Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One Year Since 'le gros bil' joined the forum ghosts.......

Today's Gazette story by Dave Stubbs, about Jean Beliveau & his wife Elise
everything about this couple was simply very Classy. Cheers ! LesF
see the interview with Elise in the same article, I couldn't post it,but here is the limk to the article including the video conversation.


Élise Béliveau sometimes finds herself in conversation with her late husband, Jean, sharing a thought with one of his many photos that adorn her South Shore condominium.
“I have pictures of John in every room,” Élise says today, calling Jean by the English form of his name as she has for just about forever.
Among them on a table is a favourite sepia print, a framed image of a young man who then was her beau with the early 1950s senior-league Quebec Aces. And there is another not far away, a magnificent portrait taken decades later.
“Some of my friends say, ‘Why are you keeping all those pictures?’ ” Élise says. “And I say, ‘They’ve been there all my life and they’re going to stay there. That’s it.’ Sometimes I go by him and say something to him, a few words passing in front of a picture. It’s still the same as when he was there.”
A very early 1950s portrait of then Quebec Aces centreman Jean Béliveau, taken about the time that the Quebec Senior league star and his future wife, Élise, began dating. The photo is prominently displayed in the Béliveau condo on Montreal's South Shore.
A very early 1950s portrait of then Quebec Aces centreman Jean Béliveau, taken about the time that the Quebec Senior league star and his future wife, Élise, began dating. The photo is prominently displayed in the Béliveau condo on Montreal’s South Shore.DAVE STUBBS / MONTREAL GAZETTE
It was a year ago Wednesday night that Jean Béliveau died at home at age 83 after a lengthy struggle with declining health and illness that followed a summertime bout of pneumonia, strokes in 2012 and 2010 and a battle with cancer a decade earlier.
In his final days, Béliveau confided in Élise, his soulmate and wife of 61 years, that he was tired and ready to go.
“I knocked on the door, but they weren’t ready for me,” he told me philosophically in 2012 as he recovered from his second stroke.
News of Le Gros Bill’s passing was a dagger in the heart of millions, particularly the countless thousands whose personal paths had crossed that of the hockey icon from even before he joined the Canadiens full-time in autumn 1953.
This was a man who dominated his sport, winning 10 Stanley Cups during 18 full seasons with the Canadiens — he was captain from 1961 to his retirement in 1971 — with seven more championships earned as a senior vice-president of the club.
Jean Béliveau’s remarkable grace and leadership on and off the ice made him the greatest ambassador hockey has known. That he devoted much of his life to charity and humanitarian causes, while playing and then in retirement, made him a figure who transcended sport unlike any hockey player.
A year since his passing, Jean’s memory remains vibrant in the memories of Élise; of Hélène, the couple’s only child; of Mylène and Magalie, Hélène’s two adult daughters; and of the Canadiens family and countless fans and admirers worldwide.
Last Saturday night, a half-hour before the Canadiens would play the New Jersey Devils, Élise and I sat to talk in a team conference room on the seventh floor of the Bell Centre, photos of her late husband prominently displayed in offices and corridors that were deafeningly silent.
You feel Jean’s presence everywhere: beyond his statue outside the arena in La Place des Canadiens, his eyes straight ahead, posture erect as he carries the puck; beyond the banners and bronze plaques and photos and murals that grace the Bell Centre’s walls inside and out.
Élise and I had last sat at length in her home late last January, her life then almost in suspended animation. And now, a year has passed since she lost an enormous piece of her heart.
“Oh my gosh, no,” she says, asked whether it seems she’s been a year without Jean. “It went by so fast. When he passed away, I was quite busy, there was always something going on. But in the month of June, I didn’t feel too good. I was lonesome, I cried for nothing.
“Then, after that, well, my doctor came over and said, ‘Hey, you’re not going to act like that. No, no, no. We’ll look after that.’ He gave me a little (antidepressant) and ever since then I’ve been OK.
“Can you believe that sometimes I’m at home right now, I’ll be sitting there and all of a sudden I feel as if the door would open and he’d come right in? It seems to me it’s not that long ago that he’s gone. But my God, the house is empty. It’s unbelievable.”
Jean Béliveau spent endless hours in his tidy office, Montreal’s skyline sprawled out below him to the north. Here he would answer his mail, read, plan his busy days. As his health grew more fragile, he was warmed here by his books and the shelved souvenirs that marked his life in hockey and beyond.
The office sits undisturbed now, as it has for a year.
“It’s exactly the same as when he left it,” Élise says. “(Family) didn’t take anything away. Nothing. Everything is still there.
“I don’t know … I go in there. …” she adds, the thought left unfinished.
Élise considers what she misses most about her husband and with a laugh she replies, “Everything. We were always together. Always. We’d have dinners, come to the hockey games, we’d go on a trip somewhere, beautiful trips. But no more. I’m not interested (in travelling) alone.”
Élise Béliveau (left) with her granddaughters Mylène, Magalie and daughter Hélène after Jean Béliveau's funeral at Montreal's Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral on Dec. 10, 2014.
Élise Béliveau (left) with her granddaughters Mylène, Magalie and daughter Hélène after Jean Béliveau’s funeral at Montreal’s Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral on Dec. 10, 2014. ALLEN MCINNIS / MONTREAL GAZETTE
The mail still arrives, some of it addressed to Jean. Hélène, who remains devastated by the loss of her father, answered mountains of it with her mother in the weeks and months after his passing.
Invitations still arrive and the phone still rings, kind words coming from friends and from people Élise doesn’t even know.
“If he’s up there seeing all what’s gone on since he passed away, I don’t think he’d believe it,” she says, shaking her head.
All of us marvelled at the strength of the Béliveau women — wife and mother, daughter and granddaughters — in the days that followed Jean’s passing, especially during a two-day Bell Centre visitation when the family greeted every one of the thousands of mourners who came to pay their respects, many dissolving and needing consolation when they reached the front of the line.
“I got that from John. He helped me for sure that day,” Élise says of her resilience. “When it’s time to be solid, I’m solid. When I cry, I cry.”
The Canadiens organized the huge, dignified funeral at Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral on Dec. 10, done to Élise’s precise instructions. Moving eulogies were delivered by Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and team icons Dickie Moore, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden and Serge Savard.
“When you think of his funeral and … the (visitation), the whole thing, and after, my God, it was so beautiful,” Élise says. “I said, if he sees all that, I’m sure he’d be shy to know all these things are going on.
“Thank you to the Molson family, they’re the ones who did everything,” she adds, saying four generations of Molsons since she arrived in Montreal with Jean in 1953 are like family. “And Réjean (Houle, the Canadiens’ alumni president), all the staff here … at the Bell Centre.
“I told them what I wanted. I didn’t want anything flashy, just something very simple. Jean was a simple man. He was down to earth, we wanted something very plain but nice, nice songs. That’s what they did and it was perfect.”
The funeral was held during a blizzard of heavy, wet snow, which Élise remembers as a magical setting.
“It was a hockey day. A hockey player needs snow and we had a lot of it, a nice little storm,” she recalls, smiling. “It was OK. It was fine. But that was a nice ceremony, my God almighty.”
Élise and Hélène still attend many Canadiens games, sitting in the family’s seats three rows behind the team’s bench. They often feel Jean in their midst and, in many ways, this routine has been a salve for their souls.
Élise laughs when I call her a shameless fangirl, so obvious is her deep affection for the team in general, especially defenceman P.K. Subban, captain Max Pacioretty, whose leadership reminds her of her husband’s, and goalie Carey Price.
The feeling is mutual; she loves the fact that Subban will blow her a kiss before games.
If Élise sometimes seemed to be in Jean’s shadow, that was by her choice. They were a wonderful team, and where Jean couldn’t say no to anyone, in later years Élise would put her foot down and read him a necessary, gentle riot act.
Following his second stroke, it was she who wanted him at home, not in the hospital where he had been at length.
“I was glad he stayed home and passed away at home,” Élise says. “We took him out of the hospital. I said, ‘He’s coming home.’ We had nurses there. They helped me. Everything was perfect. And we had his friends come in and see him.”
Would Jean be proud, I asked, of what his wife has accomplished in the past year?
“Well, I hope so,” she replies. “I’ve been trying to do something that at least he’d say, ‘My wife is not that bad, she can do things.’ ”
Jean had a higher opinion than that, needless to say. Whether or not Élise heard it, he often said the greatest linemate he ever had was his wife.
On Wednesday, the Béliveau family will gather for a quiet dinner. They’ll tell stories, remember special moments in their lives, and they’ll laugh about traditions, including one about Jean always buying Élise chocolate on Valentine’s Day, aware that her distaste for it left him the full box.
“We’ll talk about the old days,” Élise says. “We have some tapes, we’ll probably look at that.”
Of course, the remarkable legacy of their husband, father and grandfather is secure, and many Jean Béliveau stories will be shared far beyond a dinner table where the memories will be strongest and most poignant and most emotional.
“He was such a good man,” Élise says at last. “That man was a wonderful person. He was already ready for old people, young people, kids. He had them all around him.
“I think he’ll be remembered for that – he was always ready go and meet people. Always.”

Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau holds his team's ceremonial torch prior to the start of the opening game of the 2013-14 NHL season at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. Béliveau died on Dec. 2, 2014 after a lengthy illness.
Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau holds his team’s ceremonial torch prior to the start of the opening game of the 2013-14 NHL season at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. Béliveau died on Dec. 2, 2014 after a lengthy illness. JOHN KENNEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE


BobB said...

A class act.

Les_F said...

Your right about that Bob. He is simply that a class act. Cheers ! Les