LAVOIE, Gerard “Gerry” Edouard, CPO2 (Ret’d), CD, RCLS – Cook
Gerry passed peacefully on March 10, 2023, at Dartmouth General Hospital surrounded in his final days by the people he loved most. He was 81. Gerry or ‘The Chief’ was born in Charlemagne, QC, in July 1941.
He has left a lifetime of beautiful memories for his wife of 57 years, Françoise; daughters Sylvie (Scott Stevens) and Nathalie; and grand puppy Murphy, whom he adored.
Gerry enlisted in the Canadian military in January 1962. His first post took him to the cold and harsh environment of CFS Alert, Nunavut. In 1964, he was posted to CFB Marville in France, a move that would change the course of his life in many ways.
He found his passion in the kitchen as a Cook. He fed thousands of hungry soldiers and sailors over the course of his career aboard the HMCS Skeena; for 4SVC Battalion, 1RCHA and R22eR in Lahr, Germany; and A Galley at CFB Stadacona, just to name a few. He was as comfortable in a less-than-ideal set-up in the middle of a farmer’s field in Cold War-era Germany as he was in a well-appointed military base kitchen. No matter the venue, the results were always the same: delicious food, in great abundance. His troops always ate first, and never left hungry.
There are many young chefs who blossomed under the mentorship of ‘Chief Lavoie.’ As one former soldier recently wrote: “He was simultaneously feared, revered, respected and admired”. Mediocrity was not tolerated, and hard work was celebrated. His unfailing commitment to mentorship and modelling the way led to multiple medals at international culinary competitions in Europe for his teams. He made a huge impact on the countless soldiers and sailors that crossed the threshold of his kitchens.
He retired in 1995 at the rank of Chief Petty Officer, 2nd Class after 33 years of service. He was a proud Veteran and never missed a Remembrance Day service.
A local pub in Marville, France, where he happened to stop for drinks after work, was where he first laid eyes on the beautiful Françoise Philippart . It was love at first sight for Gerry, not so much for Françoise—but his charm, good looks and work ethic quickly won her over. They married in 1965 and welcomed their daughters Sylvie and Nathalie soon after.
Together, they travelled the world and seized every opportunity that life threw their way. They cherished postings in Lahr, which enabled them to stay close to Françoise’s family while also affording them the chance to travel Europe and to relish French cuisine and wine. To his dying day, Gerry would argue that there was no wine better than French wine. Full stop.
Over the years, Gerry and Françoise invited many a ‘stray’ to their dinner table — sometimes it was friends that the girls brought home, other times it was fellow service members who were unable to join their own families for special occasions. They epitomized the “build a longer table, not a higher fence” philosophy of life. You felt honoured to be invited to Gerry’s table, and he cemented his welcome with the preparation of the most amazing food. Eating at the Lavoie’s was an experience, never a simple meal. Sharing their food and their time with others is their love language. It has nourished many a hungry soul.
Christmas was always legendary. The rules of engagement were clear: 1) Never say you don’t like something without tasting it first. 2) Pace yourself— the evening is a marathon, not a sprint. 3) Savour the conversation and memories being created. The festivities started in the early evening on Christmas Eve. Seven courses of the finest cuisine imaginable seemed to effortlessly grace the table. The evening (or, more accurately, Christmas morning) always ended with the Chief’s delicious Bûche de Noël, complete with chestnut filling. It was a classic.
For the past decade Gerry and Françoise travelled to Samana, Dominican Republic, for three months every year to escape the dreary Nova Scotia winters. Unsurprisingly, they attracted a group of friends from all over the world who would join them every year. Each day, the group would gather under “Gerry’s Palm Tree” to plan the day, set off on walks or decide on the important details of cocktail hour.
Back home in Dartmouth, he walked five kilometres a day; met his coffee club buddies every single morning to solve the world’s problems; and helped Françoise tend her beautiful gardens. He LOVED a good debate (or some might say argument) and spending time with his grand puppy Murphy. He was known to buy new cars on a whim and was always on the cutting edge of new technology. If he was here, he would let you know that Android is way better than Apple, by the way.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 160, 703 Main Street, Dartmouth on March 22, 2023 from 2:00-5:00 pm. The ceremony for the Fallen Soldier will take place at 2:00 pm. No flowers by request; instead, please consider a donation to the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation or a charity of one’s choice in the Chief’s honour.
“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” Gerry used his life for goodness. He will be missed by so many, but his legacy and lessons live on. As Chief would say, “Chin, Chin”!