IN MEMORY OF LOUIS BOURASSA
To Orwell Today,
re: TRIBUTE TO LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA and JOHNNY BOURASSA'S MISSING PLANE
I'm a relative of this Bourassa family too - by marriage and perhaps a few generations further back - by blood. I am the daughter of Philomene St. Germain. My great grandmother was Angelique St. Germain (who was mother of Maria St. Germain that married Louis Bourassa). She was my Mom's "Aunty Maria" and I remember going to visit her where she lived kitty-corner to the original IGA store in Peace River. Is your mother Florence? I'd enjoy hearing from you on our mutual ancestors.
Do you have this poem? My Mom had clipped it out of an old newspaper years ago:
In Memory of Louis Bourassa
By the old Mission church, 'neath the pine and the birch
In the shade of a sad willow tree, they will point you the grave
Of a Frenchman brave, who sleeps 'neath the O.B.E.
Faithful to duty, he served his King, through 24 years of strife
And now a world is listening to the tale of a worthy life.
Some have served on the desert hot, and some on the raging sea,
But few have served through the time I wot, that won him the O.B.E.
Though the huskies lay dead in the traces, forward the mail must go,
And with pouches slung from his shoulder, he trudged through the frozen snow.
Never a trip was missing, never a mail was lost, he pressed on at a fearful cost.
When the birch and the pine tree are withered, and the tomes of our history are dust,
When the last British hero is honored, and the sword of the soldier is rust,
They will still tell the tale in the Northland, as the Voyageurs told it to me
How the King honored LOUIS BOURASSA, though dead*, awarding the Order B.E.
by James R. O'Farrell
Calgary, Oct 27, 1938
Along with this poem was the following text:
"For almost a quarter of a century Louis Bourassa carried the mail over the 300 mile route from Peace River to Fort Vermilion inside the Arctic circle in northern Canada. Through dense woods and muskeg swamps and bleak prairies, he rode his horse or drove his dog sled, without missing a single trip in 24 years. During the 1918 epidemic of the flu, through sickness and distress, the mail and its precious burden of medicine and comfort went forward without fail. A few years ago after half a lifetime spent at the task which his father had done before him, and which one of his six sturdy children carried on after him Louis was found one morning to have entered that long sleep which knows no waking. He is buried by the Old Mission church 15 miles north of the town of Peace River, and the Order of the British Empire, awarded after his death adorns the little home in Peace River where his memory is revered and honoured."
~ [end quoting from text] ~
I italicized and underlined two spots of error. Fort Vermilion is not inside the Arctic Circle as quoted. Louis is buried in the St. Augustine RC Mission cemetery about five miles south of Peace River bridge.
Over the years I've traced various early peace country family histories and pedigrees. Some amazing people. The Bourassa line goes way back in Quebec - a chap I corresponded with back in the 1980's provided me with lots of genealogical assistance on the Bourassa line. Dr. Mary Percy Jackson wrote a lot about Bourassa in her books.
Getting back to Johnny's plane going down in 1951 - I recall the gloom that hung over the family when we learned of the news, I was only 6 at the time. Years later when I lived in Yellowknife, and read of his search, I volunteered with Search & Rescue as a aerial spotter for the military when they were searching for Marten Hartwell in the 1970s, and also volunteered on a few other searches for downed aircraft. It was my way of repaying the people who spent hours searching for our family member in the 1950s.
Cheers for now,
It's wonderful to hear from a long-lost cousin of mutual ancestors. Yes, Florence was my mother (here's a story about her) and Maria nee St. Germain (who married Louis Bourassa) was my mother's mother (my grandmother) and Angelique was my mother's maternal grandmother (my great-grandmother). The web is truly the ultimate networking medium.
No, I've never seen that poem IN MEMORY OF LOUIS BOURASSAS (my grandfather) before. Thanks a million for sending it. But there's an error where it says that Louis died* before being honoured with the Order of the British Empire. Actually, he was alive when it arrived. Louis died in May 1935 and he was awarded the O.B.E. on January 1st, 1935. It was signed by TWO Kings - the present (at the time) King George V and the future King Edward VIII (who later abdicated). You can see the date and their signatures on the scan of the O.B.E. declaration with the O.B.E. medal that was awarded to Louis Bourassa. Beside it is the Instrument of Abdication of King Edward on December 19, 1936, showing the same signature he used to sign Louis' O.B.E., only this time with the initials "RI" after his name (instead of "P" for Prince). Note his father George had "RI" after his name on Louis' O.B.E. The 'R' and 'I' indicate 'king' and 'emperor' in Latin ('Rex' and 'Imperator').
Last year I made what I call "memory albums" with photos and newspaper clippings and articles about the history of the Bourassas and some about the St Germains. Now I'll add your valuable addition to the album .
One of my mother's other brothers - Raymond Bourassa - was a pilot too, but not a bush pilot like Johnny. Raymond was a career pilot in the RCAF after WWII (too young during the war) and he was stationed for many years in Saudi Arabia.
Raymond (Uncle Bunny) participated in the search for Ralph Flores and Helen Klaben whose plane went down on a flight from the Yukon to British Columbia in February 1963.
They were eventually found alive (barely) 49 days after going missing. I put the LIFE magazine story version of the rescue in my "memory album".
Then last year  I saw a story in the newspaper about a bush pilot named Jack McCallum who wrote a book and would be signing copies at the local COLES. I went to his book promotion and got an autographed copy of his TALES OF AN OLD BOLD PILOT WHO LIVED TO TELL HIS STORY OF FLYING THE NORTH. One of his chapters is about how he was the bush pilot who found Flores and Klaben.
It's a fascinating story and corrects alot of disinformation about that rescue, setting the record straight for once and for all. One day soon (now that you've inspired me) I'll share that chapter with readers. Jack McCallum is an unsung hero who needs to be sung.
Another good book about flying stories came out recently that includes a chapter about Johnny Bourassa - including a photo of the note he left in the plane. Below are the front and back covers of LOST: TRUE STORIES OF CANADIAN AVIATION TRAGEDIES, by Shirlee Smith Matheson:
I've added the full text of Johnny's note - and also the photo of the note - in context in the JOHNNY BOURASSA'S MISSING PLANE article.
Let's keep in touch now,
Great to hear from you... My Mom had also clipped the following obituaries, fragile and yellowed now - I'm not sure if you have seen these texts or not:
"Famed Courier Dies [22 May 1935] - Louis Bourassa, O.B.E., noted northern river pilot and mail courier of the lower Peace river, died suddenly of a heart attack Wednesday. Mr. Bourassa was on the New Year's honor list of His Majesty the King, being given the Order of the British Empire for his years of valiant service along northern trails with the mails."
............ NB this looks like it might have been clipped from an Edmonton newspaper.
"Pioneer Mail Carrier Died Tues. Night - The entire district was shocked to hear early Wednesday of the death of Louis Bourassa, pioneer mail carrier and river man, at his homestead in the Keg River district, some time during Tuesday night from a heart attack. Mr Bourassa had been attending to his usual work throughout the day, but upon trying to waken him in the morning it was discovered that he had passed away from heart failure. Louis Bourassa won fame and recognition for his many trips carrying mail to northern points for many years. Many were the hardships he had to endure and overcome and many were the exciting incidents as he battled the elements to get the mail through at all costs. Official recognition of this faithful service was given last January when he was appointed a Member of the British Empire in the King's New Year's honors list. The medal had only reached him a day or so before his untimely demise. Born at Fort Vermilion 49 years ago, Louis has been a real northerner, having lived his entire life in his native land. In 1913 he was married to Maria St.Germain who survives him along with a family of four sons and two daughters. Also surviving are his father John, aged pioneer, who lives at Fort Vermilion and several brothers. The remains of the late Mr. Bourassa will be brought to Peace River by O'Sullivan's boat in a few days where interment will be made. Residents in all parts of the North will regret the passing of this pioneer traveller and extend deepest sympathy to the bereaved."
........ NB This clipping is from a 1935 issue of the Peace River Record
"Father of Late Louis Bourassa, Died at Fort Vermilion [28 Nov 1941] - John Bourassa, oldest resident of this area, died Saturday after a short illness. He was born at Dunvegan more than 90 years ago but came to this district in his youth. Five sons and two daughters are the surviving family. One of his sons, Louis, received a decoration for services of many years as a mail courier between here and Peace River."
........Fort Vermilion area news in a Dec 1, 1941 edition of the Peace River Record
Cheers and yes, we must stay in touch,
EDWARD VIII STAMPS/POSTBOX/ABDICATION and ORWELL'S WALLINGTON ROYAL MAIL DELIVERY
Searching for Johnny Bourassa (compilation of articles and photos)
LEGENDS LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA and YUKON SURVIVORS FLORES FRIEND STORY and PILOT MCCALLUM RESCUED YUKON SURVIVORS and B-17 PILOT SPOTTED BOURASSA PLANE and THE FLYING BOURASSA BROTHERS and JOHNNY BOURASSA DIAMOND IN ROUGH and POEM MEMORY OF LOUIS BOURASSA and SNOW WALKER JOHNNY BOURASSA and U-2 SEARCHERS FIND BOURASSA and JOHNNY BOURASSA'S MISSING PLANE and JOHNNY BOURASSA FLIES FARLEY MOWAT and THE BOURASSAS OF PEACE RIVER and TRIBUTE TO LOUIS & JOHNNY BOURASSA
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