Raymond Durocher: a personal note

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The very premature passing of Raymond Durocher this month
has been acknowledged by many people better qualified than I. It’s fitting that the Warden Jane Toller, MNA André Fortin, Mayor Gaston Allard, several councillors and fellow mayors have all remembered, with nothing but praise,

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The very premature passing of Raymond Durocher this month
has been acknowledged by many people better qualified than I. It’s fitting that the Warden Jane Toller, MNA André Fortin, Mayor Gaston Allard, several councillors and fellow mayors have all remembered, with nothing but praise,
this past warden of MRC-Pontiac, former mayor and councillor of Fort Coulonge, this model husband, father, and grandfather.
Many of us at the Pontiac Journal admired Raymond, right from his start. The newspaper itself was just hitting its stride when Raymond began
his life’s challenge in community politics. I’m pleased the Journal played a role in his years between operating the region’s ambulance service and actually running for public office – he certainly sharpened his leadership ambitions by debating, arguing, joking, and plain shooting the breeze in our office! We all remember his visits, once or twice a week, usually with a specific question or equally specific comment on something going on around town. “Town” meant all of the Pontiac. I remember his interest in a question facing the Danford Lake council, for example – even distant Danford drew his attention.
Perhaps those frequent visits, sometimes lasting a couple of minutes as
he was on a call or just returning home from one, sometimes lasting longer than we wished, as our deadline loomed, those conversations helped convince him that he had a role to play in leading our community into the future. Raymond had accepted the ambulance posting under the condition that he make the Pontiac his home, and that he did.
What I remember most were not Raymond’s particular comments, but his
positive attitude. Those were optimistic times and we all felt the Pontiac had finally found its route into modernity. This public optimism also attracted Raymond into political life – a can-do guy, he wanted to see results and problems solved.
It didn’t take us long to appreciate Raymond’s incorrigible, impish sense of humour. He had a funny story or comment to fit every occasion. Years later, after his terms as warden, he told me that a well-placed quip could achieve more in negotiations than pages full of statistical estimates. “You have to treat people like they’re family,” he said. “Because they are.”
The Journal’s Nancy Hunt recalled, “Raymond dropped into the office during his ambulance-uniform era. I was time-crunched to single-handedly rearrange all the heavy, oak desks (back-in-the-day we wore many hats). Raymond chatted non-stop, seemingly oblivious to my moving struggles, until after 20 minutes he said, ‘Look, I’m not leaving until you get that done’, and stayed at it with me until the job was done – pure Raymond.”
Nancy believes the Journal staff (and its physical office) afforded Raymond “a stress-reliever from his job, and eventually, a sounding board which shaped his future political career … his life’s true calling.”
Over the years, Raymond’s public career flourished, as did the Journal’s. We were all busier, and saw less of one another. I interviewed him; he let us know when he was unhappy, the usual newspaper stuff . . . allresolved with his trademark humour. “What a sense of humour Raymond had!”, remembers Lily Ryan, from when she was at the Journal’s editor’s desk.
Times change, Raymond’s political career hit a pause-and-retrench (or so we at the Journal thought), I retired (except for these columns), and Raymond went to work in the private sector.
One November afternoon, I was at the Pontiac Sorting Centre delivering a load of construction waste. The day was wet and messy, my boots dripped plaster, and as I stood at the counter to pay for my load, a voice boomed from the manager’s office: “Charge that guy double!”
Raymond had recognized my voice. We spent a few moments in his office catching up, and he sent me off into the autumn rain with his smile and a wink … never once mentioning his own fatal struggle with cancer. He looked fine, I remember saying later. 
Raymond always looked good. Because he wanted to. He knew it would make us all stand up a little taller.  … Thank you for all of this, my friend!