Everyone has no doubt already learned that our neighbor Henri Frère, who lived in apartment 1018, died on December 19 at Montfort Hospital, surrounded by his family and close friends. He was 96 years old. For those who would like to remember him better, here is a reminder of some of the important facts that marked his long life.


Henri was born near Charleroi, Belgium, shortly after the First World War. He did not have a happy childhood, as his mother died when he was only 2 years old. When he was 6 years old, there was the stock market crash of 1929, which caused the ruin of his father. He was then sent to boarding school for the rest of his studies. When Germany invaded Belgium again in 1940, he was only 16 years old, and he had to leave alone, without his family, for a 1000 km journey to find refuge in the South of France, among thousands of strangers who had also fled the Nazis.

 

At the age of 19, he was requisitioned by the Germans and deported for forced labour to Germany, where he had to stay until the end of the war.  

 

During the Allied victory in 1945, he joined the Belgian army of occupation in Germany, where his great intelligence was noticed. He was quickly assigned to complex tasks, where he learned new techniques.


While on leave in Belgium, he met by chance the love of his life, Gerarda Pecceu, from Nieuwpoort on the Belgian North Sea coast. He was 23 years old. They married quickly and only the death of his wife, 68 years later, could separate them.

 

After a few years of marriage, Henri and Gerarda left Europe for America in order to provide a better life for their children. They settled near Montreal. Thanks to his intelligence and knowledge acquired in the Belgian army, Henri quickly found a job that matched his ambitions.

 

Henri was a great sportsman, known to all those who go to the pool, because until very recently he swam his 25 laps every day. He was passionate about soccer, and until his last days, he watched several games a week on television. He had also coached a soccer team in Florida and had taken refereeing courses.


His intelligence and innate business acumen had made him a fortune. As a result, he was able to enjoy a very long retirement of over 40 years. And because he loved the heat, he spent 33 years with Gerarda every winter in the sun, in California and Florida.


His greatest misfortune was to lose his beloved son in 2015 in a surgery that went wrong. It was the grief of this tragedy that also led to Gerarda's death shortly afterwards.


However, he felt happy that he had had a very good life, and did not wish to be mourned. But it will not be easy for his relatives!


Roland Madou, his friend of 40 years.

 

(Translated from French by member of the Village Echo Team. Errors from original French text are ours not Mr. Madou's)