of Quebec.

I will never forget my dear Uncle Frank who passed away in his mid 80s just a year after my Aunt Gert died. They were a colorful team who always had time for their beloved relatives, just like adopted grandparents to my four sibling Sheas and me.

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