Robert A. Violette is a 67 year old male of French‑ Acadian decent. He has lived his entire life in the small northern Maine town of Van Buren, nestled on the banks of the mighty Saint John River. “Bob” as he is most often called has retired and lives with Gloria, his wife of 47 years. Together they’ve raised a family of seven all adults now and are the proud grandparents of 15 healthy and active grandchildren. Bob himself was raised in a large family of mostly boys having only one sister the oldest of their family. His parents, Vital E. Violette and Estelle Bosse Violette, were descendents of the original Acadian families deported from Nova Scotia in the early 1700’s by English Loyalists.
Bob’s cultural heritage and family ties are deeply rooted in the soil of the Saint John River Valley. His strong cultural identity has given him a distinct sense of who he is and what he has accomplished thus far in his life. Bob Violette is a son, a husband, a father, a brother, a friend, and a unique individual. He is my father. Welcome to his story and the journey that is his life.
Family Background and the Early Years
My name is Robert Violette, more commonly known as Bob Violette. I was born October 28, 1933, in Van Buren where I’ve resided all of my life. I was born in a French Acadian family, Van Buren being a boundary town between New Brunswick and Maine. My family consisted of eight. I have one sister, which was the oldest of the family, and I have seven brothers. I was the fifth of the seven.
My family was traditionally French. My maiden language is French. I learned English in school. We were a very Catholic family, where church and devotion was a strong part of our upbringing. My early years, the first four or five years, I don’t have much recollection of what was happening, I remember when I started school. I was four years old when I started school. I guess probably the reason I started school at four I might have been a handful for my mother. Therefore, she decided it was best probably if I was to attend school. And I don’t remember very much of my first year in school except of trying always to get out of going to school either complaining I was sick or it was too cold or whatever reason a four and a half/five year old can come up with.
I was very fortunate that my father was a businessman and my mother was a schoolteacher. She had taught school before she met my father. She taught school also a few years after she was married. My mother was born, not in Van Buren, was born in St. Agathe. And my father, though, was born in Van Buren. And my mother came to teach school in one of the rural areas, in Van Buren, and that’s how she met my father.
I grew up during the depression years, but I have no recollection of the hardships that some families went through. Also, talking with my older brothers, our family did not experience this probably as much as some farming families did, or other families where there was hardly any employment, because my father had a grocery store and a meat market at that time. And this provided for our family.
The year also that I was born in 1933, my father built a new house on Main Street in Van Buren. It was a big house we had five bedrooms and that is the house that I grew up in. The house was two stories with a cellar and it was a beautiful home. It was my father’s pride and my mother’s also. They were very, very proud of their home. My father and my mother worked very hard towards maintaining this home and providing for their children, for us, the family.
My father also was very politically oriented. He served on many committees here in town and also was a representative to the legislature on two different occasions. Not consecutive terms, it was the 1930’s and early 40’s, and then also in the late 50’s.
Five of my brothers and my sister as I said, were much older than I was. Between my oldest sibling and I there’s seven years difference and then I have a brother that’s four years younger than me. Therefore, it was almost like two families in our household. Having that age difference, I was probably very much spoiled by my older brothers and also my sister. But it was a very, very happy home that we had. My parents were very good disciplinarians. We knew what our boundaries were and how far we could push certain things.
Another aspect of my life that I should mention about growing up in a household of seven boys was that my sister was the oldest one. She always had a special place in our hearts. Her name was Adelaide and she was probably the pearl of the family, there’s no doubt about that. She was a very, very gentle and kind lady. Her home was always open to any of us if we wanted to go visit and it was always very nice to go visit with my sister even after she got married and had a family of her own.
My brothers, five of them being quite a bit older than I was I probably was spoiled by them, meaning that they would allow me to follow them, to do certain things, go to ball games and they’d look after me. They taught me how to swim how to hunt, how to fish and some of things I did I probably would not have had the opportunity to do had it not been for my brothers. Sadly now some of them have died but they’re still a big part of my fife. We were a very close family and we always enjoyed each other’s company. We always had new things to discuss, we were not bashful at all with each other, even the cousins who grew up together. It was one big happy family. I think that comes from my mother and father saying that the home was the most important aspect of anybody’s life. If you had a good relationship with your siblings, with your children, that was true happiness. It certainly is very true in my case because my children I love very dearly, my grandchildren also. I get a tremendous rush out of seeing my grandchildren. They’re all very smart, in their own way they all have something special to show me. This is one of the best blessings out of being a grandfather is through your grandchildren.
My father did not have any education beyond the eighth grade and that was a priority in his life to see that his children would have much more education than he had. Throughout his life, sometimes he would feet a little bit inferior to other contacts that he came with due to his education. But my mother was a graduate of Fort Kent normal school and therefore it provided for a good balance in our household. My mother saw to it that we kept our grades up in school and did the best we could and if we slacked in our schooling or something, my mother and father were very, very quick to see that we would get back up to speed. I’m glad that this was the way that I was brought up.
Also, it was a traditional Catholic family. It was a priority to attend church services on a year round basis, especially during lent when we had to go to confession and do penance of some kind. Our parents saw to it that we had to go to Mass during Lent every day unless we were sick, and during the year. Also every Sunday we would have to go to church and our parents would bring us to church, which is a form of discipline which I am grateful for, because I still pretty much follow this tradition today and I brought up my own family in that way. What they do now, they’re all adults, I have no control over, but nevertheless I feel that my wife and I, we did not waste our time bringing them up the way we did.
Coming back to my childhood, my younger years, my father had a grocery store and a meat market as I mentioned and he also had a feed store. He was a distributor for Ralston Purina Feeds and we had this grain shed next to the store and also we had a slaughter house and he would butcher his own meat that he sold at the store which he would buy from the farmers. Everything was local all the meat was local the beef, pork, chickens, nothing was bought out of the area and transported in, it was all locally grown on the farms. This was the way of doing business at that time. There was quite a bit of barter involved in the system. My father would trade with the farmers for say oats, beet and pork for a certain amount of groceries at the store and also there was a certain amount of dollars exchanged at the store and this made for a good balance. My father was very articulate in that respect, he never took advantage of the farmers, he always paid them the price they both agreed on and this meant that he could make a profit on the product that he could sell. The farmers would also be provided with what they needed from the store. Then later on when I was about maybe four or five years old my father bought a farm. It was mainly a wood lot but there was cleared land probably about 30 acres of that land that was cleared on that property here and he also planted potatoes for a number of years. Therefore I was raised in an environment that was very business oriented and very diversified through stores and farming ‑ typical rural area. It’s probably served me later on in life when I also went into business for myself
When I became eight or nine years old I became an alter‑boy. This was pretty traditional of the French Catholic families. Most all the boys served Mass at church services. And Mass was always very early in the morning. First Mass was at 6:00 and second Mass was at 7:00. So let me tell you we were never late for school because if you happened to have served the 6:00 Mass then you had ample time to come home and have your breakfast then be on your way to school.
My schooling was such that I was taught by nuns at Sacred Heart School till high school then in high school again most of the teachers were Marrist Priests which I was very fortunate as they were a very dedicated instructors, both the nuns and the priests. There were some lay teachers but the majority of the teachers were of a religious order, which I will get more into later on.
In the neighborhood that I grow up in there were a lot of boys and girls my age. It was a very happy neighborhood. We would play games, we always had something going, ballgames, hide‑and‑ seek, we’d make all kinds of games and in the summer time when school was out and even in the winter time. In the winter there were snow activities, we would snowshoe, we would ski, and we would dig tunnels in the snow banks. We were very busy. Also in the summer not like today the community did not provide for summer recreation, we had more or less make our own recreation. We always had some ball team or something going and I say it was a very happy childhood. We didn’t have swimming pools but we had swimming holes and there was a brook running about half a mile behind the house that I grew up in and the name of the brook was Violette Brook. There were a few deep water holes and those were the places we would go swim and we enjoyed doing that very much. Those were some of the summer activities that we did.
Also the farmers in the summer would always have for some of us when we got to be about the age of twelve or thirteen years. We would go pick rocks in the fields or else walk through the potato rows and pick bad weeds such as kale or mustard. For that service sometimes we’d be paid 25 cents a day, which was very encouraging because it would give us spending money. As I mentioned before growing up during the depression we were probably better off than some of the other families. Our parents always made us be thankful for what we had. If there were some families that were poorer than us it was not because they were not as smart as we were it because this was the way things were. We were brought up to be very respectful of everybody regardless of their social status here in town.
When World War II started in 1941, I remember that very, very well and some of my brothers, three of my brothers, served in the armed forces. In our little town of that time which the population was about probably 5,000 and if memory serves me right we had about six or seven hundred boys at a time that served in the military during WWII. So almost every family in town had sons in the military. Our parents during those years, my mother and father, were very much worried about the welfare of my brothers. Fortunately they all came back from the war. I have a brother who received two Purple Heart Medals during the war for being wounded twice but the two others, one was in the Air Force, the other one was in the Navy, they both went through the war without having any problems. But I remember every night after supper we would all kneel down, recite the Rosary so that everybody would return home safely and that this war would come to an end where families could be reunited. It was always a very, very sad occasion in our town when one of the boys would be reported killed in action or taken prisoner of war, which happened. Because everybody knew everybody, all the families knew everybody and so I remember our parents having us pray for these families and to have compassion towards them because they were going through very rough times. And it was very sad because all these young men would leave home and they were just teenagers most of them, eighteen or nineteen most of them. I don’t remember how many of them never returned home but there was quite a few because as I said I was an alter boy at that time and it seems to me that military funerals we had I remember being an alter server on many of these funerals. There were other alter servers that served at other funerals so it was always a sad occasion when one of these young men was reported “missing, in action” which always turned out 99 percent of the time that they had been killed in action.
Also during WWII I remember everything being rationed. Gasoline, sugar, rubber, a lot of commodities such as these were rationed. Some people had automobiles and some had to put them away because they could not get enough gasoline to run them. Therefore they would probably run them just a few days out of the month or on very, very special occasions that they just had to, other than that they could not buy the gasoline, it was not available. If they needed such repair parts such as tires, I remember very well, tires were not to be had. They would repair tires and they would do everything they could to keep them inflated so that they could use them. So it was very, very common to see people walk three or four miles to go someplace because even if they had an automobile they could not use it due to the rationing of the gasoline and the oil.
Most every town would have what they would call “scrap drives”. Here in town it was conducted by the fire department. They would go around a couple of times a year and farmers would provide some trucks and they would pick up all kinds of steel junk that they could. That was brought to the railroad station in town and transported to steel mills where this was reprocessed into war fighting materials.
As I mentioned during the war a lot of commodities were rationed but being a border town some of those commodities were plentiful in Canada such as butter, sugar, and other goods. There was quite a bit of smuggling done over the Saint John River by individuals and also by merchants. My father was quite heavy into this business. He would go in Canada and buy certain goods and cross them either on the ice if it was in the winter‑ time or by boat in the summer time. Word would get around that a product was available at my father’s store and from that he had quite a little business that flourished during the war years. There was nothing sinful or harmful about it, if he would have been caught he would have had to pay but he never was caught so that was another one of my father’s many enterprises.
Also during WWII it was an exciting time for a young boy, a young person to grow up. We lived approximately 35 miles from Presque Isle and Presque Isle had the Air Force in the early ’40s build an air base there. There was a lot of air traffic, transport airplanes, military planes landed there in Presque Isle then flying to Labrador then on to Europe. It was common for us to see convoys of planes, 35‑40 planes fly overhead and they would probably be four or five thousand feet in the air. It was quite exciting to stand outside and see those fly by on clear days and wonder what was inside those planes and where they were heading to. And so this was also part of my memories of WWII. A lot of times some of those same planes after two or three days they would be coming back and landing into Presque Isle to pick up other loads of freight. So that always sparked an interest in me probably at that time about flying and these airplanes which I will get into a little later in my story.
I was lucky when growing up with my father involved in different enterprises showed me a very strong work ethic. After school we had to do our homework when we arrived from school, when I did anyway, and then I’d have to get into some working clothes and go to my father’s store where he always some chore for me to do. It was either sweep the floor, or pack the shelves with goods, or tend to the customers, help the customers out. It was very interesting and my father would always let us go play ball or if there was some school activity he wouldn’t deny us of that. But working was part of our growing up and we had to learn to be responsible which I think today is hard for parents to do.
Young Adulthood, Married Life, and Career
During high school I was fortunate to have good teachers. If I did not get everything out of high school that was there it was by no means the fault of the teachers it was my fault that I probably had more interest in other things than being a bookworm. But that’s the way it was. I was glad that I could always maintain passing grades but probably not doing my best and sometimes I found that my mother hassled me needlessly because she knew I could do better where I always tried to get by with the least I could do. Later on in life I realized that certain things had I maybe put a little more effort into it would have been beneficial but that’s all water under the bridge so there was nothing I could do about it.
In my high school years I was a class officer in my junior and senior years and also I was a driver for the priests. Van Buren at that time had converted one of the schools into a high school. That was probably a mile from where the priests resided. They had a car and in the morning four of five of them would come with the principal who was Father Vereau and they would come to school early and then I would take the car and get the rest of the teachers. That was a privilege to do that because it showed that I was responsible and it instilled a form of trustworthiness in me to be a chauffeur for the priests. I did that my junior and part of my senior year.
During my junior year Van Buren built a brand new high school and after the first semester of my senior year we moved into the new school in 1951 and I graduated in 1951 so half of my senior year, the school year of 1951 was into this new building. In my senior year if I remember right, I took up flying lessons. We had a little landing strip here in Van Buren and there was a man by the name of Aubrey Cyr that gave flying lessons and had a little charter service. He would fly fishermen to remote places in the summer and hunters in the fall and he also was a flight instructor. I took flying lessons and I learned to fly little planes, they were just Cubs, Piper Cubs, Aeroneas, Cessnas 120’s‑ 140’s and that was quite a thrill for me to do that. And about that time I met my high school sweetheart who became my wife later on. Being a young teenager and being granted the privilege of flying I would go do acrobatic things around my wife’s farmhouse. I would buzz the house or do other stupid things that teenagers do without realizing I was putting myself or others in danger but that was quite a thrill for me. I really enjoyed flying and I kept this up for a number of years but then after I got married it was quite an expensive hobby and I could never afford to buy a plane of my own therefore I had to more or less give it up. But in the meantime it was something that I really loved and enjoyed doing. I could fly on wheels, take off on wheels and also on floats on the river or lakes and also on skis in the winter‑ time. I had accomplished this by the time I was nineteen years old.
Then after my senior year I went to college in Burlington Vermont, Saint Michael’s. Sadly that did not last very long because when I left home to go to school I had met my future wife. We were both teenagers but I was in love and I was very lonely. So after one semester in school in Vermont my advisor, in so many words, said that half of what I was going to learn there would not be of any use and the other half I’d forget by the time I could use it, so I came back home. My father put me to work he put me to work in the woods. By then he was buying pulp‑ wood for the Great Northern Paper Company from farmers or wood lot owners and I would haul this pulp‑ wood with a truck. I would haul it in the truck body and put it in railroad cars to be shipped out which was very hard, back‑breaking work. I think my father’s reasoning was that if I work him hard enough then he’s going to beg me to go back to school but it didn’t quite work out that way. It was the type of labor that I loved and I just kept at it and that turned out to be the work of my life, working in the woods.
In the meantime I got married with my sweetheart, Gloria. I was twenty years old and she was nineteen and within a year we had our first child, Roberta. And then in seven years we had six children so the family grew very rapidly. I was lucky that I had good health and it’s amazing how we could get along with so little yet we always had plenty to eat and for a while we lived in an apartment. When we got married we lived in this beautiful little apartment and the house was always clean, everything was always in its place. My wife was an exceptional housekeeper and an exceptional mother. These six children grew up to make us very, very proud every single one of them. We adopted a son after our youngest child was six years old. This little baby came into our lives he was just ten days old. And subsequently we adopted him and he became one of us one of the children. He grew up with the rest of the family and we never considered him an adopted child and he was accepted by his brothers and sisters, just one of the family members. We’re very glad we were able to do this for him; it was also an extreme pleasure and joy for us to do this. I should say that my family consists of three sons and four daughters. We are blessed with fifteen grandchildren that we’re all very proud of, they’re all in good health and we’re very fortunate and very blessed along those lines.
Coming back to working in the woods, as I said my father had started buying wood for the Great Northern Paper Company so I worked in the woods. I hauled the wood pulp or logs whatever they were with a truck and then as the years progressed my father’s woods business always grew over the years more and more till it got to be too demanding. He decided to sell the grocery store and the feed store to some of my brothers. They bought their part of that business and I went in the woods so my father said, “I’ll expand this woods business and if you want to work with me and I’ll give you a job.” And I said, ” Very well, sure.” And that’s what he did. I worked maybe seven or eight years with my father then he became a contractor. By contractor I mean he would contract X number of cords of pulp wood for the Great Northern Paper and have this cut and delivered to the railhead which was then put on cars and shipped to Millinocket. I worked for my father as a foreman, payroll clerk and we employed about 20‑25 men and also ran a lumber camp. By camp I mean we had a cook room, lodging camp and we cut on property owned by the Great Northern Paper Company. We worked in the Portage Lake area, and Ashland area.
Then in 1963 my father retired. He decided it was time for him to get out of the business and I was able to buy him out to work out a deal with him to buy whatever equipment we had at that time. I subsequently got a contract, also became a contractor for Great Northern Paper Company and I did this for 33 years working as an independent contractor for the paper‑ company. That became my lively hood and that’s how I raised my family. It was a good business. My wife did not have to work outside the home, with seven children God knows she had her hands full. For about twenty years I worked too far from home that I had to commute. I’d go up early Monday morning and come back down Wednesday nights and then sometimes come back Friday or Saturday. So for about twenty years that’s the way we lived cause this was my job, my lively hood. I had a crew of men and we worked about ten months out of the year in the woods, the other two months I would spend repairing equipment. By then the business was getting mechanized but when I started with my father the wood was all hauled road‑side by horses. Chainsaws were just coming into existence. They were big, bulky, nonfunctioning machines that were very hard to operate and they were costly also at that time. For some years the biggest part of the crew would cut and bring the wood down with axes and buck‑saws rather than with chainsaws. Better machines and better equipment was being manufactured to the point that the last years that I worked in the woods I don’t think you could have found an ax among a crew of 20‑25 men. No axes, all chainsaws, everything was all mechanized.
When I started contracting on my own in 1963 my first job that I had from the Great Northern was in the, Allagash area. We would truck the wood to Saint Francis, which was probably 35‑38 miles from where we would cut the wood. I worked up in that area for about ten years. That was probably some of the best wood I’ve ever seen and we would harvest this wood on what we call “selective cutting”. We would not cut anything below ten ‑ twelve inches in diameter. Anything below that was left standing and anything greater than that diameter we would cut. It would all be processed for paper. During those years were probably some of the peak years for this paper company in the manufacturing of paper and they needed an extremely big supply of raw material. They were good years too, I was fortunate to get into that business at the time that I did because that was probably some of the best time.
Profit wise profit was very marginal but we managed to survive. Through the years everything got more mechanized, cranes to load the wood on the trucks came into being, skidders to take the wood road‑side replaced the horses. Then four‑ foot wood gave way to tree length wood and tree length wood evolved again into different types of cranes and different types of trucks. It was tractor trailer trucks we had to put the wood on and this was a whole new era for the logging industry in Maine. Road systems had to be built and it came to a point where a contractor was not just a supplier of raw materials. We also were road builders. We had to build roads to transport this wood in the summer time, we had to bad bridges, culverts and gravel some of these roads. We had to shape them to be all weather roads and the so the industry evolved to just moving wood in the winter time on frozen ground to being capable of moving wood nine to ten months out of the year.
In the wintertime you would cut and operated in the muddy areas, the wet areas, when you could take advantage of frozen ground and in the spring and summer time you would move you’re operation to higher ground where the ground was better. That’s how we were capable of doing it. It was a very interesting time to work in the woods. That was also during the time of then bud‑worm infestation and this really devastated some parts of the woods up north especially where there was nothing to stop them, no barriers. These bud‑worms would start let’s say, on the side of a river and just work their way inland. In a matter of three or four years everything would be dead, all dried out, the green trees, the spruce and the evergreens trees. It was just as if a fire had gone through the area. It was a real devastation period for the woods, for the lumbering industry. Millions and millions of cords of wood were lost because there came a time when they were unsalvageable. They were not good for pulp and neither for were they of any use for logs because they were too dried up. That was a very bad, sad period in the woods.
After working in the Allagash for a number of years I moved my logging operation to another area that the land belonged to the Great Northern and I worked in that area again for a number of years. That was quite a big commute for me, it was over a hundred miles one way and about 60 of those miles was on woods roads. I’d have to leave very early Monday morning to get up there and especially in the winter‑time it was quite a hassle. Sometimes you had to be ahead of the snowstorms, if there happened to be a snowstorm over the weekend. Also it happened that there were snowstorms over the weekends so you had to stay in the woods on the weekend for the duration of the storm to be sure that you were able to clear your roads. I’ll get away from this a bit to get back to my family, my children.
As I said we have seven children and it made for a very lively household. I was very fortunate that they all had excellent health. We never had any major crisis health wise and they were all involved in extra‑curricular activities at school such as sports or other activities. They were busy they would kept themselves busy. In the meantime in 1965 we bought a new home which was the ideal place to raise a large family. It was on a dead end street in Van Buren and a fairly new house. It was large enough for our family and we had ample land around the place for the kids to play. The house was situated against a hill. In the winter it was a great place to slide, ski, and toboggan, whatever they could think of. When my children were growing up also, when the family was growing up there were a lot of children in the neighborhood. Just in the neighborhood you could count maybe 20‑25 kids all the ages of my family. We had lawns around the house and the boys when they reached a certain age they had to keep the grass mowed. They did it reluctantly but it managed to get done in the summer time and the girls were busy helping their mother take care of the house.
My wife was an exceptional housekeeper and a four star mother. The vocation of that woman was to raise children and take care of them and to take of a home, a house. I was very fortunate to have that type of a late to spend my life with because this made it possible for me to do the line of work that I was doing. Because I was not home a lot of the responsibilities would fall on her to bring the kids up. As I say I think everyone is put on this earth for a vocation and that was her vocation to see that the kids did well in school, that they were well clothed and their clothing was always clean, and they were well fed. She was always there to sit and talk with them and to listen to them. If there was anything that could not be corrected or needed input it was put on hold until I’d come down from my job and it was taken care to the best of our ability.
Later on as things turned out the Great Northern offered me a job that was just ten or fifteen miles from home then I could be home everyday, every night. That was just a snap after having worked a hundred miles from home those number of years then all of a sudden finding myself just ten twelve miles, I almost didn’t know what to do with my time. Where previously I had to spend two to three hours driving to work, now I could do it in twenty minutes. It took me a little while to get accustomed to that but I was very, very fortunate to be able to do that, to find this job this close to home. I did the rest of my career in the woods in that particular area.
When I worked in the woods I had a crew most of the time of about eighteen, twenty‑two, twenty‑five men and I had a foreman. My brother was my foreman, an older brother, he worked for twenty years and after twenty years he decided he’d like to do something else and he had found another line of work that was much easier on him. He went to work for the school district and my son, Peter, who was working in the woods with me at the time, became my foreman. He remained with me as a foreman tin he bought me out, till I’d decided I’d been doing this long enough.
The part of my job that I loved the most was building roads and driving heavy equipment. I liked to drive big trucks, bulldozers, graders, and pay loaders. I liked to do that and also that was my part of the job. As we got more mechanized, the job sort of became like two jobs. We’d cut the wood and bring it road‑side and we would have to haul this wood not just in the winter‑ time but also in the summer time. The job evolved into two parts like cutting and hauling. And hauling the product meant road building and that is probably the part of the job that I enjoyed the most, building the roads and bridges. Seeing to it that the wood would move that the trucks could get in and out. In the winter time keeping the roads well plowed and the hills well sanded so there was no tie up in the equipment and we could move on a regular basis all the time. That’s how the job progressed. That’s how it was run until I retired.
During those years I developed certain health problems. I had to have back operations and neck operations that were caused by work related injuries. It got harder and harder for me to do what I wanted to do so at a certain time I was advised that it would be best if I stopped doing this here, running heavy equipment, a lot of walking in the woods or what the job required. That’s when I decided that I should probably retire and give somebody else a chance. Peter, my oldest son, bought me out and he kept on doing this a number of years. He was the third generation of Violettes to have contracted wood for the Great Northern Paper Company. Today Great Northern is no more therefore he is not doing this either anymore which is probably better because he was smarter than me, he quit while he was still ahead, not like me when my health was gone. I was fortunate to get into a line of work that every morning I always looked forward to going to work, I did not do this reluctantly. It was a healthy job, I was out in the open but it was a hard job working in all kinds of weather but there were some rewards, ample rewards I might say.
Family Life and Activities
As a family we always enjoyed traveling very much. Back about 1967‑68 we bought a pop‑up camper. With that little pop‑up in the summer, I’d always take a week off, or on weekends we’d always find someplace to go, some place new to explore. The kids would really enjoy this and so would my wife and I. I think by doing this together as a family it probably brought us quite a bit closer. We would all sit around the fire at night and tell stories and roast marshmallows. Then we’d all go to bed and everybody was all tired out. We really enjoyed doing this and there were always new things to see, we could always find new thing to explore or a new place to go. Over the years we’ve always done this even when we were all alone, Gloria and I, we’ve kept this way of life. We’re on our fifth motor home. Many years we’d always get done in the woods about at the end of March, mid March, we’d pack up and go south for a month or so. We’d go to Florida. We did this a number of times. The last three years we have not because my health is not what it was and to travel a couple of hundred miles, a couple of thousand miles, I mean in one stretch I would probably find it too hard. But in the summer we still within a radius of six‑ seven hundred miles take our home into Canada and in the states. We enjoy doing this,
this is our main recreation thing. Its part of our retirement we travel to new places, meet new friends, and different people. We’ve made it a big part of our life. We never really liked to stay in motels. It’s also probably in the log run a little bit cheaper. I don’t think we could afford to do the traveling that we do if we didn’t have our own motor home.
Present Day and the Future
Today we still live in our home in Van Buren and I don’t know how long we’ll be able to live in our house. There’ll come a time when for Gloria and I because the house is kind of big and I my health is not what it was even five years ago. I have certain medical conditions that have slowed me down. But we’re going to stay as long as we can in this home because this is the home that we raised our family in and the walls are loaded with memories. It is still the refuge of the children. When they come here it’s their home and will always be and also for my grandchildren. My grandchildren appreciate coning to Pepere and Memere’s. Memere always has special treats for them. But what makes it hard is it’s getting harder for us to take care of the property. We always have to have hired help. I can not shovel my roof anymore and I have to have somebody do that. A lot of things, little things that I used to be capable of doing like mowing my grass, I now have Sean, one of my grandsons do it in the summer time. It’s getting more and more that we have to depend on outside help. I see that we are losing a little bit of our independence
and this is hard especially for me to go through. But I have to face reality. I’m not at the same point that I was at fifty years old. My health is not what I wish it would be. But I’m still ever grateful that when I needed good health, when I was raising my family, putting them through school that I had good health. I thank the Lord that I was in this line of work that I could make a profit at and we did pretty well all told. We’re not rich by any means but we can still take care of ourselves. We lived a very comfortable life and I gave as much to my children as I could. We’re very fortunate that we’ve been capable of doing this here. Again it was through teamwork between Gloria and I, I alone could not have done it and I depend on her very much. She stood by me through thick and thin. She’s the one that cares for me, takes care of me and I could not ask for a better nurse. Her heart, her life is devoted to me as mine is to her. So we’re thankful that we’ve always been in love with each other. She was first and only love and we’ve always had a warm relationship. We’ve raised our family along those lines also.
I have to this day maintained a very strong faith in my higher power, which to me is God. I believe very much that without his help and the intervention of God I could not probably have gone through this life as easily as I did as compared to some who have had to struggle either financially or health wise most of their lives. I’ve never experienced that. Whatever financial problems I’ve had they were nothing as compared to some of my friends, some people that I knew who ended up losing everything and literally having to start over again. I never experienced that and today at the age of 67 my health is not what it used to be at the age of 57 or 47 but that’s to be expected. Whatever life has to throw at me I will take. Every morning I’m very thankful that I’m still capable of getting myself out of bed and doing what I want to do that day.
Part III: Reflective Summary
There was never a question in my mind as to who I’d choose to interview for this Life Story assignment. The individual would be someone who had always been influential in my life, someone I cared a great deal about, someone I admired a lot, and someone I’d tried to model throughout my life. That someone is my father, the first man in my life, the one whose name I carry, and the one who always believed in me even during my moments of wavering uncertainty.
Listening to my father’s story reminds me of why he’s always been larger than life in my eyes. He tells his story as a grown man while remembering to see the details as a child, a teenager, and a young man. As his daughter and oldest child I’ve always seen my dad as strong, intelligent, driven, and witty. On a few occasions I have known a different side of my father. This is the part of him that is reserved for life’s ordeals, the times when I need his love, support and guidance. And those times always end with a soft kiss on the top of my head, like a blessing, this is a sure sign that everything will somehow work out. Over the years he’s continued to be a source of inspiration for my siblings and myself Our family has always been his grounding force the source of his determination, and at times the one true constant in his life. Like his father before him, Bob Violette is a proud citizen of the small French Acadian community he’s known and been a part of all his life.
In his story I hear and see my father as the young child he once was, the boy caught up in the excitement and drama of World War II. I see his life as it was during a time that I can only read about and image for myself I can also feel the pain of that time as he tells of the families who lost sons, brothers, uncles, and sweethearts. How a small community far removed from the horrors of war knew pain and suffering through the loss of young lives. I see a time that united all families with the common thread of patriotism prayer, hope, and unfortunately great loss. And as such, I can better appreciate the ultimate sacrifice endured by many of the families my father knew so well during his youth.