Nelson optometrist J.O. Patenaude has been immortalized in puppet form

Nelson welcomes pioneer puppet

AFKO commemorates historical Kootenay optometrist J.O. Patenaude with puppet now on display at Touchstones Nelson.

The massive, top-heavy puppet version of early Nelson optometrist J.O. Patenaude currently on display at Touchstones Nelson is intricately detailed, with a bristled moustache and a large pair of wrap-around glasses.

And though it’s already a stunning feat of artistry, Kaslo artist Rose-Blanche Hudon still isn’t quite satisfied with how the glasses look.

So she’s currently building a whole second pair.

And it’s that sort of attention to detail and perfectionism that thrills Association des francophones des Kootenays Ouest (AFKO) director Lyne Chartier, who oversaw the project.

“He is a lot more beautiful than I was expecting — the costume, the detail of the face, the glasses. Some things are missing, like he was a Knight of Columbus so he’s going to have a badge, and an old watch you put in your pocket,” she said.

The puppet is the second in a planned series of three intended to honour francophone settlers. The first completed was Crescent Valley pioneer Joseph Bourgeois.

On Wednesday the Star met with Chartier, as well as her assistant Alex Pilon and francophone poet Vincent Deslauriers, to hear what the pioneer meant to them.

Chartier said Kootenay residents don’t always realize the contributions made by francophones.

“Sometimes people think francophones come from history in the book, or they’re just tree-planters, but there’s a lot of in-between where they had a lot of influence and nobody knows. Now we can look say yes, this is a part of my history.”

She said Patenaude’s influence is still felt in Nelson.

“Every time I speak with older people they say they never met him, but knew of him. He was a very generous man. You go to the Catholic church and he was always there to help. He had a good relationship with them.”

She noted Patenaude Hall at the Tenth Street campus of Selkirk College is named after him. “He gave a lot to students. He never had kids but he adopted some, and paid for tuition, and was so generous they named a hall after him.”

Pilon said it’s been fascinating to learn about Patenaude, who he wasn’t familiar with before. He said he felt honoured to be involved in the project, which included  spending 16 hours getting the skin colour and details of the face right.

Deslauriers, who recently wrote a poem to commemorate the completion of the first puppet in the project, said the puppets transcend cultural divides.

“Like I say in my poem, before a question of language it’s a question of values. Hard work, perseverance, that is something that goes across the language border.”

AFKO plans to continue parading the puppets at a variety of community events. The final figure to be completed will be Slocan prospector Eli Carpenter (Carpentier), although plans have changed slightly for that puppet.

“There’s not going to be a third giant puppet. Eli Carpentier will be a huge mask, and he’s going to be dressed as a miner, and he’s going to be on stilts,” she said.

AFKO is aiming to complete the full project by summer.

“It shows something really powerful about art. This is also a cultural mediation project, by the fact we use art to create a place where angolophones and francophones can exchange ideas and come together,” said Deslauriers.

“It’s very cool to see the community is open to that.”

Who was J.O. Patenaude?

In 1897, francophone pioneer Joseph O. Patenaude arrived in Nelson. A 26-year- old aspiring optometrist, he could have continued in his travels and left the fledgling Kootenay Lake settlement behind. But he didn’t.

Patenaude opened his office at 366 Baker Street, and within a few years added a jewelry-making workshop and watch repair. His enterprise swelled to include 13 full-time employees.

Patenaude had more than one arrow in his quiver, however. In addition to jewelry, watches and optometry he also worked in silver.

He created a set of silver spoons in honour of the City of Nelson, with engravings of the church and various landmarks. He sat on city council in 1920 and was a long-time member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Patenaude became one of the main benefactors of the Cathedral of Immaculate Mary, as well at St. Joseph primary and secondary schools.

He passed away at the age of 85 in 1956.

Just Posted

Castlegar daycare selected for univeral child care pilot program

MLA Katrine Conroy presents letter of acceptance to the program to the Children’s Centre at Selkirk College

Kootenay region posts 10-per-cent return rate on electoral reform ballots

As of Nov. 13, only 5.3 per cent of ballots had been returned province-wide

Talking transgender issues with Nelson advocate

Nov. 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Leafs Roundup: Nelson adds a win and a tie on two-game road trip

Nelson native Reid Vulcano scored in his KIJHL debut

Over 120 people to lend a hand at Community Connect

The annual event offers free services at Central School

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

Most Read