Skilled in many trades Divine Word brother served fellow missionaries
Brother Bernard (Louis) Gagnon, 1926-2016
Divine Word Brother Bernard (Louis) Gagnon, who was known for his dedication and skill in the kitchen, passed away on February 4 at age 89.
"Brother Louis was that ‘good and faithful servant’ found in Scripture. He served as an exemplary brother," said Brother Patrick Hogan SVD, a classmate and longtime friend. "I have never heard him speak ill of anyone nor complain or get angry. He lived a simple life with very few possessions and was ready and willing to take upon himself any task that the Society of the Divine Word asked of him."
The son of Joseph and Mary (Brown) Gagnon, Bernard (Louis was the name he took when he entered religious life) was born in 1926 in Burlington, Vt. He was one of nine children. Being of service to one’s fellow man ran in the Gagnon family.
His father was fire chief of Burlington. Young Bernard was a jack of many trades. Before entering the Society of the Divine Word, he worked as a shipping clerk, painter, cook, sailor and soldier.
As a teenager, he enlisted in the Navy and served as a seaman first class on a battleship in the Pacific during World War II. After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served in Germany until 1953.
Inspired by an audience with Pope Pius XII and perhaps the example of two of his brothers—a priest in the Diocese of Burlington and another who was a Cistercian brother in Wisconsin—Bernard entered the Society of the Divine Word in September 1954 in Conesus, N.Y. He professed religious vows in 1957.
Early in his vocation, Brother Louis hoped to go to New Guinea as a missionary, but his superior requested that he remain at Girard, Penn., because they had given up one butcher and didn’t want to lose another.
Brother Louis dutifully served as a missionary in the United States. In addition to Conesus and Girard, he supported Divine Word communities in Granby, Quebec, Canada; Miramar, Mass.; Washington, D.C.; and Bordentown, N.J. At many of his assignments, he oversaw the kitchen and provided meals for as many as 40-plus Divine Word Missionaries.
Brother Louis had a reputation for turning holidays, feast days and birthdays into special occasions. When he was not busy with meal preparation, he enjoyed golfing and playing cards.
Brother Louis lived at Techny for the past five years in failing health and confined to a wheelchair. He is survived by two of his eight siblings, Paul Gagnon and Theresa Bellizzi.
A wake service for Brother Louis was held on Feb. 7 at the Divine Word Residence Chapel. His funeral Mass was at the chapel on Feb. 8, followed by burial at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.
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