Friday, November 25, 2011

Art St Hilaire's Little Pleasures

One of the fellows atop this building on the campus of RPI, Rensselear Polytechnical Institute, 
repairing brickwork is Art St. Hilaire, a mason by trade.

Arthur St. Hilaire

A family contributor and grandson emailed FrancoAmerican Gravy with memories of Art St Hilaire's small pleasures and his character.

"Pip" also enjoyed his Camels -- several packs a day, in fact -- until the summer of 1977 when an X-ray showed an unidentifiable spot on his lung. He never smoked again after walking out of the doctor's office that day. For someone who smoked so heavily, Pip never complained when he stopped and as far as I remember it didn't affect his disposition one bit. It was just something he had to do, so he did it, he didn't complain, and he moved on with life. Lots of packs of unopened camels stayed undisturbed in the old "smoke stand" for at least two or three years after that, when he gave them away. That's one of the most important lessons I learned from him, a template for handling unpleasant situations, or things that seem overwhelming: Just do what needs to be done and get over it; something better is bound to be on the other side. In his case, who knows how many years he added to his life by stopping smoking in 1977?
Another simple pleasure -- very Franco-American, as I understand it -- was a fondness for pickled pigs' feet (pied de cochon). Yuck!
In later years, the biggest pleasure was sitting around and chewing the fat with anyone who was around -- at the American Legion bar, where he was an "honorary member" (never actually having served in the military), at home with whoever stopped by, at his friends Marge and Danny's "camp" on the NY side of the Crown Point Bridge on Lake Champlain.

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