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Au revoir et merci
February 10, 2009 6:32 PM   Subscribe

The Vimy Ridge Memorial is a common destination for Canadian travellers in France. As previous visitors have discovered, however, it is not the easiest place to reach once you get off the train. Thankfully, there's been help in the form of the Welcome Man (Windows Media embedded video --clip starts at 11:30). Over the last 13 years Georges Devloo has met the train at Vimy every day, where he offers free transportation to the memorial to confused and lost Canadians seeking to pay their respects. In this time, it's been estimated that M. Devloo has given rides other assistance to over 1,200 Canadians. Today, we said au-revoir to "le grand-père de Vimy".
posted by aclevername (25 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apologies for the embedded Windows Media clip. I was hoping to find stand alone video of that clip elsewhere on the web, but had no luck.
posted by aclevername at 6:33 PM on February 10, 2009


What a neat story...

A sad passing of a good person....
posted by HuronBob at 6:49 PM on February 10, 2009


I met Georges Devloo during my trip to Vimy. My friends and I (and two other Canadians we met on the train) arrived at the station without knowing how we were going to get to the memorial. Georges pulled up and motioned for all 5 of us to get in his compact hatchback. We were a little reluctant at first, but he was too adorable not to trust. So, we crammed into his car. He drove us straight to the memorial.

After the tour, Georges was right there to drive us back to the train station. However, we had time to kill before the next train arrived, so we went to his house. He fed us beer and cookies. As soon as we finished our snacks, he pulled out a photo album. Using an old French-English dictionary, he told us all about his trip to Vimy, Alberta.

Before we knew it, he put the food away and motioned for us to leave. He dropped us off at the station just as the train was arriving. He really has it down to an art.
posted by AdamFlybot at 6:49 PM on February 10, 2009 [14 favorites]


Very touching story.

Thanks for posting it.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:50 PM on February 10, 2009


A . for someone who truly deserves it. Thanks, Georges.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2009


Thanks for this link, I didn't know about Georges, and wish I'd had the chance to meet him.
posted by furtive at 7:24 PM on February 10, 2009


This is a wonderfully sweet post, thanks so much.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 PM on February 10, 2009


Wow. What an amazingly dedicated man. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:34 PM on February 10, 2009


What a lovely story about a wonderful individual. I hope the Canadian government gives him some recognition or honours him in some way. Would have been nice if we could have made him an honorary citizen in his lifetime.

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posted by ilana at 7:43 PM on February 10, 2009


Wow, I had no idea. I've always wanted to go to Vimy but now I will be sad I missed le grand-père.
posted by saucysault at 7:57 PM on February 10, 2009


Conscious acts of remembering combined with generosity and hospitality; it's all those fine human virtues in one great post! Thank you.
posted by Abiezer at 8:55 PM on February 10, 2009


I hope the Canadian government gives him some recognition or honours him in some way. Would have been nice if we could have made him an honorary citizen in his lifetime.

Has anyone notified the Vinyl Cafe? He deserves a eulogy from Stuart McLean at the very least.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:39 PM on February 10, 2009


Never let it be said that the French people do not appreciate and remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and women from the Allied countries during both World Wars. Here's an example of what they do to commemorate Australian casualties from WW1. I'm sure there are many other examples across France.
posted by awfurby at 9:59 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by sbutler at 1:52 AM on February 11, 2009


I sent an email to the Vinyl Cafe linking to this post.

We visited Vimy last December and it is an amazing memorial. Beforehand we visited my great-grandfather's grave site a few kilometers away. It felt good to see how well maintained the graveyard was, even though it was just a small site in the middle of some farmer's fields.
posted by dripdripdrop at 6:10 AM on February 11, 2009


Wow. This made me cry. I hadn't heard of Georges Devloo before this post, and I'm glad to know that he was there, doing what he was doing.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:18 AM on February 11, 2009


CBC News piece about his passing.
posted by dripdripdrop at 6:35 AM on February 11, 2009


I was there on April 9, 1988. I remember that train station, or more specifically sitting on the bare concrete beside the tracks, listening to whatever British radio station I could pick up on my walkman, having absolutely no clue when the next (and if I remember right, only) train would stop by to pick me up. I had showed up that morning without much of a clue where I was going, either. There was no kindly old gentleman there to greet me and show me the way. I walked. From the train station, through the town, out to the patch of ground that holds such incredible significance in the history of my country. Walking down the long tree-lined entrance, seeing those familiar Government of Canada signs, I realized the significance it held to the country I was visiting as well, to have given this patch of land away. This was Canadian soil, in the heart of northern France.

The site itself is beautiful, a spectacular monument atop a lush green ridge even in that early spring cold. The trench lines, frozen in concrete forever, seemed too basic for my imagination. How the hell could they have lived in those trenches under fire, with little more than bags of sand as protection? Then the bizarre, pock-marked landscape grabbed my attention. Holes large and small, holes upon holes, burying other holes, all grassy and inviting. Except for the signs - caution, unexploded ammunition. Those are the results of the artillery shells, 71 years old at the time and still clearly visible. Sections of the forest around me are fenced-in for the same reason. Those old shells are temperamental with age.

It's wonderful that there was someone like Georges to help people like me looking to visit that site. I don't know if I would have taken him up on his offer had he been there for me, though. The solitude of my visit seems more in keeping with the place, at least to me.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2009


> He has developed a great fondness for maple syrup products.

I lost it right here.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2009


Oh man do I suddenly miss France.

Never let it be said that the French people do not appreciate and remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and women from the Allied countries during both World Wars.

Indeed. Visiting Normandie was very moving for me as an American and made me lose a lot of cynicism about the use of the US military. Iraq and Afghanistan are troublesome, but there's no confusion or ambiguity in northern France about les amis.
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on February 11, 2009


I sent an email to the Vinyl Cafe linking to this post.

Oh lord, if Stuart Maclean starts to eulogize this guy on the radio I am going to cry like a baby. But if anyone deserves such a tear-jerking honour, it would be this man.
posted by GuyZero at 8:30 AM on February 11, 2009


If you can't make it to Vimy, go to the War Museum in Ottawa. All the maquettes for the memorial are there in the Hall of Peace.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2009


Some great photos of M. Devloo from his facebook group.
posted by aclevername at 4:10 PM on February 11, 2009


I worked at Vimy about a year or so ago, and I've been thinking a lot about M. Devloo over the past few days. It kind of strange to come here, even to Metafilter, and read people who've never met him saying such wonderful things about him. (It's stranger still to hear people calling him Georges - I think I knew that was his name, but I don't think I ever heard anyone refer to him by that until now... He was always a M. Devloo to us.)

All this coverage seems odd to me right now, because despite everyone telling me about M. Devloo on my way overseas and despite the way everyone seemed to know him once I was at Vimy, it's really incredible to see that everyone had such fond, happy memories about the man.

Despite the fact that it's difficult to see his photo linking to an obituary on the CBC homepage every time I go there, it's equally awe-inspiring to me to understand that M. Devloo had the energy and generosity to touch as many people as he had... I feel really fortunate that I was able to spend as much time with him as I did.
posted by Old Man Wilson at 8:38 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Jade Dragon at 1:45 AM on February 13, 2009


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