Where do you start to describe the life of one you love? What words do you use to describe a person who has meant so much to you? Words that I would use include caring, opinionated, persevering, a lover of learning, a lover of family and a person of hope.
Ma Mère, as all of us kids called her, was born at home just 5 miles SW of here on the farm 1 mile West Grandpa Bandet's first homestead. When she was 2 years old the family moved into the house straight east of this church that Grandpa had built for his family.
Aunt Henriette remembers her and Madeleine running from the house to morning prayers hand in hand. When the children were young, the rule was to only play in the yard. But when they got older though, the churchyard became their playground. You would find them playing hide and seek or ball in the summer as sliding on the nearby frozen pond during the winter. They were a family of modest means, but pa Père always made sure that the kids had something for Christmas. He also made a checker set from cardboard and a broomstick and taught them to play. During the holidays, Madeleine’s mom taught them to sew and knit. Knitting became a hobby that Madeleine kept all of her life.
Madeleine attended the Daughter's of Providence school and after graduating moved to Saskatoon and studied at normal school to get her teaching certificate. Her first teaching post was in Val Marie in about 1940. One of her early students is here in our assembly-- Sister Margarite Dumont.
Madeleine met Joseph Neault while teaching in St. Hippolite, and left teaching after getting married. Soon after, Alain and then Blanche were born. In about 1953, ma Mère’s allergies got so bad that Joseph moved his family to North Battleford. There she and Joseph took in a number of foster children, many as infants. Only a couple of years later, Joseph fell ill to cancer and Madeleine cared for him as well as her little family until he passed away in 1959.
When Joseph got sick, ma Mère went back to work teaching in La Plaine. The teacherage was upstairs of the schoolroom and so Madeleine could care for him and teach as well. After Joseph passed away she and Blanche moved to the St. Thérèse School near Domrémy where she taught for a year. Alain went to the Prud’homme convent to study where his pa Père worked as caretaker. Her school moved into Domrémy after a year and she continued to teach there for a number of years. Madeleine went back to school with the kids and lived in a tent for two summers to get her full certification as a teacher.
When school was out Madeleine and the two kids travelled all over. They visited Yellowstone Park, Mexico and even Europe. Blanche got to celebrate her 16th birthday in Luxembourg. They also visited Jasper and Banff together.
Madeleine continued to teach until she retired in the 1970’s. Now, you would think that caring for a sick husband, raising a family alone and having a career would be enough for any one mother, but when Alain and Blanche grew up, Madeleine took in four cousins: Ernie, James, Mike and Irene. Irene continued to live with her for twelve years, James 10 years and the others less. She continued to travel and take the kids on trips to see different parts of Canada just as she did with Alain and Blanche. Irene remembers visiting the Locks of St. Lawrence as a young girl with Madeleine and being hoisted up on one of the boy’s shoulders so that she could see the ships moving through them. It was a challenging time for her and for the children, but her persistence and caring saw them through, and they are very much a part of our family.
Madeleine became part of my life shortly after Blanche and I married. We were told that two of our children were going to fail at an Easter Parent-Teacher interview. Afterwards Blanche told me that it was Madeleine’s pride that she would always get her students successfully through a grade, no matter what it took. So Blanche called her and she came out and lived with us from Easter until September. I’m happy to report that both children passed. Madeleine continued to tutor Martin during the summer and after being tested in the fall skipped grade five completely and went directly to grade 6. Can you imagine going from failing in April to skipping in September? That was Madeleine’s gift. She loved to learn and when you were around her, it was infectious. And she loved to read. She and I traded books through the time I have been part of her family. Her interests ranged from “An Imitation of Christ” in her youth to anything about King Arthur and the knights of round table. She and I found and traded books not only with the story in them, but histories and imaginings about the true story of King Arthur.
In the early eighty’s Madeleine moved out to Salt Spring. She fell in love with the place and made it her home for the rest of her life. She contemplated moving back east occasionally, to be closer to Blanche and Alain, but her love of the place and the people there kept her happy and active. When we celebrated her 75th birthday with her a few years ago she told me how she loved to help the ‘old folks’ of the community in the “Seniors for Seniors” group. Her at 75, and she was still a caregiver. She only retired from that a couple of years ago. And she continued traveling throughout her retirement. There was a senior’s club that arranged trips all over western Canada and Northwestern United States. She kept telling Blanche that she was getting too old to travel, but every time that a trip came up, she was ready to go.
A favourite memory I will always keep of ma Mère is watching her knit while snoozing. I must admit it was fascinating to watch. We have a wooden chair at home that she loved to sit in while she knitted. After a while, she would nod off, but her hands kept right on knitting. Those socks played a big part in Madeleine’s retirement. Every year she knitted hundreds of pairs of socks and sold them at the fall fair on Ganges Island. From that sale she made enough to support a number of children through “Save the Children’s Fund”. She funded at least five children from infanthood the completion of their schooling. When she was planning for a trip to Hawaii with us for this winter, her biggest concern was that it not cut into the money that she was setting aside for the child she has been helping for the last few years.
Madeleine did not consider wealth something to hold tightly to. She loved to give to her children and grandchildren. In fact, she assisted both children at one point in purchasing first homes and her gifts helped many of her grandchildren to do the same. As I was reading my Bible on the trip down to be with Blanche after Madeleine passed away a passage came to me that I think describes Madeleine well:
1 Tim 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Madeleine was never rich from the world’s point of view, but she was truly rich in good deeds.
We know that good deeds in themselves do not buy us a home in heaven, but they can provide
family and friends with a picture of a faith that is within the person, of where their true
hope and treasure is, and in Christ’s death for us that gave us all hope. Someone once told me
that Madeleine was unhappy with God for many years for taking away her husband, and this too
gives us a picture of her faith. You do not get upset with someone that you do not believe in.
Obituary for Madeleine Marie Rose Neault (née Bandet)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Madeleine suffered a massive heart attack while surrounded by family members on August 20, 2001 in Enfield, New Hampshire, USA. She later passed away in hospital at Lebanon, New Hampshire USA.
Madeleine was predeceased by her husband Joseph Martin Neault in 1959, her brother Gérard Bandet, sister Émilie Bandet, sister Cécile Chabot, her brother-in-law Gérard Chabot, her grand daughter Veronica Nolan (née Kessel) and two great grand children Israel and Hope Nolan.
She is survived by her son Alain Joseph Neault of Saskatoon, SK. and by her daughter Marie Blanche Nolan (Dale) of Bentley, AB. Madeleine leaves six grandchildren: Robin Neault, Melissa Neault, both of Saskatoon SK. Martin Nolan (Darla), Bernadette Dutchak all of Lacombe AB. and Nicole Bahler (Karl) of Enfield, NH. USA and Tyler Nolan of Bentley, AB. Madeleine was further blessed by 13 great-grandchildren. Madeleine leaves to mourn her brothers Jean-Marie (France), René (Lucette), sisters Henriette, Thérèse, Marie, Régina (Rudy), Jeannette (Ron) and 5 very special cousins Ernest, James, Irene, Barbara and Michel. There are also numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
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