Tuesday 10 February 2009

Georges Devloo

Sad news from France: Au revoir to the grand-père of Vimy

Georges Devloo has died, at 85, and that means a tradition of respect and generosity and stunning hospitality has gone, too.

Vimy, that crucial French village so soaked in Canadian history and blood, is a place of pilgrimage. Anyone who opts to take a train there knows, though, that actually getting to the memorial is tough. It's nowhere near the station, and the station has no taxis. It has no phone. It has no employees. But, for the past 13 years, it had Monsieur Devloo.

He was the elderly man in the trench coat, beret and broad smile who virtually every day stood on the platform to wait for wayward Canadians and offered to take them to the memorial. He asked for absolutely nothing in return.

I had the privilege of meeting Georges Devloo last October when my wife and I visited Vimy Ridge. We were looking for a way to get back to the train station in Arras that did not involve trudging through the rain to the nearest town and waiting two hours for a bus, and by chance Monsieur Devloo was available.

Monsieur Devloo is really one of the friendliest guys you could ever hope to meet. Just after I took the above photo he popped open his hatch and pulled out a photo album of his own. We spent half an hour in the loading zone out front of the train station looking at photos as it rained. Georges didn't care about the rain. He was happy as punch to share his memories with a couple of Canadians. He had photos of friends and family, photos of Quebec, Ottawa, and here in Winnipeg. Yes, for a moment I was standing in a parking lot in northern France looking at a photo of the Saint Boniface Cathedral in the trunk of a car.

Although we only spent about an hour or so with him, it's an hour we will always remember because of his big smile, kind demeanor, and enthusiasm. Both my wife and I feel as though we lost a friend. Georges Devloo was certainly a friend to Canada and he will be missed.

c/p The Broom
h/t Mr Christian for the head's up on newwinnipeg.com


Scott MacNeil said...

Good post man,

In today's cynical climate amid our polarized polity its always heartening to read of something that speaks to a greater truth - kindness.

Graham said...

That's unfortunate.

If I go to France/Europe someday, I would not leave without visiting Vimy. Whenever it is that I get the oppurtunity to do that, at least I'll know now that I'll be missing out on part of the experience.

cherenkov said...

Thanks, FA.

Graham: there is no guarantee that you would have met him anyhow. Most people don't. In our case a staffer at the park phoned his house to see if he could come by and give us a lift. I think the staffer felt sorry for us because we walked through the rain to get there.

It is very much worth the trip to Vimy if you're in the area.

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