Laurette Provancher, 1918 - 2015

Provancher Obit Pic

Laurette Provancher, 97, of Armonk, NY, passed away peacefully on March 14, 2015 in Valhalla, NY. with her family by her side. She was born on March 3, 1918, the daughter of Ludger and Rose-Aime Tardif Monier from Lewiston, Maine where she had been a resident for most of her life. She graduated from La Cour Superieur (St. Dominic’s H.S.) and Acme Business College. Laurette started her career at Philips Elmet where she met and then married Arthur Provancher, the love of her life. They enjoyed playing bridge together, traveling, and Laurette especially loved to watch Arthur play tennis.  They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on May 17, 2007, just months before Arthur’s death. Laurette held a number of secretarial positions but then worked as an unemployment claims administrator for the State of Maine from which she retired in 1981 at the age of 63. She was devoted to the Dominican Fathers of SS Peter and Paul Church where she served in many capacities including Treasurer followed by President of Les Dames de Sainte Anne. She was elected “Mother of the Year” in 1975.  In addition she served as President of Les Anciennes (alumnae group) of Saint Dominic’s H. S. where she also chaired many fund raising events. Laurette loved to cook, entertain and host family gatherings at her home at 82 Ash St.  Although she did not participate in sports, she was an avid spectator and loved to watch tennis and especially hockey. Laurette was a loving and devoted mother and grandmother.  She moved to Armonk, NY in 1993 to live with her daughter and son-in-law.  This gave her the opportunity to participate in activities with her only grandson, Philippe.  She loved cats as well as the family poodle She participated in the church of St Patrick of Armonk and volunteered in the CCD office. Laurette is survived by her daughter, Jeanne Goulet, grandson Philippe Goulet, son-in-law Camille Goulet of Armonk, NY , sister Lorraine Gosselin and brother in law, Rene Gosselin of Plant City Florida. 

Funeral Notice

PROVANCHER, Laurette, 97, of Armonk, NY, formerly of Lewiston, died March 14, 2015, in Valhalla, NY. Visitation will be held at the funeral home on Friday, 4 - 8 PM. Services will be Saturday, 11 AM, Ss. Peter & Paul Basilica, Lower Church. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name may be sent to the Saint Dominic Academy, Office of Advancement, 121 Gracelawn Road, Auburn, Maine 04210.

Laurette’s Eulogy

How do you summarize a life that spanned almost 100 years?  We decided to focus on what made Laurette, Laurette.  

Laurette was born on March 3, 1918. A tumultuous time in history characterized by a surge in immigration fueled by an industrial boom soon followed by the great depression and then World War II. In these hard times, she developed survival techniques, that were a source of humor in later years.  The dramatic world events had tremendous impact on her childhood and formative years. These events determined the trajectory and color of her life; a life characterized by courage, determination, service and achievement. 

Laurette was a dynamo, full of energy and oriented to action.  You could always depend on her to be available to help and to get the job done.  She had lots of friends and rose to positions of leadership in the organizations she loved.  Laurette had a passion for sports –especially hockey and tennis.  Although she faced change reluctantly, she adapted easily and was both generous and thrifty.  

Laurette was born in Lewiston, Maine, which was a hub for Canadian immigrants coming to the U.S. to work in the mills. Her mother Rose-Aimee Tardif was a recent immigrant from a rural town in the province of Quebec.  She kept those memories of Canada alive in Laurette and instilled in her a love for all things French-Canadian.  For the French-Canadians who arrived in Lewiston, SS Peter and Paul Parish, which had been founded in 1870, was as close as you can get to an extended family. A community of over 10,000 strong, it was the focal point of spiritual, social, recreational and educational life in Lewiston. It even boasted of an opera house. The parish was led by the Dominican order originally from Lille France and administered by a provincial office in Canada.  The Canadian ties were very tight.

In order to pursue job opportunities, her father, a carpenter, moved with the family to New Haven, CT. to take advantage of the home building boom.  The social environment was not as favorable as Lewiston.  Although they joined a small French community, immigrants, particularly from Italy, surrounded them.  It is here that she learned to protect her younger brother, Alphonse from the gang of boys who would bully him on the way to school.  Laurette told this story often and according to her she was tougher than any of those boys and no one dared bother Alphonse when she was around.  

Eventually, the great depression followed the boom.  Her father did not get paid for some of the houses he built and the family returned to Lewiston, with barely the shirt on their backs to live with his sister until they could afford to get an apartment of their own. Laurette had to sell her gold coin that she got at 8th grade graduation in order to provide money for the family.  Something she never forgot. To this day, that empty box sits in her drawer.  This might explain her fascination with coins.  She collected coins and gave them as gifts.  In addition, she detested change and swore she would never leave Lewiston again. 

SS Peter & Paul, welcomed them in, and offered her a scholarship to attend Le Cour Superieur, the precursor to St. Dominic’s H.S.  In addition, the Dominican order eventually offered employment to both her father and mother at Camp Tekakwitha, a boys’ camp outside of Lewiston.  The Camp became a haven for them and later on as well after Jeanne was born.

Over the years, Laurette found a number of opportunities to repay this generosity.  She helped the parish and the Dominicans in every way she could.  From doing laundry for the Camp Tekakwitha administrators; to later on serving as president of  “Les Anciennes”, the alumnae group for St Dominic’s H.S. She chaired many a fundraising event, one of which raised enough money to buy the Dominican sisters their very first automobile. Laurette also participated, from early on, in the Sodality of  “Les Dames de Sainte Anne”.  She served as treasurer for many years, chaired many fundraising events, then became president of the sodality and led the celebrations for the 100-year anniversary of the sodality. 

The family continued to struggle during the depression.  After H.S., Laurette went to Acme Business College, determined to get an education and become a breadwinner in order to help keep the family afloat.  Upon graduation, she eventually obtained a position at Phillips Elmet, a position she held throughout the 1940’s.  These were years where she gained independence and self-confidence for her contribution to the economy of her family. A career was launched although she was forced to resign, once she became pregnant.  Nevertheless, Laurette found opportunities to maintain her business skills by performing office work for the parish and her brother’s business.  When Jeanne started high school, she returned to work in earnest as unemployment claims administrator for the State of Maine.  The family goal, at that time, was to save money, not to buy a house, but to send Jeanne to college – loan free.  

For Laurette, family was a big part of her life.  While at Phillips, Laurette met a good-looking young man, Arthur Provancher.  The relationship between Arthur and Laurette blossomed, however the romance was cut short when at 25 years old, Arthur was drafted into the infantry and left for the European front. After the war, Laurette and Arthur married and went to New York City for a two –week honeymoon and painted the town - An extravagance that they always cherished and remembered.  Jeanne was born the following year.  

Laurette embraced her new role as wife, mother and homemaker and excelled at it. 

Home life was fun. The school year was spent in Lewiston, which was abuzz with activity.  Summers were spent at the farm at Camp Tekakwitha where the family gathered weekly. She and Arthur grew a fine garden and her mother cooked for the extended family, which included brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins from both Canada and Lewiston.  These were wonderful years.

When the farm was no longer available, Laurette took over as hostess.  The family gatherings and parties continued but now at 82 Ash St. For Jeanne, she hosted a Pre-prom party and invited her graduating class.  She held the wedding reception for Alfred and Madelyn and of course there were the occasional bean suppers with the Lavoies, just to name a few.  Every holiday was party time at the Provancher house she generously invited family and friends, and any one who might be alone.  She was the queen of the kitchen and enjoyed every minute of it even though Arthur did not wash the dishes afterwards.

Laurette loved to cook.  She faithfully subscribed to Gourmet Magazine and read it cover to cover but I don’t think she ever tried any of the recipes. Few recipes matched the standard created by Canadian comfort food.  Her menu was predictable and delicious:  beef stew, meatloaf, chicken pot pie, ham and bunny cake at Easter, turkey with all the fixings and chocolate and cream coconut pie dessert at Xmas and Thanksgiving; beans, bologna and cold slaw on Saturday.  On let’s not forget doughnut every morning.

Laurette had pretty high standards in food - some may call it fussy.  When traveling we walked out of many restaurants because there was nothing suitable to eat. Even in France there was a problem.  Laurette could find no suitable ham and cheese sandwich with Country Kitchen bread! Who uses a baguette!

As the family grew smaller Laurette’s circle of friends grew larger. Laurette became more serious about bridge and started to play duplicate bridge with Arthur.  After retirement, they spent their winters in Armonk with Jeanne. Laurette became very interested in genealogy and traced the Tardif ancestry back to the arrival of Champlain in 1618, from France.  She also worked on the genealogy for the Monier, Provancher and Goulet families.  Arthur and Laurette traveled to Canada, the mid west and France to visit sites where early ancestors lived.  

In her 70’s Laurette suffered a number of health issues including breast cancer, knee replacement, hysterectomy, cataract surgery and double knee replacement.  Surprisingly, with her large dose of courage, she recovered nicely and hardly skipped a beat.  At 75 years of age, Laurette did the unthinkable.  She agreed to leave her comfortable circle of friends in Lewiston, a decision that she did not make lightly. 

Moving in with your children is never easy.  The attraction of spending time with her grandson, Philippe, was irresistible.  But her coping skills learned in the early days kicked in. She would line the shelves in the laundry room with empty Tide bottles so that no one would claim the space while she was waiting for the sale at CVS.  She also would hide her chocolates and potato chips in the closet. We found them!

In Armonk, much of the warmth, family fun and activities that occurred at Camp Tekakwitha were recreated but on a smaller scale.  Arthur grew a garden with tomatoes. Philippe learned from his grand mother how to count money.  They worked together sweeping the driveway and raking leaves.  Arthur taught Philippe how to fix things. They also chauffeured Philippe to his many activities, including piano and gymnastics.  They attended his sporting events including swim meets and tennis.  Their only grandson filled their life with joy. These too were wonderful years.  

Eventually, Phil went away to boarding school and then to college and Arthur’s health deteriorated in his late 80’s.  As their world got smaller, Laurette focused more of her attention on household chores, and her favorite armchair sports: hockey, baseball and tennis.  Being in New York broadened her outlook a bit and she began to root for non-Canadian teams like the Rangers, Pittsburg Penquins and the Yankees

In 2012, Laurette’s health began to deteriorate and she could no longer stay home alone while Jeanne was at work.  Laurette and Jeanne rented a small apartment in NYC so that Jeanne could more easily hire help during the day. While there, she visited with Jeanne’s friends, went to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and had fun going out on the town!

Concurrently, Laurette developed a sore on her toe, which would not heal. This was the first sign of peripheral artery disease, which would ultimately take her life.  With constant pain in her right leg and the threat of sepsis, she finally agreed to an amputation one day after leaving Phil’s new condo.  “I really want to be able to come here again”, she said. 

The decision was a game changer because now she would require 24-hour care. She recovered from the ordeal and was determined to learn to walk with a prosthetic leg in order to be able to go home on the weekend.  Her courage and perseverance won the day and she accomplished a feat that only 2% of people her age are able to do.  This was an amazingly strong woman both physically and mentally.

At the nursing home, some of the nurses and aids remembered her and Arthur and called her Mrs. Arthur.  This gave her some comfort. The food however was another matter and something she could not stomach.  Therefore, every weekend, Jeanne brought her home, cooked her favorite meals, prepared care packages for the week, and placed them in the small refrigerator in her room. 

In November of 2014, she could no longer put weight on her left foot.  She had now developed PAD in her “good” leg. The disease progressed rapidly and she could no longer come home.  The disease sapped her strength and energy.  She never complained of the pain.  Never complained of her deteriorating foot.  Only complained about the food and lack of independence. 

The end came quickly with Jeanne holding her hand and Phil and I sitting around the bed.  When the priest told her it was now time to leave and go see Arthur and her friends from the 8:30 mass at St Patrick’s, she closed he eyes and moments later breathed her last breath.  She passed peacefully while he was saying some prayers. 

Guest Book- Please feel free to share your memories and condolences with the family:

© Gerald Burpee 2016