February 23, 2011

Arthémise Dumais Lévesque

My Mémère (Grandmother) was baptized Arthémise Marie Dumais in 1874 at Ste-Anastasie de Lyster, Quebec, Canada.

She passed away in 1962 in Lawrence, Massachusetts where her family had migrated when she was a teenager.

I used to spend a great deal of time with my Mémère. Much of our extended family lived in the same neighborhood in nearby tenements. (They used to be called tenements whereas today they are given a sophisticated name of "apartments" - they are all the same. If you have a comfortable living, I suppose it is an apartment with amenities; if not, it is still a tenement with little amenities.)

My Mémère and I had a special relationship and I loved her dearly. There used to be evening novenas in the parish church almost year round. She used to take me with her as a small child - in the winter months I used to get tired pretty early and would fall asleep with my head leaning on her fur coat until she would wake me to go home. After all, playing out-of-doors for a young child was very tiring and by 7p.m. this child was ready to call it a day but would not miss going with Mémère for anything in the world. When I was in junior high and high school I would meet her at 6 a.m. Mass every morning.

Étienne "Stephen" Lévesque

My Pépère (Grandfather) was baptized Étienne Lévesque on in 1872 at Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, Baie-des-Sables, Matane, Quebec, Canada. He passed away on May 3, 1953 in Lawrence, Massachusetts where he too had migrated withhis family as a teenager. My grandmother and his mother were fourth cousins and I'm sure their relationship was not lost on the family.

As all immigrant families to Lawrence, their families settled into a French-Canadian ethnic neighborhood near their parish church of Ste Anne. The Italians, Lebanese, Irish etc. all had their own neighborhoods - it was almost like villages within the city. Each had everything it needed such as variety stores (markets), pharmacies as well as newspapers in their own ethnic tongue and social groups where they could meet and organize to be involved in the city.

My Pépère, like most immigrants who lived in Lawrence, worked in the mills. He worked for as long as I could remember in the Wood Mills - once the largest worsted mill industry in the country. At work, and as I discovered in other settings, he was known as Stephen which is English for Étienne.

I did not see a whole lot of him except when I slept over at their home. He would leave for work around 1p.m. - as did most of our family - begin working at 2p.m. and end work at 10 or 11p.m. My Pépère worked in the weave room as did most of our family. My mother, my sister and my brother worked at the Pacific Lower Mills situated on the canal. The Wood Mills were situated on the Merrimack River. The mills all went south in the 1950s because employees could be hired at much lower hourly rates. By the way, it is in Lawrence that the Bread and Roses Strike took place.

My grandparents married in 1895 at Ste-Anne Church, Lawrence, Massachusetts. The above photo was taken on the day they celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1945.

I believe that in remembering our ancestors, we honor their memory, their commitment, their faith and their love of family. There isn't a day when I don't think about them.

Lucie's Legacy

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