Cal­i­for­nian con­nects with past in Coat­i­cook

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Coat­i­cook

With all the at­ten­tion the 150th an­niver­sary of Coat­i­cook is get­ting and the many en­ter­tain­ing and dy­namic ac­tiv­i­ties that have been go­ing on all year, it’s no won­der that peo­ple from near nad far are vis­it­ing the his­toric town.

Last Satur­day, one vis­i­tor came from quite a dis­tance to visit Coat­i­cook for the first time and ‘get back to her roots’. “I knew a lit­tle about my fam­ily’s his­tory, but not much. I had tracked down that my grand­fa­ther had gone to Laval Univer­sity, but that’s as far as I could get. Then my nephew posted some in­for­ma­tion on An­ces­try. com,” ex­plained Ni­cole Du­rand Tonelli, of Col­fax, Cal­i­for­nia.

That post­ing would be the game changer in Mrs. Tonelli’s search for the past, at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of an am­a­teur his­to­rian and a for­mer pres­i­dent of the So­ci­eté d’his­toire de Coat­i­cook, Le­an­dre Gau­dreau. Mr. Gau­dreau was work­ing on an his­toric ar­ti­cle for the So­ci­ety on the Du­rand fam­ily and, in par­tic­u­lar, Dr. Charles Du­rand, Mrs. Tonelli’s pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther. He had come across a very old news­pa­per, back in 2004, with an ar­ti­cle about the death of Dr. Charles Du­rand in Col­fax, Cal­i­for­nia, where he had be­come a valu­able and well-loved mem­ber of the com­mu­nity, and he wanted to learn more. After all, the Du­rands were a prom­i­nent Coat­i­cook fam­ily and the town has both an el­e­men­tary school and a street named after two of its mem­bers.

Look­ing for the de­scen­dants of the Du­rands from Coat­i­cook, Mr. Gau­dreau re­cruited a cousin liv­ing in Maine, Pa­tri­cia Gau­dreau, to help him with his search. “Luck­ily, one of my cousin’s daugh­ters lived in Cal­i­for­nia, so she checked the phone­books for me to find Mrs. Tonelli,” he ex­plained.

Once con­tact was made by phone, in 2011, Le­an­dre and Ni­cole be­gan shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and photographs by email, filling in the miss­ing pieces for each other. “Le­an­dre gave me a lot of in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion. He found a lovely ar­ti­cle writ­ten about my grand­fa­ther when he died,” said Mrs. Tonelli. “So when he wrote to us about the 150th cel­e­bra­tions of the town and in­vited us to come for Town­ship­pers’ Day, we said Let’s go!” ex­plained Mrs. Tonelli who made the trip in Septem­ber with her hus­band Jerry and daugh­ter Celsa, who now lives in New York.

It be­ing their first visit to Canada, they spent a few days in Mon­treal and some time in Que­bec City where Mr. Gau­dreau and his wife Giselle showed them around, be­fore com­ing to Coat­i­cook for an ‘all-in­clu­sive’ whirl­wind tour on Town­ship­pers’ Day. Peo­ple who at­tended Ry-Guy the Ma­gi­cian’s show on T-Day ac­tu­ally got to meet Celsa Tonelli as she was cho- sen by Ry-Guy, who had been ap­proached be­fore the show by Le­an­dre, to come up on stage to help with a few tricks.

“We showed them the house where her grand­fa­ther, Dr. Charles Du­rand, lived be­fore mov­ing to Cal­i­for­nia for health rea­sons, in 1914. We showed them Du­rand Street, went to the ceme­tery where Ni­cole’s great­grand­fa­ther is buried, and we showed them the school named after Bishop Du­rand, her grand­fa­ther’s brother. We have a daugh­ter study­ing at Laval Univer­sity, so we brought them there, too,” said Mr. Gau­dreau. “She is a re­ally nice lady and they were a nice fam­ily,” he added.

“Mr. Gau­dreau, ev­ery­one in Coat­i­cook, re­ally ev­ery­one in Que­bec that we met in ho­tels, on the streets, and in restau­rants was charm­ing and gra­cious. We got to meet mayor Lamoureux and vis­ited the Beaulne Mu­seum, which was fab­u­lous, and the Coat­i­cook his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. The peo­ple there were very help­ful, mak­ing copies of doc­u­ments about the Du­rand fam­ily for me. My great-grand­fa­ther was mar­ried to Alice Cut­ting who could be re­lated to Gerry Cut­ting, the pres­i­dent of Town­ship­pers’ As­so­ci­a­tion,” com­mented Ni­cole from Cal­i­for­nia.

“One thing that I no­ticed while we were driv­ing and walk­ing around Coat­i­cook, look­ing at the homes with their big porches, the hills around the town, it re­minded me a lot of Col­fax. I can un­der­stand why my grand­fa­ther felt at home in Col­fax.

“The Gau­dreaus were such lovely hosts and we learnt so much from Le­an­dre’s re­search. We had a won­der­ful and in­for­ma­tive visit,” said Mrs. Tonelli.

“We didn’t know each other at all be­fore this, but that’s what I love about re­search­ing his­tory,” said Mr. Gau­dreau who pro­vided the in­for­ma­tion about avi­a­tor Roger Smith to the town which re­sulted in a new street be­ing named in his hon­our. “That’s what I find im­por­tant about his­tory: not the build­ings and land­marks, but the peo­ple.”

“It was very mov­ing to find this lit­tle piece of my fam­ily’s his­tory. And to have my hus­band, who adored my fa­ther, and one of our chil­dren there with me was amaz­ing. I would love to re­turn to Mon­treal, Que­bec City and Coat­i­cook, this time to see Foresta Lu­mina and to try some Coat­i­cook ice cream!” said Ni­cole.

Celsa Tonelli helps Ry-Guy the Ma­gi­cian at T-Day, in Coat­i­cook.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Jerry Tonelli, Ni­cole Du­rand Tonelli and Celsa Tonelli in front of the Coat­i­cook school named after Mrs. Tonelli’s great un­cle, Mon­seigneur Louis Pros­per Du­rand.

Gra­cious hosts and am­a­teur his­to­ri­ans Le­an­dre and Giselle Gau­dreau.

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