By Marie Cadorette (Cher Papa’s eldest daughter)
The Cadorette family is inviting the whole community to celebrate “Cher Papa’s” 100th birthday on Sept. 5, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the house he built at 2739 Dundas Ave. in Shawnigan Lake, across from the purple building.
Wave and honk your horn. Cher Papa (Pete Cordette) will be sitting in his lawn chair enjoying the fun.
Mon Cher Papa is older than many of the artifacts found in the Shawnigan Lake Museum.
In fact, Cher Papa is a relic, a live relic, worthy of display.
Mon Cher Papa is the descendant of Georges Cadoret who married Barb Boucher in 1657 in Quebec.
Baptized Pierre Alexandre Cadorette, known more commonly as Pete Cadorette, he was born in his grandparents sod hut on the wind-swept Prairie on Sept. 5, 1920, in Tessier, Sask.
He is the third of 14 children born to Fortunat Cadorette and Joséphine St. Pierre.
Mon Cher Papa is the longest lived.
Pete, his anglicized name, is known in Shawnigan Lake for his decades of gardening on the property he brought his family to in 1956.
He is renowned for his bountiful garden of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions and beets.
Over the decades his neighbours would see him take off in his old truck bound for the seaweed at Cherry Point.
Many gazed in wonder at this very old man who was up at 4 a.m. hunting slugs, handpicking them off his beloved plants, dropping them into buckets of sea water he had fetched from the ocean.
From dawn to dusk, Cher Papa would be out tendering his beloved garden.
He often said, “When I get my hands in the dirt, I just can’t help myself.”
This year, Cher Papa passed his garden onto others.
Cher Papa has lived in Shawnigan Lake off and on for a very long time.
He first arrived at 18, in 1932.
Hearing about work in Shawnigan, he left Zenon Park, Sask. on a whim, traveling by Canadian National to Vancouver, CPR ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo and by train again to Shawnigan Lake.
“There were quite a few French speaking people from Zenon in Shawnigan in those days,” he said.
Many of their adult children live in Shawnigan Lake to this day.
Eighteen-year-old Cher Papa first worked at Shawnigan Saw Mill, now a park, until a serious saw mill accident, caused by a drunken sawyer.
Unable to work, Cher Papa headed back to Zenon before the war started in 1939.
He was called up for his mandatory basic training at the Dundum Military Base in Saskatchewan.
After his 30 days, Cher Papa, not impressed with military life, headed west to Shawnigan Lake, then on to the Queen Charlotte’s, now Haida Gwaii.
Cher Papa’s fondest memories are the years he spent on Haida Gwaii, piloting boats, bucking logs, fishing and hunting.
Issued an old rifle “that could hardly fire”, he did his shifts looking out for any Japanese boats that might be sneaking up the West Coast.
“When the war was over in 1945, back I went to Zenon,” he said.
“In my four years in the Queen Charlotte’s, I had saved $1,500. I married Amy (his wife of over 63 years, now deceased) on Aug. 30, 1947 in Prince Albert. We settled outside of Zenon on a quarter section where we started a family. I farmed pigs on a homestead. There was no running water, no power and an outhouse. Gumbo in the spring. Blizzards in the winter. Pig market up and down. When my herd got foot and mouth disease, I packed it in. We moved into Zenon and I became a long haul driver.”
In the summer of 1955, Cher Papa said he and Amy packed up the kids, their dog, a few possessions and headed to the West Coast.
“I arrived on Vancouver Island with 35 bucks in my pocket, a wife, five kids, another on the way and a dog,” he said.
“We rented for awhile before buying this property on Dundas Avenue where I still live.”