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Pere Leger Comeau
Photo : Archives de l'Université Sainte-Anne

Pere Leger Comeau

March 31, 2000 Halifax Herald

Comeau: a man for all seasons, Acadian style

Pere Leger Comeau, born to Arcade and Ernestine Comeau on October 21, 1920, at Saulnierville, Digby County, was called home by the Great Spirit from Comeauville, Digby County, on December 22, 1996. He was a beloved, sincere man of impeccable principle - topped off with a good sense of humour. Because he pursued equality and justice for the oppressed during his lifetime, he left behind a multitude of friends from all walks of life and all ethnic groups. They held him in the highest esteem, yours truly included.

Pere Comeau's career accomplishments, volunteer activities and the honours bestowed upon him are much too numerous to be listed in full here. However, it would be remiss not to mention that he was the recipient of three honourary degrees, the Order of Canada and France's highest cultural award, Le Grade De Commandeur De L`ordre De Palmes Academiques.

In 1992, the good father wrote this precious little blurb about himself:

“Neither an autobiography nor a confession, just a peek in my life:

Age: 72

Colour of hair: grey through and through, no colour added

Health: a) of body: were all the human race as fit as I am, doctors and pharmacists would be paupers; b) of mind: no hope of improvement

Pastimes: hanging on at Universite Sainte Anne like a child to his lollipop (he studied at the university, became its director of continuing education and immersion, 1973-86, and was Vice-President External Affairs, 1986-93); imagining that I contribute my mite to numerous organizations; daily short spiritual message on our community radio; publication of a book containing 100 of those messages; Sunday mass with the charming community of Concessions in their lovely church; president of our community radio CIFA, and of St. Mary's Bay Historical Society (even though I can hardly remember the date of my birth)

Favourite sport: collecting friends like you.”

My first contact with the much-honoured and decorated “Acadian Ambassador,” a man who devoted his life to activities geared towards improving the well-being of Acadians, took place shortly after my book, We Were Not the Savages, was published in October 1993. It came by way of an invitation from him to journey to Universite Sainte Anne to address the Saint Mary's Bay Acadian Historical Society, which I accepted with pleasure.

On the appointed date, upon arrival at the Eudist Fathers residence in Meteghan River, the evening began with a delicious traditional Acadian meal, followed by a nice chat. Then, on to the Universite. After delivering a discourse on Mi'kmaq history and participating in a question-and-answer session with society members, there came a wonderful surprise.

Upon Pere Comeau's recommendation, I was made an honourary citizen of the Municipality of Clare. Quite an honour! But the best honour of all was to be befriended by such a great man. In this regard, I joined a multitude of acquaintances and friends that included such luminaries as Presidents Mitterrand and Chirac of France, Rene Levesque and Jean Chretien.

The following are comments from a few of the people who held the late Father in high esteem as a friend, mentor and pastor:

Guy LeBlanc, former Nova Scotia Cabinet Minister: "He was not only a defender of the Acadian people, but also a promoter... I always sought his advice because he loved and worked for the betterment of the community. He was a great communicator and would talk your language at your level. I believe that this is why he was so respected by all who knew him well. He could stand with the most empowered of humanity, but could also listen to and understand the least empowered. In many ways he was the Martin Luther King of the Acadian people."

Elsie Basque, first licensed Mi'kmaq teacher: "His short homilies at Mass are probably what first attracted me. Pere Leger had a way with words - instructive, but not overbearing, friendly but not overpowering. Many times, he brought smiles to the congregation. He was a kind, gentle man who devoted his life to his God and his people, the Acadians. He was loved and he is missed. I have lost a friend - a very good friend."

Cyrille LeBlanc - Wedgeport: "...He always encouraged us. And we would do better. That was the measure of the man who has touched thousands of people and we will always keep a place for him in our hearts, as he had a place for us in his."

Pere Leger and I spent some time speculating about how things might have turned out for both communities, had the Acadians and Mi'kmaqs prevailed in retaining the Maritimes for themselves. We came up with many rosy assumptions. Our discussions were never finished on this Earth, but, if the Great Spirit is willing, they will continue someday in the Land of Souls. Hats off to a great man!

Daniel N. Paul

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