Feature Story

Ici Repose Le Corp De Felix Piché

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a city-wide Neighborhood Planning Assembly meeting in Burlington. Since we came from all seven of the city’s wards, we went around the table and introduced ourselves. I said, “I am a cemetery commissioner this year.” During a break in the meeting, the gentleman on my right told me he had a cemetery problem. He told me that several large locust trees on the fence line of Mt. Calvary Cemetery on Pomeroy Street were dropping limbs in his condo’s backyard. I told him that a church cemetery like Mt. Calvary wasn’t under my purview. He said he had already been in touch with the Diocese and the Catholic cemetery supervisor. Hearing about this cemetery piqued the VOCA side of my brain.

The next Saturday I headed for Pomeroy Street in Burlington’s Old North End, a neighborhood I visit infrequently, and discovered Mt. Calvary Annex, the huge locust trees, the condos on the other side of the fence line, and the grave of Felix Piché. I had never seen a headstone like that of Mr. Felix Piché. Made of 2-⅜ inch O.D. (outside diameter) galvanized water pipe and fashioned into the shape of a cross, it stands 48 inches high and 40 inches wide. The intersection of the cross is fitted with a standard galvanized ‘T’. The 3/16 inch steel name plate is extremely complex in shape and has embossed letters that read:

DECEDE LE 10 MAI 1923.

“Here lies the body of Felix Piché died May 10, 1923 at the age of 58 years,” it translates from the French. Mr. Piché is buried up against the fence line with the locust trees. I am sure that the cemetery road is running over his feet. In fact there are numerous graves along this fence line with their feet out in the road and the locusts are giving the fence line a run for its money.

You can see how my mind works … who is Felix Piché and why does he have a galvanized pipe marker? Being Saturday, I couldn’t go to the City Clerk’s to look at the death records. I got it! I’ll email my daughter-in-law. She is a super genealogist. My son married well. By Sunday evening I had the following information:

I found his death certificate and from that found that his parents were Victor Piché and Delima (possibly Rose Delima) Chastenay. Looks like the whole family came down (from Canada) around 1880. He has multiple siblings and is living with his mother and sister in the 1900 census. The men seem to have been masons. Cross-referencing the parents and siblings and his year of birth with the 1871 Canadian census suggests that he was Felix Almansor Piche. Perhaps went by Felix in the US, though you could still find a random record that says Mansor or Almansor. I’m attaching his parents’ DC’s, his DC, his sister’s DC, the 1900 census with them living on Germain St. (Burlington), and the 1871 census with the whole family and his Almansor (middle) name. Having trouble finding him in the census after 1900, but he must have still been around.

Looking over the documents, I find his death certificate indicates his occupation is “mason” and the 1900 census indicates “stone carver”, and that his residence on the death certificate was 52 Hyde Street. A trip to 52 Hyde last weekend finds a two story brick house with one those interesting windows that have the stained glass squares all around the border. Out back is another smaller two story brick building. I wonder if that could have been a stone carver’s workshop. I wonder if Felix did the brick work.

Later in the weekend the Fletcher Free library yields up his Free Press obituary on microfilm. He died on the 12th at 6:30 a.m. at his sister’s home, was buried on the 14th at 7 a.m., and was a mason and bricklayer. Checking through the yearly Burlington City Directories, there is no mention of Felix in 1923 or 1920 or 1915 or 1909. However, I do find out that Felix’ in-laws are residing at 52 Hyde and 52-1/2 Hyde which is the brick building out back. About ready to give up, I tried 1903. Success! Piche Felix, stone cutter, bds (boarder) 16 Germain (street). The 1898 directory has him residing at 242 North Winooski Avenue….

Oooops! I came here to see a man about a tree. I got a little far afield. The fence line is in serious disrepair and is, in some cases, lying on the markers. I know a VOCA project when I see one!

Barry Trutor, VOCA member