The following appeared in The Sherbrooke Record on Thursday, November 26, 2020 as part of the Lennoxville & District Women’s Centre’s series, 12 Days Of Action To End Violence Against Women:
On a recent trip to the Eastern Townships I stayed at the Paysanne motel in Lennoxville. Today the Paysanne looks like an accessory you’d buy for your Lionel train diorama. There’s a woodcut map of Quebec in the foyer that appears to have hung there for the last forty years. That’s actually the last time I set foot in the place, that November when my sister, Theresa Allore went missing. The following spring, after the snow melted, she was found murdered in a ditch.
On this visit I took a trip to the St. Michel cemetery, the “French” cemetery, as a friend referred to it, resting across the Saint Francois River from downtown Sherbrooke. It is winter, but mild. Wet snow falls on the markers. Walking through the torn up asphalt laneways I have to sidestep many icy puddles. St. Michel provides a tranquil coda for the violence that took place in the late 1970s and early ’80s in the region. There you’ll find the last resting place of Manon Dube and Louise Camirand, both now correctly
identified as Sherbrooke unsolved murders by the Surete du Quebec. Angels and crosses adorn their markers. In death they lie kitty-corner from each other a few feet across a gravel road from two identical triangular plots. Jacques Turcotte is there. The 22-year-old was found on the Lennoxville golf course after the spring thaw in 1979. Jacques was last seen at the Bishop’s Pub that winter, and the QPF quickly determined he probably froze to death, though few believe it was the snow that killed Jacques Turcotte. A few markers down from Turcotte is the plot of the Couture family. Their daughter, Nicole’s name is marked, though there is no date of death. Nicole is still living, though in the winter of 1981 she was brutally attacked by Luc Gregoire in a downtown Sherbrooke parking lot. Luc Gregoire – now deceased – is suspected of the murders of Manon Dube and Louise Camirand. In 1993 he was finally arrested for the Calgary murder of Lailanie Silva. And the Gregoires are in this cemetery too, his parents
not far from the Couture family plot.
All of these people laid out within short proximity of each other, like pages from a Spoon River Anthology, the Edgar Lee Masters poems that weave a tapestry of lives and losses in a small town community.
Switch to a different cemetery. We are now in southern Ontario. It is summer, sunny and humid. I am at the foot of my sister’s grave though the inscription on the marker clearly instructs me not to be here:
“Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.”
It is Saturday morning, and a group of seniors are busy pruning and sprucing up the adjacent garden. The garden is beautiful, and quite out of place in what is otherwise a fairly bland spot with an overlook of the Trans-Canada Highway. An old woman approaches. She tells me they come every weekend, she takes special care to always attend to Theresa’s gravestone. She tells me she knew my mother, they went to grade school together. Does my mother know she does this, I ask. No, it’s a service, she replies.
A quick text to a friend whose daughter was also sexually assaulted and murdered in Sherbrooke in 2002. “Pierre, why isn’t Julie buried at the St. Michel Cemetery?”. A text back, “She is buried in the English cemetery, because it has more trees and is near the river.” This response is remarkably similar to my mother’s answer when asked why Theresa is buried next to the 401, “Because it’s high on a hill, she can look at things.”