We are here at Saint Joseph Church today to give honor and respect to a gentle person who has touched all of our lives and lived his faith-filled life to the fullest. It is here in this church that my uncle, Richard Belanger, began his Catholic faith through Baptism, First Penance, Holy Communion, Confirmation and graduation after the 8th grade from French school. It is only fitting that we celebrate his life here, in this holy place.
Matthew Chapter 7, verse 12 tells us:
“Therefore all that you wish men to do to you, even so do you also to them for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
His home on South Main Street is where the Golden Rule was taught first, lived quietly and modeled by his parents, Ernest and Mary Rose (Dusablon) Belanger. The qualities and characteristics that Uncle Richard possessed were reinforced first through his family, which included my mother, Theresa, and his brother, Ernest, and his extended family who were so much a part of his life. People like the Cloutiers, the Dubucs and Laferriers were household names and he was “Pitou” to them.
In 1996, Uncle Richard had the pleasure of attending my son Drew’s graduation from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. The bishop who delivered the commencement address began by announcing that “Loyalty is dead!” I looked at Uncle Richard and said, “What does that mean?” At that very moment the school’s clock tower responded with a loud gong. Certainly not planned. The bishop looked toward the clock and chided that it was merely a coincidence. I think not. I think it was a wake up call! It was a warning to people of what was going on in the world between people, relationships, businesses and global matters. This statement, “Loyalty is dead,” is the opposite of how Uncle Richard lived his life.
Uncle Richard was loyal, kind, humble, honest, understanding, trustworthy and generous beyond anyone I’ve ever known. But his greatest characteristic was loyalty. He was loyal to his church, family, friends, country and place of employment. He was a role model to all of us as he never complained or spoke unkindly of others.
Uncle Richard was true to his God, his faith and to his church. He attended St. Joseph’s Church his whole life until he was unable to walk up the stairs due to his arthritis. His contributions never stopped when he attended TV Mass at home. He supported the missions, especially the Missionaries of La Salette, probably because of their ties to Attleboro and because of his dear friend, Donald Pelletier; now Bishop Donald, who has served as a La Salette Missionary in Madagascar for over forty years. He has supported his friend financially and through letters and more recently by emailing him. Bishop Pelletier recently wrote me, after hearing of Uncle Richard’s illness and said, “Richard is a very good man, worked well and very faithful to all his friends. I don’t think he has an enemy in this world as he is so kind. Truer words could not be spoken.
Family was also important to Uncle Richard. He was a wonderful son, brother, brother-in-law, uncle and great-uncle. He was proud of all of his nieces and nephews and was always a quiet cheerleader to encourage us in our endeavors. He also rewarded us generously as we accomplished our goals, especially encouraging continued education. Family seemed to extend beyond blood relatives. He was Uncle to many that I don’t even know because he was Godfather to so many children of not only his family, but many friends, as well. I think he holds the record for being Godfather.
When my brother Jim asked Uncle Richard recently what he was thinking of while he was lying in his hospital bed he said, “I’m thinking of all the wonderful friends I have.” His loyalty to friends extended back to his childhood, as I mentioned, Bishop Donald. As a young girl, I would always see friends, such as Roger Poirier, who couldn’t be here today, visiting him at home. Having lived on the second floor of the family home, and not wanting to miss anything, I often slipped downstairs as an “uninvited guest,” but I always felt invited. He didn’t shoo me away because he had company. He had many neighborhood friends, like the Gustafsons and the Zarrellas, who became like blood-relatives and the friendships have extended to the third or fourth generations.
Many of his friends that I have talked to over these past ten weeks have spoken so highly of Uncle Richard. He may have gone to school with them or worked with them, they may have been his bowling or golfing buddies or his telephone buddies, but he was loyal to that friendship no matter what. He was a true brother-in-law to my dad, Rick, who formed a best friendship with Uncle Richard.
Uncle Richard was also extremely loyal to his employer of over 55 years, an accomplishment which is virtually unheard of in today’s business world. He was a loyal and trustworthy member of the Leach and Garner family working first in Attleboro, then in their North Attleboro plant. Uncle Richard started working right out of high school. He left to serve in the US Army from 1951 to 1953. Upon his return to Attleboro, he resumed work at Leach and Garner, General Findings Division, working his way up to Superintendent for a time, then later as Supervisor of Inventory Control.
I remember working with him in the old shop, in the vault where they kept the gold. His co-workers respected and admired him. I can speak from experience having sometimes worked with him; he was a dedicated employee who strove for perfectionism. Uncle Richard was a man of honor; strong-willed, determined and courageous.
Proverbs Chapter 16, verse 9 says, “In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Uncle Richard planned his course and accepted the Lord’s guidance along the way. If we could learn from Uncle Richard’s recipe for living, there would be more peacemakers, fewer broken relationships and far more loyal servants of the Lord. He was always a good and loyal servant and a role model for living a Christian life.
And so dear Uncle, we will miss you. May you find peace in paradise with the family, friends and neighbors that you join at the banquet table of the Lord. May you enjoy as much golf, WebTV and ponies as you well deserve. May God Bless you and God bless us, his family, friends and neighbors to continue living in your spirit of loyalty.
My mother wrote this and read it today at Great-Uncle Richard
‘s funeral where my Father, Eric and I were among the pall bearers, Tara did the first reading and Shelby placed the pall on the casket. It was an emotional day, and when my mom read the eulogy for Great-Uncle Richard (which Allison typed out for her) the emotions ran very high and there were many teary eyes. But my mother read so very well and the strong conviction of her words conveyed what we all knew today and throughout Great-Uncle Richard’s life. There was a quiet greatness in this humble man among us. He will most certainly be missed.
Great-Uncle Richard also enjoyed reading this blog and enjoyed seeing the photos I took all over the country. He’d look at it now and wonder what the fuss was all about. Sorry to embarass you Uncle Rich but we loved you very much and this is my way of showing it.