Winemaker, teacher, community leader, grandmother. Born July 3, 1918, in Bordeaux, France, died Aug. 7, 2012, in Montreal of heart failure, aged 94.
Yolande Recurt Saint-Blancard was born in Bordeaux at the height of the First World War while her father, Gaston, commanded cannons from the trenches. As a reminder of the need for optimism during hard times, Yolande often quoted Gaston’s motto: “It’s going well, it’s going well, it’s going very well.”
Yolande was an active little girl who spent hours swinging on the backyard trapeze, sliding across newly waxed floors and down the staircase bannister. A subscription to La Semaine de Suzette spawned her love of literature, and in 1936 she enrolled at the University of Bordeaux to study Letters.
At 19, after her father died, Yolande became breadwinner for her mother and sister, tutoring and teaching while she studied.
She lived in occupied France during the Second World War, and amid rationing and curfews she exercised her creativity by drawing a pen line down each leg to emulate stockings. Later, she told her grandchildren on full-moon nights that the light might be beautiful, but it also made ideal conditions for air raids.
In 1950, she married winemaker Jean Recurt. She helped run their small vineyard and taught school while raising three daughters: Myriam, Marie-Claire and Elisabeth.
Always engaged in the community, Yolande helped found her village’s association familiale, established a much-needed bus service for high schoolers and created a youth theatre company.
She took equal pleasure in directing their Molière comedies and sewing costumes late into the evening.
The prospect of greater opportunity brought the family to Canada in 1962.
They settled in Nicolet, Que., where Yolande taught at the Collège Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. She co-founded the Nicolet “Jeunes Visages” – a troupe of teenagers who mounted plays and traditional dances in theme with community celebrations.
A move to Quebec City for her children’s schooling led Yolande to lecture in literature at Laval University.
All three of her daughters and one grandchild followed her example and pursued careers in education.
Once retired, Yolande devoted herself to her grandchildren Mary (Ninou), Patrick and Natacha. She travelled long distances by bus to care for them, sometimes for weeks at a time. She taught them to knit and recite poetry, and to read, using her unique methodology of tracing letters into sugar on the kitchen table.
On playground outings, she encouraged her grandchildren to swing from the monkey bars. “Don’t worry. If you’re not scared, you won’t fall,” she’d counsel.
Yolande loved Canada and was honoured to meet prime minister Pierre Trudeau one monkey-bar-coaching afternoon on Sherbrooke Street.
“Ahhh, Monsieur Trudeau!” She raised her hands. “What a pleasure!”
She passed away peacefully in her Montreal home two weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of her immigration to Canada. Her energy, generosity and love will be missed.
Mary B. Valencia is Yolande’s granddaughter.
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