Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 28, 1890
Place of BirthNorman, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Caroline Desilet, 2702 North Berch Street, La Grande, Oregon
Trade / CallingSawyer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number2292421
BattalionCompany C
ForceAmerican Expeditionary Forces
Branch91st Division, 361st Infantry Regiment
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 12, 1980
Age at Death89
Buried AtSaint Thomas Cemetery, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA
PlotNew Section 45, Grave 1

Desilet, Joseph Francis

Joseph Francis Desilet was born on 25 May 1890 in Norman, Ontario, the community now amalgamated with Kenora in northwestern Ontario. His parents Joseph Desilet and Caroline Provost were both from Quebec, marrying on 21 April 1873 in St Theodore de Chestsy, Montcalm. At the time of the marriage Joseph Sr’s occupation was given as cultivateur (farmer). Over the years the surname was alternately spelled as Desilets. After giving birth to son Emile in 1875, the family briefly lived in Vermont where son William was born in 1878, likely in Rutland. By the time of the 1881 Canada census the family was farming in Ste Agathe, Provencher, Manitoba where other Provost family lived. Daughters born in Manitoba were Diana (1882) and Amanda (1883). By the time of the birth of their next child, daughter Julia Anna in 1886, the family was living in Norman. Following the births of Norman Alexander in 1888 and Joseph in 1890, Joseph Oscar was born in 1892 but sadly he died in 1894. Joseph Oscar Antonnie was born in 1896 and Stella in 1900. At the time of the 1901 census the family was listed in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) where Joseph Sr was working as a saw mill labourer. Amanda had died in 1899 in Norman and after the 1901 census further trace of Antonnie was not found.

Around 1907 some of the family immigrated to the United States, with Joseph’s parents and some of his siblings settling in La Grande, Union, Oregon where Joseph Sr worked as a millwright for the George Palmer Lumber Company. According to a later census, Joseph immigrated to the States in 1916 and was working as a sawyer for a lumber company in Bend, Oregon when he signed his WW1 Draft Registration card on 5 June 1917 in Bend. According to his US Department of Veterans Affairs Death file, Joseph enlisted on 26 April 1918.

Constituted 5 August 1917 in the National Army as the 361st Infantry and assigned to the 91st Division, the 361st Infantry Regiment was organized 4-6 September 1917 at Camp Lewis, Washington. As a Private with Company C with the 361st, Joseph embarked for overseas from Brooklyn, New York aboard the Karoa on 6 July 1918. The passenger list gave his mother Caroline in La Grande as next of kin. The 361st’s Campaign Participation Credit World War I included Ypres-Lys, Meuse-Argonne, and Lorraine 1918. With the end of the war and having being promoted to Private 1st Class, Joseph embarked from St Nazaire, France aboard the Edward Luckenbach on 3 April 1919. Arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey on the 15th, Joseph was discharged from service on the 28th. Joseph’s brother Norman trained/served in the States during the war, further details unknown.

On 30 September 1919, in the County of Kootenai in Idaho, Joseph married Pearl Marquis. Born on 15 February 1896 in Baraga, Michigan, Pearl was the daughter of Ernest Marquis and Marie Lavasseur. Her parents were born in Canada, with the family found living in Akeley, Minnesota at the time of the 1910 US census and in Idaho by the 1920 census.

Joseph and Pearl were eventually to make Coeur d’Alene, Idaho their home where Joseph worked as a lumber company sawyer. The couple gave birth to three children, son Robert in 1921 in La Grande, Oregon, and daughters Anna in 1923 and Betty Lou in 1929, both in Coeur d’Alene. A mechanic and repairman, Robert served with the US Air Force in WW2 from October 1942 to November 1945.

Joseph died on 12 May 1980 in Spokane, Washington. At the time of his death he was survived by his son Robert and daughter Betty Lou (Robert) Stevens, both of Spokane, his sister Julia Siegrist of Portland, eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter Anna (William) McFarland in 1973 in Spokane and his wife Pearl on 24 July 1975 in Coeur d’Alene as well as his mother Caroline (1927, La Grande), father Joseph (1935, La Grande), siblings William (1959, Scappoose), Norman (1971,La Dalles), Diana (Clovis) Degagne (1971, La Dalles), and Stella (Paul) Masse (1971, Portland). His brother Emile had moved back to Canada and his date and place of death are unknown. Joseph’s sister Julia Anna (William) Siegrist later died in 1986 in Portland. Joseph and Pearl are interred in the Saint Thomas Cemetery in Coeur d’Alene.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photo courtesy of Bill Kapaun, findagrave.com
Obituary provided by Becky Menzel, Spokane Public Library

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