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Grandpa Henri

Duluth News Tribune 11/9/2014

Lorraine DeRoche recently displayed photos of her six brothers in various phases of World War II. The Tessiers all survived the war and reunited with their parents at their West End home. With the death of Henry in October, Lorraine is the only sibling left out of 12. Mike Creger / mcreger@duluthnews.com

Lorraine DeRoche recently displayed photos of her six brothers in various phases of World War II. The Tessiers all survived the war and reunited with their parents at their West End home. With the death of Henry in October, Lorraine is the only sibling left out of 12. Mike Creger / mcreger@duluthnews.com

Duluth family's six sons all served in military during WWII

Lorraine DeRoche of Duluth is the last survivor of the Tessier family of 12 children. She said it was difficult to return from her brother’s funeral in October with no sibling to talk to. Mike Creger / mcreger@duluthnews.com.

Lorraine DeRoche of Duluth is the last survivor of the Tessier family of 12 children. She said it was difficult to return from her brother’s funeral in October with no sibling to talk to. Mike Creger / mcreger@duluthnews.com.

Lorraine DeRoche was all alone. There wasn’t a sibling to talk to after the funeral for her brother Henry Tessier last month.

“It’s strange to be the last one,” she said recently from her Duluth home.

DeRoche is the only person alive from the 14-member Tessier family that lived in the West End for much of the 1900s.

“Lorraine’s a little bit lost,” said Hope Tessier. She was a childhood friend of DeRoche and ended up marrying her brother Art. “You never think, with 12 kids, that they won’t always be there.”

DeRoche said she will miss Henry’s humor. He was the “court jester” among her six brothers and five sisters.

During World War II, the Tessier story was one of survival. With Veterans Day coming Tuesday, DeRoche is sure to recall those days.

All six Tessier boys served in the military, leaving a wake of worry back home in Duluth for their parents and younger sisters. They all made it back alive, though some only for a short time due to war-induced maladies. All of them were changed, but the four who lived into old age were the best of friends, Hope Tessier and DeRoche said.

Constant worry

DeRoche was entering her teen years when her brothers were off at war.

“It was very hard,” she said of being a six-star family. “But it was even harder on them.”

She meant her parents, Esdros and Victoria. Her mother had a bad heart and her father had always been close with his boys, working side by side with them in the family painting business.

“You’re scared to open the door,” DeRoche said, because someone might be bearing bad news.

A Tessier sister added military photos of her two deceased brothers to the snapshot of the four survivors. Louis is inset on the left and Albert on the right. Standing in the undated photo are Ludger, Ed, Art and Henry. Henry died in October, the last of the brothers living. Art’s widow, Hope Tessier, said the brothers were extremely close. “They all got along beautifully,” she said. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

“I can’t imagine the emotion those poor parents went through,” Hope Tessier said.

The family joke was that the Tessier parents came to Duluth to seek their “fame and fortune” in the early 1900s in a city that then boasted so many millionaires among its citizens. The Tessiers moved from Canada to the West End.

Another family memory is how proud Esdros was to become an American. He would stand at attention every time he heard the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” DeRoche said with a titter. Even if it was being played on television before a ballgame.

That patriotism rubbed off, of course, with the Tessier boys all going overseas to fight. One had been born in Canada during a family trip and had to fight for his right to represent the United States in the war.

Home and abroad

Esdros lost his paint store business during the Depression and ended up working as a bartender at the Young Old Timers Club at 21st Avenue and Superior Street.

Victoria and Esdros Tessier enjoyed time with their furloughed sons during the war. Between his parents is Ludger Tessier. On the far right is Art Tessier, who was a prisoner of war in Germany before being liberated by the division Ludger had served in before coming home to Minnesota to guard German prisoners in Ortonville, Minn. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

Victoria and Esdros Tessier enjoyed time with their furloughed sons during the war. Between his parents is Ludger Tessier. On the far right is Art Tessier, who was a prisoner of war in Germany before being liberated by the division Ludger had served in before coming home to Minnesota to guard German prisoners in Ortonville, Minn. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

That is where Esdros drew support during the war, either with donations going to the fighting men or just someone to share the same worry.

Hope and Lorraine said they did their part in the war effort. Any news on the fronts came from the news reels before movies, like those at the Star Theater, which sat next to the club building.

There were letter-writing campaigns, rationing, war stamp buying and supporting soldiers at home guarding the port, Hope Tessier said.

“We did our part,” she said.

Louis was the oldest brother in the service. Shortly after the war, he started showing genetic heart trouble. He died, but study on what might have saved him — a typical artery procedure today — helped several family members down the line, DeRoche said.

Ludger was next, serving a tough tour in the Army with fierce fighting in Italy. He later was a guard in Minnesota at a prison camp full of Germans. Ludger was known as a skilled carpenter who worked at his own speed.

“They were different,” DeRoche said of her brothers after the war. Before they had been quiet and not very outgoing, she said. They killed war pains by drinking, Hope Tessier said.

Victoria Tessier touched the five-star flag displayed at the family’s West End home during World War II with sons Albert (left) and Louis. While the two men survived the war, they died soon after. Louis, the oldest of the six brothers, had a fatal heart condition. Albert had contracted malaria in the Pacific theater and never recovered. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

Victoria Tessier touched the five-star flag displayed at the family’s West End home during World War II with sons Albert (left) and Louis. While the two men survived the war, they died soon after. Louis, the oldest of the six brothers, had a fatal heart condition. Albert had contracted malaria in the Pacific theater and never recovered. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

“I can understand why,” she said. “To block the memories.”

“They had a hard time adapting back to regular life,” DeRoche said.

Albert contracted malaria in the Pacific theater and never recovered, dying shortly after returning home. DeRoche remembers her frail, pale brother sitting with a blanket wrapped around him.

The POW

Art probably had the most harrowing war experiences of all the brothers. He landed in France on D-Day, fought at St. Lo and eventually was captured by the Germans, spending nine months in a prison camp.

DeRoche said the family was told he was killed, then missing and then a POW.

Hope Tessier said Art would slowly begin to talk about his war experience after they were married in 1950.

Art Tessier landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought in St. Lo during the final push of the war in Europe. He was captured by Germans and spent nine months as a prisoner of war. Various reports came back to Duluth on his status, from killed in action to missing and then as a POW. He died in 2002. His widow, Hope Tessier, said the final Tessier brother to return home to Duluth was scared because he didn’t know the fate of his five brothers. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

Art Tessier landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought in St. Lo during the final push of the war in Europe. He was captured by Germans and spent nine months as a prisoner of war. Various reports came back to Duluth on his status, from killed in action to missing and then as a POW. He died in 2002. His widow, Hope Tessier, said the final Tessier brother to return home to Duluth was scared because he didn’t know the fate of his five brothers. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

“He showed up one day,” she said of Art’s return from the war. He was sent to an Army camp in the South to assimilate before going home. He was fed a lot of peaches, she recalled him telling her. He didn’t like peaches for the longest time after that.

He feared calling home, not knowing what had happened with his brothers. Ludger was back in Minnesota, members of his division told Art when the prisoner camp was liberated. The fate of the others was unknown.

“He said it was very scary,” Hope said. “The hardest thing was making that call to home and afraid of what he would hear.”

“I would just sit and listen,” she said of her husband’s talks about the war. “He would have dreams, then it started. It was like he was trying to fight his way out of something.”

Those talks helped ease her worry, she said.

“I think Art adjusted pretty well,” she said. “He made a life for himself. It was the past.”

Henry and Ed caught the tail end of the war and didn’t see much action, DeRoche said. Henry was the only one to move out of the area. He worked for 27 years at a creamery in Hastings, Minn., southeast of St. Paul.

DeRoche remembers those war days vividly.

Duluth Mayor Ed Hatch places a pin on Victoria Tessier honoring her as a five-star mother during the war. With son Edward about to join the ranks of the military, she would have all six of her sons overseas. Husband Esdros Tessier watched during the ceremony at the Young Old Timers Club at 21st Avenue West and Superior Street. Esdros was a bartender at the club, which today houses apartments atop the Salvation Army Store. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

Duluth Mayor Ed Hatch places a pin on Victoria Tessier honoring her as a five-star mother during the war. With son Edward about to join the ranks of the military, she would have all six of her sons overseas. Husband Esdros Tessier watched during the ceremony at the Young Old Timers Club at 21st Avenue West and Superior Street. Esdros was a bartender at the club, which today houses apartments atop the Salvation Army Store. Photo courtesy Hope Tessier.

“I was always worried,” she said. “If not about my brothers, then about my parents.”

When they all returned home, Hope Tessier remembers the commotion.

“It was a houseful,” she said. “Six boys and three girls. There was a lot of cooking.”

“They made a lot of noise,” Hope said. “They were a lot of fun. They got along beautifully.”

Article online, http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/content/duluth-familys-six-sons-all-served-military-during-wwii

Mike Creger
mcreger@duluthnews.com
(218) 723-5218

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