It is with great sadness that the family of Claude Bourgeois announce his passing on Monday, May 15 at the age of 80. Claude is survived by his loving and dedicated wife of 57 years, Jean Bourgeois; daughter Beki (Mark) Millard; son Adrian (Lana) Bourgeois; daughter-in-law Tanya Bourgeois; grandsons Lucas Bourgeois and Ashton Bourgeois (Gracie Zdunich); brother Paul (Marilyn) Bourgeois; sister Sue Leclaire; sister-in-law Lou (Mark) Bingham; brother-in-law Larry (Atiya) Pollock; and many nephews and nieces.
He is predeceased by his son Michael Bourgeois; brother Jake Bourgeois; sister Monique Michaud, his parents Lucien and Elise Bourgeois and many other relatives.
Claude was born on December 30, 1942 in St. Boniface, Manitoba to Lucien and Elise Bourgeois. Claude was the eldest of 6 children, 1 of which died in infancy. When Claude was very young, the Bourgeois family moved from St. Boniface to Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, the birth places of his parents, where he and his siblings Monique, Suzanne, Paul, and Jake grew up.
From a young age he was a hard worker, thinking of different ways to make money. He started a shoeshine business, where he earned the name of “Shoeshine”, which stuck with him with everybody from Gravelbourg. After graduating from high school in 1960, Claude moved from Gravelbourg to Moose Jaw to start at Moose Jaw Tech. While at Moose Jaw Tech., representatives from Sasktel came in and offered jobs with benefits to anyone who would like to start with the company. He jumped at the opportunity and started a career with Sasktel.
Claude then moved from Moose Jaw to Weyburn, where he met an operator, Jean Pollock. On October 18th, 1966 Michael was born. On November 26th, 1966, the first year the Riders won the Grey Cup, he and Jean were married. Claude and Jean stayed in Weyburn, where Rebecca (Beki) was born on August 23rd, 1968, and Adrian was born on July 18th, 1972. In 1975, Claude took a transfer with Sasktel and moved the family to Buffalo Narrows in Northern Saskatchewan. In Buffalo Narrows, he did a lot of work with the installation and development of the phone system in Northern Saskatchewan. While on one of his remote journeys, he ended up at Lac La Plonge. He loved the area and purchased a lot at the lake for $200. He built a 6-sided cabin from the ground up, cutting trees with an axe and chainsaw, doing everything with family, friends, and by himself. This cabin was in the family for many years, creating many fond memories.
In 1978, Claude was transferred to North Battleford, SK. After a while of living in a town house, the family moved to the wonderful neighbourhood of Gregory Drive, with an amazing view of the North Saskatchewan river. Claude and family were in North Battleford for many years. Children moved on with their paths in life away from North Battleford, but it was always home. On his 30th year of employment with Sasktel, the company offered a retirement package of years of service plus age equals 80. Even though he was proud to work for Sasktel and enjoyed work, and he did not have any children at home, he jumped at the opportunity to retire at 50. This retirement did not last very long. He earned his high-pressure boilers ticket and became a maintenance man with the Union hospital, working for another 10 years, earning a second pension.
In 1999, Lucas, the first grandson, was born and Claude and Jean became Papa and Nana for the first time. In 2002, Ashton was born, their second grandchild. These grandsons were the pride and joy of their life. Claude and Jean put on many miles to the Star City to visit Lucas and Ashton, Adrian and Lana were there as well, but the focus was on the boys. In 2004, Adrian and Lana moved to Melfort so the boys could start school in Melfort. With Melfort being a nice community, Claude and Jean decided to move to Melfort to be closer to Lucas and Ashton. The boys grew up at Papa and Nana’s, learning many things from them. Papa would do building projects with the boys, take them to hockey games, attend all their music concerts, sports activities, or just do stuff in the garage that sparked the boys’ interest. The influence of Papa and his knowledge sparked the imagination of the boys and helped them to be the fine young men they have become.
One major project that Claude had, was a 1952 Ford Sunliner. In the mid 60s, Claude was doing some work for Sasktel and saw the old car in a field. He went to the farmer and asked if he was interested in selling it. The farmer sold it to him for $25. The car then sat in Gravelbourg at Claude’s parents place for the next many years. In the early 80s he moved the car to North Battleford, where it sat as a project to be. When he moved to Melfort, he finally was able to dedicate time to the restoration of the car. He built a rotisserie for the vehicle, and started the rebuild process, never having to do any work while on his back. The rotisserie allowed for him to turn the vehicle side to side without ever having to lie down. He did everything from the wiring, painting, drivetrain, upholstery, and developing a power steering system from different systems. This car was a work of love and dedication. It was his pride and joy in car shows and just taking Jean for a drive on a beautiful summer night with Elvis belting out on the radio. He always had his buddy and favorite character, Joe Cool (Snoopy) with him for car shows.
If there was a problem, Claude could figure it out. He wanted a small boat for up at the cabin, so he built a wooden skiff and rebuilt a 10 horsepower motor for it. This got him out on the river to fish. A car broke down, he would read up on what to do to fix it and fix the problem. If someone needed a weird or unique item to do a project, he would figure something out and build it for that person. He did so much for everyone around him. He took up sewing, starting out by cutting up mom’s leather jacket to make a backpack for Mike, then moving to making ski pants for the kids, to doing the upholstery for vehicles, including his son-in-law’s Jaguar upholstery.
When Claude was with Sasktel, he became a part of the Sasktel Pioneers, where he was very active and proud volunteer right up until 2 years ago, when he became ill. At the Melfort water tower, there is a Pioneer plaque, which he designed and built. He sold thousands of dollars in 50/50 tickets for the Melfort Mustangs with the Pioneers.
Volunteering and being a part of the community was a very important part of his life. If he was doing something, if someone asked for a hand with something else, he would stop what he was doing and help that person out, no matter what the project. He and Jean billeted many SJHL hockey players in North Battleford and in Melfort. They were always proud of the players as they became part of the family. They received a plaque for their 25 years of billeting while in Melfort.
Claude was an active member of the Canadian Ski Patrol at Table Mountain for many years. He decided to learn how to ski because he was bored when he would drive the kids to the hill and just sit in the chalet. He was proud to be a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol and just loved visiting with people as he was volunteering and skiing at Table Mountain. He was proud this year when being a part of the patrol was passed down to his son, Adrian who became a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol.
Claude loved to laugh. He would joke and banter with anyone and everyone. He was very well loved as a chaperone on band tours. He was always making everyone laugh on band tours. Even in his last days of life, his sense of humour was there. While he was in hospital, his gown dropped on his shoulder. Jean asked if she should push it up on his shoulder, his response was “No, leave a little something for the nurses to enjoy.”
Claude’s love of life, sports, music (he started playing the saxophone at 65 just because he always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument), fishing, golfing, family, friends, many hobbies, working on his ’52 Ford, and community have been passed down as a legacy through his family. Because of his love for everyone around him, they were able to have a laugh, learn something new or just share a memory. Claude, Dad, Papa, Shoeshine, you will be missed. Thank you for all you have given to the family and friends. Your legacy will live on.
Friends so wishing may make memorial contributions to the Saskatchewan Cancer Foundation, or to the SaskTel Pioneers.