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Local family pays homage to relative with book on POW life in WWII

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“The advantage of the book is that we never knew what happened to him from the time he left until he returned. We never knew the timeline ‘

A project that began as a labor of love between a father and daughter has evolved into a historical book depicting the personal tragedies of a North Bay man who lived for over a year in a prison camp German during WWII.

Jacques Bedard of North Bay, a downed pilot, survived the crash and spent five months in a German POW hospital and 14 months in a POW camp before being released at the end of the war when he was only 21 years old. .

“He was a good man, he basically raised his family on his own because of the problems he was having; he was an alcoholic, which is the effect of the war I’m sure, and it caused the separation when we were young and we stayed with him and he managed to raise us “, says Roger, his son.

“We were a very close family. He would do anything for you. He was a very generous man,” recalls Roger.

Jacques Bédard survived the war, started a family with his wife Thérèse and had four children, including Roger, before the couple separated.

Leanne Bédard, Roger’s daughter, took a keen interest in the history of WWII, but during Jacques’ lifetime he was never one to talk about what had happened to her in Germany in the mid-1940s. .

No one in the family had the chance to hear Jacques’ version or even understand what he went through. The subject was simply never discussed.

“People don’t realize what prisoners of war went through, and we didn’t know it ourselves,” Roger said.

“He had three brothers who were also in the war and none of them talked about it, none of them. We didn’t have any stories about the war. When you asked him about it, he just didn’t get back to you, ”Roger continued.

Sadly, on November 11, 1989, Jacques passed away and took his untold stories with him to the grave.

But in 2019 Roger and Leanne got information that got them thinking.

“Almost 30 years after my grandfather died, my father and I sat down and looked at the endless pages documenting my grandfather’s military service, obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Leanne said in the prologue to the book entitled “Le courage des Petites Heures.”

Subsequently, the idea of ​​sharing and knowing more about its history became a family passion for Roger, Léanne and the Bédard family. They therefore hired the writer Patricia Pearson to sift through all the letters and put the story of Jacques Bédard together in a book.

“When we had Patricia she dug it up and told me exactly what happened there because we never knew what happened. We knew he was shot. and that he was a prisoner of war and that was about it, ”Roger said.

“We paid most of the work to Patricia Pearson. She did the heavy lifting because we really didn’t know where to start, ”Leanne added.

Leanne was shocked to find out what her grandfather had to endure as a POW.

“The prisoners of war actually participated in a death march in January 1945 which was one of the coldest winters in Germany for 50 years and just the amount of stamina to be able to survive that, and it was just something we had no idea, “Leanne said, noting that he also survived a fatal episode of dysentery in captivity.

The book has just been completed and a small series has been delivered to family members, the North Bay Public Library, the War Museum in Ottawa, and the 424 Squadron Museum in Trenton.

The Bedards believe that the book brings some conclusion and a better understanding of what happened to Jacques abroad.

“The advantage of the book is that we never knew what happened to him from the time he left until his return. We never knew the timeline,” Roger said.

“Well for me it’s kind of a closed feeling because I know in the past it was of great interest to me, and when I watched war movies I always wondered before this book what ‘he had lived and now I feel like I know it, “Leanne said.

Now they understand why Jacques refused to fly again – even on a commercial airliner – after returning from the war.

The book also makes Remembrance Day 2021 more symbolic on the special day and anniversary of his death.

“Each Remembrance Day is special to us, but we’ve always honored veterans anyway, but more than that, we did it because my dad passed on that date and made it even more special.” Roger said as his voice weakened.

“Well for me it’s kind of a closed feeling because I know in the past it was of great interest to me, and when I watched war movies I always wondered before this book what ‘he had lived and now I feel like I know it, “Leanne said.