Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
The header of this posting is dedicated to my father, Denis C. Beaulieu, the painting by Newell C. Wyeth is entitled; Lobstering off Black Spruce Ledge.
He loved the dish Lobster Thermidor and he also loved anything to do with the Sea.
On the afternoon of Sunday 12 July my father died suddenly while shopping in one of his favourite stores, Holt Renfrew in Montreal. He was transported to the Hotel Dieu de Montreal, the oldest hospital in the city founded 1645. My siblings and I cannot say enough good about the kindness, care and thoughtfulness of the hospital emergency staff. We are very grateful for their attention and care they gave to our father despite the fact that he was beyond help. Death came very quickly and he did not suffer according to the three doctors and ambulance para-medics who attended him.
My parents wedding 18 June 1955
Our mother had died on 28 September 2013 after a very lenghty illness. My father was suffering from increasing poor health with an accumulation of heart and lung problems aggravated by old age, he was 85. The weather on Sunday was very humid 90% and very hot around 32C a lethal combination for someone like him.
I arrived in Montreal from Ottawa around 19:30 hrs, I do not really remember the highway drive down, my mind so preoccupied and hoping that I might arrive before he left this world. He died around 18:00. It was strangely peaceful to sit with him for several hours in the hospital room. We had during his lifetime sat in the same room at home in silence both of us reading and exchanging a few words. The two of us had gone to Greece 5 years ago for his 80th birthday, during our trip he and I would often look at the scenery in silence. It was a similar experience and I was able to say my quiet goodbyes. I was happy to have this opportunity, just me and Dad.
My mother always said and it became a family joke, that we were, him and I so alike in mannerisms, figure of speech and voice, people often would think it was my father calling on the phone when in fact it was me. Now it is even stranger as I phone his friends I am quick to tell them it is me calling for fear they might think it was him and I would have to correct them and then announced his death.
After leaving the hospital, I was the first to arrive at his apartment in Westmount and looking around everything was in its habitual place just waiting his return, he had just left for a few hours for shopping, never to return. I just sat there and looked around so many memories in the various objects, many of them going back to my childhood.
My father had an incredible career in the Hotel Industry in Canada from 1960. He was a natural salesman and in marketing he always knew how to present his product and sell it. He also had the memory of an elephant and was able to recall names,places and events, even conversations years later. It was eerie but would fascinate clients who recalling events could not believe that he remembered so many things about them. As children we often lived at the hotel he managed and I being the oldest was able to observe his style, he had a lot of style, from the clothes he wore to the cars he drove, to interior decoration to design in general, to flower arrangements, to the food served or drinks, or the way he lived, life with Dad was never ordinary.
He was a man of opinions and as much as he could charm the birds off the trees, he could be harsh in his criticism if it had to do with hotels or restaurants and or shoddy service. He always believed that if a client paid, he was entitled to full value and then some. Cutting corners to make a fast profit was never his policy and would not put up with anyone even a colleague suggesting it. He was dismayed by today’s hospitality business and the poor service generally, considering the prices charged. He was lucky to work in the hotel field at a time when hotel service was still steeped in tradition unlike today.
Many of his clients through the years were famous people and often repeat customers. I got to meet some of them. He would get to know what they liked and kept notes. When the client arrived they would find the room with a bouquet of flowers they liked or with an item such as fresh juices or that special liquor bottle they favoured. His clients never forgot, he made them feel at ease and would get to know them personally and even be privy to confidences.
Dad and me, He is 30 years old and I am 5 years old. His first born,I am named after his own father who had died prematurely in 1954. This wonderful picture was taken by my uncle, we are reading a book together.
As a father he tried to give us some basics, he firmly believed that hard work would be rewarded. Every job even menial, his example, picking up city garbage deserved to be done well. He also wanted us to know the value of a dollar and look for good value in anything we bought. It was not always easy to be his son, he always had high expectations and would not put up with whatever, you always had to do better. I remember once he had a client who was the heir to a huge corporate fortune who was always complaining that he was so bored. My father could not understand why this fellow did not try to find something meaningful to do despite his fortune. This was an example for us not to follow, no matter what happened in life, always try to be useful to others.
I remember when I was sixteen my father found me a job in Lausanne, Switzerland, the seat of the famous hotel school. He sent me to a friend of his to work at the resort hotel his family managed on Lac Leman (lake Geneva). My father gave me a one way ticket and when I asked about the return portion, he told me that since I would be working I could come back once I had secured enough money to buy a return ticket, it is called learning to manage a budget. I was stunned. For several months I learned the hotel business, getting up at dawn to prepare the dining room for breakfast, polishing silverware and arranging table settings under the eagle eye of the Maitre d’Hotel, everything had to be perfect. I worked long hours sometimes up to 18 hours a day, 6 days a week and we were fed mostly, pig tripe in tomato sauce, not a bad dish, but not one of my favorites. I learned a lot during those months and did not at the time, fully appreciate it. But these were the kind of experiences my father thought were important to prepare us kids against the vagaries of life.
It is strange to think that he is gone. I think even Montreal will not look the same to me without him and mom. I won’t be able to have those conversations with him about restaurants, world politics and whatever or just sit with him in silence. I owe my Dad a great deal and I am very proud of him, I did not always agree with him but in the end as Mom would say, you are his son that cannot be denied.
Typical of him, there will be no funeral and he gave his body to the medical Faculty of McGill University. He did ask that we give a party in his memory, invite his friends and we must serve Champagne, that is what we will do.
Hotels he managed in his career; Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City 1960, Chateau Champlain, Hotel Bonaventure (construction phase and Opening 1966) Montreal. Four Seasons Hotel Montreal. King Edward (re-construction and re-opening) Toronto 1974, Hotel Meridien Montreal 1976, Hotel Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, Hotel Pierre, New York, Hotel Fairfax, 2100 Massachusetts ave. Washington DC in the Reagan years., Hotel St-Paul, in St-Paul, MN, Hotel Bristol, Paris, Hotel Stafford, London and then for many years the Private Club of the Royal Bank of Canada on the 41st floor of Place Ville Marie in Montreal.