Leonard Joseph Gervais entered eternal life on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at the age of 77. He will be missed profoundly by his family and friends who have lived, laughed and loved many adventures with him. He has left behind his wife Anne (nee Messer) of 55 years, the love of his life and the prettiest girl in Burwash. A woman of snappy wit and tremendous energy who proved to be an excellent and enduring match to his vigorous approach to life and opportunity.
Together Len and Anne had three children, and he will be missed by his two surviving children (Carmen Gervais of Gatineau and Len Gervais Jr. of Ottawa), two resilient sons-in-law (Brent Battistelli of Whitefish and Claude Lavoie of Gatineau), one newly minted daughter-in-law (Maureen Gervais) and eight brilliant grandchildren (Alex, Camille, Christian, Dominic, Danielle, Janna, Patrick and Sebastien). He is survived by a very charming sister (Claire MacAlpine of Newmarket), two colourful brothers-in-law (Gerry Disano of Port Colborne and Glenn MacAlpine of Newmarket), six surviving (and also charming) nieces and nephews (Andrew, Cameron, Kerry, Mark, Robert, Rose-Marie), his BFF of over 70 years (Maurice Pearson of Huntsville), a particularly caring neighbour/adopted son (Mike), and a colourful mosaic of friends and acquaintances scattered around Ontario and Quebec. Len was born in Cache Bay on June 10, 1939 to parents Aldea and Theodore (both predeceased).
Len left the world in full anticipation of a joyful reunion with family and friends he has not seen in a long time, in particular his daughter Cheryl, his grandson Xavier, his niece Glenda, his sister Helene, his angelic mother Aldea and his father Theodore.
Being a father was a part of Len’s fabric, and he embraced this role with his signature vigour and attention to detail. He taught his kids various (if random) life skills, including how to peel the bark off a tree and catch a bat (don’t ask). He was equally devoted to his grandkids, attending birthday parties and sporting events at hockey rinks and football fields across Ontario and Quebec. Words cannot describe his joy when his son (finally) settled down and reproduced. In his final months he enjoyed many little-arm hugs and hand-fed cheerios from his youngest grandchild Dominic.
Len often mentioned how lucky he was to have high quality, long term friendships that grew stronger and deeper as they adapted to the vagaries of life. He was very close to the Pearson boys, with whom he evolved a unique form of communication that is captured in one of his favourite greetings cards which shows three old men walking down the beach, one saying “What a nice sunny day”, the second replying “No, it’s Thursday” and the third saying “Me too! Let’s go grab a beer.”
There are many examples of Len’s renowned love of nature and compassion for all creatures, big and small. At camp he’d take time away from a project to show his kids the complexity of a bug’s eyes. The vigorous frog population at his house is due to him scooting frogs out of the way of the lawnmower, moving them over patch by patch as he made the rounds (it took hours). The profoundly twisty road he built to camp is so he could avoid cutting down big trees. Then there’s the deep throated bullfrog who sang Len’s family to sleep at camp for many years and whose voice was suddenly absent one spring, something he mentioned every spring for years afterwards. He did have an exceptionally strong animosity towards mice, but there’s a long history there.
Len was a master craftsman and furniture builder with an eye for detail and a creative mind that led to many original and elegant designs, as well as some beautiful heirloom pieces owned by his kids and grandkids. He was quick to offer a helping hand to others when the need arose and his home renovations are the stuff of legend. He oversaw and helped build his beautiful retirement house from the ground up.
Len was an absolutely voracious reader. His knowledge was broad and deep, ranging from natural remedies for gout (eat dried sour cherries daily) to spiritual guidance to wine making. His hospital roommates over the years came away with more than improved health, and he was deeply moved when he felt he’d made a positive difference.
People were apt to confide in him because of his humility. He was an “old soul” who was genuinely grateful to be a friend, mentor or sounding board. He was drawn to the underdog, the vulnerable, and invested hundreds of hours in volunteer work with the Elgin Street Mission. He also volunteered significant time for many of the annual Burwash reunions. He was instrumental in the successful launch of the “Citizens on Patrol” program with the Greater Sudbury Police, which is still to this day connecting community volunteers with their local police to make neighbourhoods safer. He was a devoted volunteer with his church in Wahnapitae, along with his wife, looking after maintenance, finances, and the annual fish fry (he never ate first – that’s how amazing a man he was). And he never sought, or expected, recognition for his contributions.
He blessed us with many valuable lessons over the years, among them that every conversation is improved with a beer and a bowl of peanuts. A memorial mass, to celebrate his life, will take place at Notre-Dame de la Rivière Church in Wahnapitae on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 11:00 a.m.
Donations can be made to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in memory of Leonard Gervais. Len lived almost 20 years with congestive heart failure, 15 years longer than predicted, and was “a medical miracle” according to his cardiologist. Len and his family are tremendously grateful for the cutting edge and caring treatment he received at this outstanding research hospital that gave them so many years together. Arrangements in care of Simple Wishes of the North. (705) 470-7070