Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 27, 1874
Place of BirthOrleans Island, Quebec
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Godfrey Lizotte (mother), 1 Parlor Street, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Trade / CallingCatholic Priest
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental NumberN/A
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion41st Battalion (attached)
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Chaplain Service
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentQuebec City, Quebec
Date of EnlistmentApril 21, 1915
Age at Enlistment40
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain and the Medditeranean
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 26, 1932
Age at Death57
Buried AtSt. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Lizotte, Joseph Oscar

Birth: On April 2, 1919, the Kenora Miner and News reported on a celebratory evening honouring close to two hundred local men who had served in – and returned from – the Great War. One of those on the list was Rev. Fr. Lizzett, a name that was not recognized. After researching different variations of the surname, it was determined that the Reverend Father was Joseph Oscar Lizotte, a Roman Catholic priest who was now living in Keewatin. It was this mention in the newspaper that connected the Reverend Father to the Kenora/Keewatin area and led to his inclusion in the Kenora Great War Project.

According to the parish record, Joseph Oscar Godefroy Lizotte, was baptized on October 27,1874, Ile d’ Orleans, Parish of St. Petronille, Quebec. His Attestation Papers state he was baptized a year later October 27,1875. His obituary gives a date of 1876. Joseph was the only child of Godfroid and Octavie (Laliberte) Lizotte. Godfroid was an hotelier, or, innkeeper, at the time. It is noted that there are different variations of the spelling of Lizotte; and, also of Godfroid (Godefroid, Godefroy, Godfroie).

Early Life: The family of three is recorded in both the 1881 and 1891 Canadian Census as living in Jacques Cartier Ward, Quebec City. In 1881 Godfroid was still an innkeeper. In 1891, at the age of 52, he was now employed as an agent/salesman for welding and soldering machines. Octavie was 36 and Joseph, 16. The family was Roman Catholic. Joseph received his education in the Petite Seminaire of Quebec City and the Grande Seminaire in Montreal. Prior to enlisting, he had served as Pastor within Quebec and may have been Chaplain of the 9th Quebec Battalion.

War Experience: Reverend Father Joseph Lizotte was one of fourteen Catholic Priests selected to go overseas, in 1915, to serve as Chaplains to Catholic personnel in the war. When he enlisted on April 21,1915, in Quebec City, Joseph was 39 ½ years old, stood 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 155 pounds, and had a dark complexion, dark hair, and brown eyes. He listed his widowed mother as his next of kin. She was living at 1 Parlor Street, Quebec City. Octavie’s address later changed to Maison Ste. Marguerite, 105 Rue des Stigmates Quartier Belvedere, Quebec City. Throughout his time of service, Joseph assigned his pay to his mother.

As a Chaplain, he was given the honourary rank of Captain and was initially assigned to the 41st Battalion, a short-lived French speaking unit out of Quebec. The Battalion embarked for England on October 18, 1915.

On April 16th, 1916 Father Joseph was taken on strength with the 4th Canadian General Hospital and was given quarters and rations. Days later, he embarked with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, arriving at Glenart Castle, on the island of Malta, where he was diagnosed with Nervous Debility. During World War 1, Malta became a major setting for hospitals to treat the thousands of men injured in the campaigns of Gallipoli in Turkey, and Salonika in Greece. Malaria and dysentery soon became major concerns, and, by the summer of 1916, Father Joseph fell ill with dysentery and was diagnosed with the condition twice, within five months.

In October and November, Father Joseph was again treated for Nervous Debility, first at St. Andre’s Hospital, then at Ghain Tuffeiha Camp, and at St. James Camp. His physician recommended rest and a sea voyage, presumably to England. Father Joseph was finally sent to All Saints Hospital, November 20th, before being transferred to Depot.

On January 1, 1917, his case was put forward to the Military Hospital Board in London. The medical condition discussed was not the Nervous Debility, but dysentery. The decision of the board was that there was no longer any sign of the dysentery and Father Joseph was fit for General Service; however, a final notation at the bottom of the report indicates Joseph says he suffered from mild nervousness. A copy of the report was sent to Colonel Steacey, Chaplain’s Department, Cleveland House in London. Steacy was replaced later by Colonel Almond, who may have reviewed the Reverend’s case, because Father Joseph was discharged from service, almost immediately.

Thus, despite the decision that he was fit for service, it was decided Father Joseph would be returned to Canada and on March 5, 1917, he set sail for home, on the SS Metagama. A note on his personnel file states his services were no longer required. His official discharge date, according to his final pay statement was March 16, 1917, at which time Father Joseph was residing at 94 Maple Avenue, Quebec City.

Overall, Reverend Lizotte’s personnel file contains little information, other than his Attestation Papers, his medical history and his pay record. Further research, however, indicates that Father Lizotte was a known alcoholic and may have been so, prior to going overseas. It is likely that the Nervous Debility diagnosed in his medical record referred to alcoholism.

Desmond Crerar (1995), stated it this way, “The notorious alcoholic [Lizotte] who had come to England with one of the French-Canadian battalions was quietly shipped home”.  According to an article in Canada (1917), cited in Crerar (1995), Father Joseph was officially deemed unable to perform his duties because of “arduous service”. Another reference to alcohol and the “Chaplain of the 41st”, Reverend Lizotte, was made Edgar Denton in his book, Limits of Loyalty (1980). Yet, despite such characterizations and any earlier debility, Father Lizotte continued to be welcomed and active in the priesthood, for the remainder of his life.

Despite such notoriety, the Reverend’s obituary says he was twice commended by England for his service; but, there is no such record in his personnel file. It may be the comment refers to the war medals he would have automatically received for his war service.

Life after the war:  It appears Father Joseph was sent to work, or, perhaps, to convalesce, in Vermont, in the United States, soon after his return to Canada. There is a record with the U.S. Records of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada, for Reverend Joseph O. Lizotte dated October 17, 1917, in Quebec City. This meant he could live in the United States without paying American taxes.

It is not known when he returned to Canada, however, he was in Keewatin by at least April 2, 1919 and was carrying out duties in the Keewatin Catholic parish as evidenced  by a marriage he carried out on April 30 of that same year. The Reverend’s mother came to live with him in Keewatin and died there on April 15, 1926. She is buried in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. It was in this same year Father Joseph became Chaplain at the St. Boniface Sanatorium in Manitoba.

Date of death and burial location:  A year before his death, Father Joseph developed an illness that eventually claimed his life. His obituary cites his service as pastor in parishes in Quebec, Vermont, Keewatin and in the Mediterranean during World War 1.  L’Abbe Joseph Oscar Lizotte died in Winnipeg, August 26,1932, and is buried in the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau for the Kenora Great War Project

The newspaper article (in three parts) is from the Kenora Miner and News April 2, 1919

Sources:

  • ca: Canadian Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Census Records; Drouin Collection; U.S. Records of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada, 1904-1954 (Head Tax Certificates, Form 524, Exempt Aliens)
  • Archives de la Société Historique de Saint-Boniface/Société Historique de Saint-Boniface Archives, 411 Photographie/Photograph
  • 10 Mar. 1917, 283. As cited in Crerar, Duff, Padres in No Mans Land.
  • CanadaGenWeb’s Cemetery Project:(http://geneofun.on.ca/cems/MB/MBWPG1664)
  • Crerar, Duff. Padres in No Mans Land: Canadian Chaplains in the Great War. 1 ed., 1995. McGill-Queen’s Press.
  • Denton, Edgar, ed. Limits of Loyalty. Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1980.
  • Kenora Miner and News, April 2, 1922 article.
  • Library and Archives Canada: Military Personnel Records WW1; Quebec Census Records (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca)
  • Manitoba Vital Statistics: (http://vitalstats.gov.mb.ca)
  • O’Gorman, J.C.D., Major the Very Reverend J.R. Canadian Catholic Chaplains in the Great War:1914-1918. (http://www.umanitoba.ca/colleges/st_pauls/ccha/Back%20Issues/CCHA1939-40/O’Gorman.html)
  • Registrar General of Ontario: Marriage Affidavit, May 5, 1919.
  • Why did Malta become one of WW1’s biggest hospitals? (http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zpx8d2p)
  • Winnipeg Free Press, August 27,1932. Obituary.

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