Article prepared by Mélanie Presseau-Dumais, Archivist for RMR Museum
Westmount, Quebec – 06 July 2016: Ron Zemancik, the Curator of the RMR Museum, received a request this Spring from the family of an RMR veteran of the First World War to visit during a family reunion being planned for the summer. The Labelle family are decendants of Lieutenant Joseph Labelle, D.C.M., M.M. and bar, and the RMR Museum has his medals and other items. Lieutenant Labelle was one of the original members of the Regiment, having been taken on strength of the 14th Battalion (RMR) on 20 August 1914, less than two weeks after war was declared.
After brainstorming with some of the volunteers who help out at the RMR Museum, Ron decided to not only accomodate the Labelle family’s request for a phyical visit, but to enhance the experience by producing a “virtual” visit for those Labelle family members who couldn’t make it to the reunion in July, so a web page was created: https://www.royalmontrealregiment.com/labelle/
This web page allowed the Labelle family to prepare a little bit in advance of their visit, so when they visited on Wednesday 06 July 2016, they were ready! They came to the museum and spent several hours perusing the collection. There were nine family members total who visited, including Joseph (Jos) Labelle’s son, granddaughters, grandson, great-granddaughter and great-grandson.
They were especially moved by the Christmas gift, the leather wallet, that Jos Labelle received from Isabel Gertrude Benett in 1914 before she became his wife.
Jos Labelle’s son remembered playing with his father’s handcuffs as a child. He shared these memories with his grandchildren as they tried the handcuffs. His son also remembered polishing Jos Labelle’s medals.
So what inspired them to visit? Claire Labelle was the driving force behind this initiative as she was very interested in knowing more about her grandfather. She got in touch with the RMR Museum and orchestrated the visit including many of her family members and her children. The visit to the museum grew from an idea and became an impetus to bring together many Labelle family members from different places in the world.
They were very happy with the visit and especially happy to have an occasion to talk about Jos Labelle which they described as a hero. They felt very lucky to have this special experience.