My French Father (In-Law)

Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I was pretty nervous the first time I met Linda’s Dad, Len Trudeau, at a family picnic in Alcester 28 years ago. I’m sure the fact that his second-born daughter was dating the likes of me..a twice divorced Norwegian Lutheran..caused him more than a little concern.
But he knew who I was from watching me on television and must have  figured I was an okay guy who obviously loved his daughter and would take good care of her..which is all any father wants.Len and Mary Trudeau at Linda and My wedding.
Len Trudeau, who everybody in town called “Frenchie” was born and raised on a farm North of Alcester. He had an identical twin brother, Lee, along with several other siblings in one of the few Catholic families in that part of Union County. They worked hard and went to mass in Beresford every week. 
When he was 28 he won the heart of an Alcester High School cheer leader, Mary Waddell, who was ten years his junior. Before long they were married and raising a family that eventually resulted in 8 children.
He wasn’t much on farming so he took up house painting and was good at it too..but  with a growing family, it was increasingly difficult to make the money stretch..especially when Frenchie’s elderly father moved into their already crowded little home.
To help make ends meet, he worked nights at the local liquor store. His kids would often appear at the drive-up window and ask for a quarter or two to buy a treat. After the typical fatherly lecture about how money doesn’t grow on trees..his girls would just bat their eyes and he’d give in.
What little spare time Len had was spent along a river or lake someplace fishing.  Over the years he perfected his craft and had several “honey holes” that always produced a big harvest of walleye, bass, crappie, blue gill or even bullheads. The Trudeaus ate a lot of fish..and not just on Fridays.
If there was anything he enjoyed as much as his family or fishing, it was dancing with Mary. Len and Mary..always the smoothest couple on the dance floor.They’d often come to dances where I was playing in the band. It was a joy to watch the two of them glide around the floor in perfect sync that only comes with years and years of growing comfortable together understanding and anticipating each other’s every move.
Len Trudeau was from the old school. There were no quiet sentimental moments with his children  filled with “I love yous” over and over. He didn’t spare the rod when they got out of line..even in church where an offending offspring might be taken outside to feel the firm swat of his hand across their backside as a reminder that God isn’t the only one who will dish out punishment if you don’t do as your told.
Len really enjoyed telling stories..usually about a fishing expedition somewhere.  I remember sitting in amazement as he recounted those memories and marveling at his use of colorful salty language that for some reason never seemed like cursing when  it came from him.
He was in pretty good health until his “ticker” started to give out and finally stopped beating after an agonizing few days in the hospital 8 years ago this week. He was 86.Cher Frenchie, le mai le poisson être toujours aigre dans le ciel (may the fish always be biting in heaven.)
Today all 8 of Len’s children still ache at the thought of his passing and wish they had one more chance to tell him thanks and what a great job he did taking care of his big family.
But it’s really not necessary. When it comes to a child’s gratitude or a father’s love..some things just go without saying.

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