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Publication: Globe and Mail, The
Issue: 31 March 2009, page L6
Title: BLANCHE FRASER (Lives Lived)
Web Link: link
Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Born Feb. 22, 1911, in Saint-Narcisse, Que. Died Dec. 28, 2008, in Gatineau, Que., of complications from C. difficile, aged 97.
March 31, 2009
It was the 1920s and Blanche Massicotte had just moved with her family from rural Quebec to Gatineau, a paper-mill town on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. In those days it was still a largely English town and, speaking very little English, the best job Blanche could find was working as a night switchboard operator at the mill.
One night, a young Maritimer who worked in the mill came in wanting to phone his girlfriend in Nova Scotia. Speaking no French, he wrote down the number for Blanche, made his call, then left.
The next night the man returned, but this time it was to ask Blanche out on a date, the girlfriend now seemingly forgotten. Still only 17, Blanche had to ask her mother for permission. Seeing it as a chance for Blanche to improve her English, her mother was thrilled at the opportunity.
The two dated for a number of weeks, and with Blanche's English rapidly improving her mother said it was time to end the relationship. But by then it was too late - Blanche and Leo Fraser were in love. They married a few months later and raised five children, Jean, Ron, Norman, Isabelle and Carole.
Leo always had good jobs at the mill, but Blanche, like most women in her day, remained a homemaker. After the kids were grown she took up many interests, including painting, bridge and curling. She curled for more than 30 years, serving as both skip and president of the Tecumseh Curling Club and even guiding a team to a local trophy one year.
One of her favourite pastimes was knitting. Blanche and a group of women would gather weekly to knit and chat. Although not prone to cursing, she used to fondly refer to their little group as the Stitch and Bitch Club.
Well into her 90s, Blanche still drove a car, played bridge and attended church. A petite woman, she nevertheless carried herself with a tremendous sense of dignity and pride. She would usually don a new hat and different pair of shoes each and every week for Sunday mass.
After Leo died from Parkinson's disease in 1987, their daughter Carole moved back home and lived with Blanche in the family house in Gatineau for the next 20 years. Perhaps Blanche's proudest and happiest moments were the annual family gatherings on New Year's Day. As the years wore on, Blanche's house, which was already quite small, became increasingly crowded each New Year's as many of her nine grandchildren, their spouses and five great-grandchildren crammed in.
With Blanche now gone, New Year's Day just won't be the same.
Fraser Needham is Blanche's grandson.