Canadian Second World War veteran, Ghislain Simard passed away on February 20, 2015. Born on January 25, 1926 in Alma, Québec, on July 9, 1944, he had landed in Courseulles-sur-Mer, with the Régiment de la Chaudière. We join his grand-daughter, Amélie Lépine, former guide at the Juno Beach Centre in 2010, in the tribute she pays to him and we send our sincere thoughts to his family. Lest We Forget.
Ghislain Simard was a soldier with the Régiment de Maisonneuve who had joined Régiment de la Chaudière before landing in Courseulles on July 19, 1944. Shortly after, he took part in the battle for Caen, followed by the campaign in Europe until the end of the war. He then participated in the occupation of Germany until 1946. In Canada, he was a welder on superstructures. He had 6 children.
This veteran had never returned to Normandy until August 31, 2010. This return was made possible thanks to the initiative of his grand-daughter, Amélie Lépine, guide at the Juno Beach Centre. Amélie, a young teacher from Québec, was already interested in the history of Canada during the Second World War before her arrival at the Juno Beach Centre. However, her knowledge grew during her stay in Normandy and so did her pride in her grand-father. She finally managed to convince him to travel to Normandy.
When Ghislain Simard came back to Juno and visited the Juno Beach Centre, he met with civilian witnesses of the events of the summer 1944 who could hear him say:
” I spent my life trying to forget, only to find out by coming back here how important it is to remember”.
Amélie Lépine’s hommage to her grand-father
A tribute to you, Grandpa (1926 – 2015)
You lived an incredible life. Born in Alma, Lac St-Jean, QC, you have seen and experienced many things. You embody the essence of the 20th century. You fought in the Second World War and were part of the occupation of Germany from 1945-2946. You worked as a welder all across North America: on the World Trade Center, in Canada’s Great North, in Labrador and Detroit, during the development of Expo ’67 and the 1976 Montréal Olympic Games, and on the construction of the Mercier Bridge. And I could go on.
As you and your children know, the war forged your character, and you have had your regrets. However, life was not always hard. I had the chance to breakthrough your walls a few years ago for an assignment for CEPEG and came to you with a battery of questions about your experience as a soldier. Today, 11 years later, our discussion has yet to finish. At first, I did not think that we would become so close. There were times when my questions unsettled you. They risked opening doors you wanted to keep shut forever. You told me “when are we done with your questions Ms. Journalist?” Even when faced with your impatience, I, like you, persevered. Throughout all these years, I continued the interview. Each time we spoke, I learnt more about your history, not only about the war but about your whole life: your childhood, your loves, your joys, your adventures worthy of a novel, your hardships, your regrets, and your madness. In 2010, we returned to one of your torments: Normandy. We turned an unpleasant memory into a joyful and unforgettable moment. At that time, there were no more dead men in the streets, no blood, no destroyed villages like you experienced during the war. There was instead laughter, men walking freely, and stories that warmed your heart. From this day onward, you would never be the same. I was no longer just a “journalist”, but a granddaughter in whom you could confide, knowing I would not judge. When you spoke of me, I was your “guide” or your “historian”. Your life intrigues me and therefore I will always have more questions;
You were a dynamic person: impatient, hard, candid, rock solid, young at heart, and funny – a quality I see rarely in people of your age. Even on the day of your death you made me laugh. You told the attendant “if dying hurts no more than this, it will be alright”. I suppose you have seen others, 70 years ago. I would have liked to unveil more of your mysteries, but your pride would surely have prevented me. And maybe it is for the best.
I will greatly miss our conversations and our bursts of laughter. Thank you for letting me into your heart and creating a special place for me in your life. I promise to remember only the best of you. I will live my life to the fullest, laugh, take my time, and not worry about the little things. I love you enormously, and will never forget you.
Your “little one” xxx
Translated in English by the JBC guides
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.