Northern Saskatchewan’s last remaining Métis veteran of the Second World War has passed away.
Louis Roy died Jan. 11 at a long-term care home in Ile-a-la Crosse. He was 101.
“He was such an amazing man and lived such a fulfilled life,” Roy’s granddaughter, Glenda Burnouf, told Northern Pride. “From being at the funeral and the wake, and from talking to the different people who came to pay their respects, I’ve learned some interesting things about him.”
Mr. Roy was born in Ile-a-la Crosse Aug. 2, 1920 to Elie Roy and Eliza Corrigal. His family lived off the land by trapping and fishing. In 1931, he was sent to the boarding school in Ile-a-la Crosse. He learned to speak a bit of English and French, but his mother tongue remained Cree and he continued to speak his first language fluently for the rest of his life.
When his father passed away in the winter of 1932, Mr. Roy and his family relocated to Beauval. He enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces Feb. 25, 1942. He was 22 years old and took basic training in Saskatoon. Afterward, he was sent to Winnipeg where he finished his advanced training. Once his training was completed, he went by train to Halifax and boarded a ship to Europe.
He arrived in Glasgow, Scotland and was then sent by train to the south coast of England before eventually being transferred to Dover where he performed guard duty for a year-and-a-half. He was later sent back to Glasgow where he boarded another ship. He was not told where he was going until the third day when he was informed Italy was the destination. It took nine days to get there. From Scotland, he travelled to Ireland, Spain, Portugal and then through the channel of Africa entering the Mediterranean Sea and on to Algeria. From there, he went to Sicily and finally crossed to the south side point of Italy. For the next two months, Mr. Roy actively fought on the front lines.
When the war ended, Mr. Roy returned to Beauval where he took up trapping and fishing. He later married, raised a family and established a homestead along the Beaver River only a short distance from Beauval. Later in life, he began an 18-year career as a carpenter for Northern Housing, retiring in 1985.
Burnouf said she was recently surprised to learn her grandfather – because of his Métis heritage – was not allowed in any Royal Canadian Legion branch until years after his return from the war.
“I grew up often wondering why my grandfather wasn’t part of Remembrance Day observances or why he was never in the news, but he never complained about that,” she said. “He just went on his own way quietly. That was quite a number of years ago, though. Later he was actively part of the Legion and in recent years still took part in Remembrance Day ceremonies.”
A funeral for Mr. Roy was held Saturday (Jan. 15) in Beauval. Following the service, the air force sent two CF-18 hornets to perform a flypast in recognition of Mr. Roy.
“They flew over just after we buried my grandfather,” Burnouf said. “It was quite significant, as one jet flew straight up and the other flew on symbolizing separation and farewell.”
Burnouf went on to say her grandfather was a very well respected man right up until the end.
“He didn’t like attention and he would not like all the attention he is getting right now, but he was such a wealth of information for everyone he met,” she said. “We are just so proud of him and hopefully we can carry on his legacy.”
by Phil Ambroziak