Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2006
A proud Metis meets his creator
Honoured by both country and community, 81 year-old Victor Letendre died June 5
- WCR file photo
Metis Sash winner Victor Letendre shows his Order of Canada medal awarded in 2004.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The Metis community of Alberta has lost one of its most respected elders.
Order of Canada member Victor Letendre, a deeply spiritual man well regarded for his integrity, died June 5 of heart failure. He was 81.
Letendre dedicated much of his life to providing opportunity and justice for native youth and was also a strong supporter of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage.
He was well known among his people for his supportive and non-judgmental means of problem resolution. He walked proudly knowing God was always with him, and he taught others through stories of his own life experiences.
The second of seven children, Letendre was born March 4, 1925 at Lac Ste. Anne, one of the oldest Metis settlements in Western Canada.
He was raised in a family devoted to the Creator and heeded his parents' teachings to work hard at everything he did.
He was only 11 when he entered the workforce as janitor of the Catholic school he attended. He hauled water during the day, then swept the floor, cleared the blackboards and locked the school after other students had gone home. All the while he went to class and gave his family whatever money he was paid.
"When I was a kid, things were tough," he told the WCR in December 2004. "I found that if you quit, everything stopped. I've always had faith that I could do anything."
He left Lac Ste. Anne at 16, taking a job in a bush camp in Hinton. He later worked in coal mines.
He entered the Canadian Forces during the Second World War and was injured by grenade shrapnel.
Letendre eventually became a roofing contractor in Grande Prairie. He went on to open his own roofing and sheet metal business in Edmonton. He retired in 1990.
Keenly aware of the injustices aboriginal people experience, he became a founding member (1962) and past president of the Edmonton Canadian Native Friendship Centre. Letendre helped establish the Edmonton Native Youth Justice Committee in 1995.
He was also an active volunteer with Recovery Acres Society, a halfway house for alcoholics, drug addicts and people coming out of prison.
"I do whatever I can to help," he said.
Letendre was also a trustee of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage.
Rod Lorenz, executive administrator of the pilgrimage, came to learn that Letendre was an important person in his community.
"I never heard a bad word spoken about Vic," Lorenz said. "Everyone considered him to be special.
"There must have been 1,000 people at the shrine for his funeral. It was quite a crowd."
Letendre and his late wife Georgina raised six children. He never stopped sending money home to help support his family in Lac Ste. Anne.
"You are only the man that you are, and I tried to be honest," he said. "I didn't lie to people or try to cheat them. If I made a wrong decision, I tried to fix it. It always paid off."
In 1993, Letendre was awarded a Metis Sash from the Metis Nation of Alberta, honouring his involvement in the Metis community. In 2003, the Metis National Council presented him with the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004.