Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 2, 1896
Place of BirthSt Bonifice, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinExilda Fortier, mother, 419 4th Street North, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number439104
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion3rd Divisional Signals Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 26, 1915
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 16, 1983
Age at Death88
Buried AtRiverside Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Fortier, Joseph Alfred

Joseph Antoine Orphidas (Alfridas) Fortier was born on 2 February 1896 in St Boniface, Manitoba. In his early life he went by the name of Alfridas, Alfred, or Doss but in later life as Joseph. His parents were Joseph and Exilda (née Leblanc) Fortier who had married in St Boniface on 4 July 1891. Joseph was originally from Quebec, while Exilda had moved to Manitoba with her parents from Massachusetts while in her teens. Three children, Anna, Angelina, and Alfridas were born in Manitoba before the couple moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario.

By the 1901 Canada census the family had grown with newcomers Joseph Charles Ferdinand and Claudia. Another son, August, had been born in 1898 but had died of lung congestion in October of 1900. At the time of the census Joseph was working as a lumberman. Three more sons followed, Isaac in 1902 or 1903 (he died in 1913), Ernest in 1904 and Joseph Louis Hector in 1906. On 14 May 1908, tragedy struck the family in the form of an early morning disastrous house fire. Having lit the stove, Joseph went out to the stable to feed the horses and upon his return found his family running from the burning house. Going in to retrieve a trunk, Joseph was trapped and lost his life.

With occupation given as trainman and his mother Exilda in Kenora as next of kin, Joseph signed his attestation papers on 26 February 1915 in Kenora. He gave his forenames as Joseph Alfred, and likely to appear older he gave his birth year as 1895. After training for a short while in Port Arthur, Joseph embarked from Montreal with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion aboard the Missanabie on 4 September 1915.

Once in England Joseph was transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion. In January of 1916 he was taken on strength with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot and then transferred to the 3rd Divisional Signal Company, Canadian Engineers in France later that month.

Divisional signal companies consisted of a headquarters section, a wireless section and two cable sections. The companies provided telephone and wireless service (including policing and interception) and visual signalling. Each had motorcycle dispatch riders, a pigeon service and personnel for airline and cable construction, electric light and battery charging. They also operated repair shops for mechanical transport and for telephone, telegraph and wireless instruments.  (Library and Archives Canada)

In early August 1917 Joseph was granted a ten day leave to Paris. From 23 August until early October 1917 Joseph was out of service (vdg) and then dispatched to Base Details on the 5th. Later that month he rejoined the 3rd Divisional Signal Company. In March of 1918 Joseph was posted to the Canadian Engineers Reinforcement Depot at Seaford in England for discharge on compassionate grounds. Returning to Canada, he was discharged from service as medically unfit (moderate debility-dyspnoea) on 12 June 1918 in Winnipeg.

In 4 September 1919, in Winnipeg, Joseph married Elizabeth Stenson. Born in 1897 in Middleton, Yorkshire in England, Elizabeth was the daughter of Charles Stenson Badcock and Harriet Lea. When the family immigrated to Canada in the mid 1900’s the surname was changed to Stenson. The 1921 census found Joseph, Elizabeth, and their two young sons Joseph and Melvin living in Kenora, with Joseph working as a trainman. During their time in Kenora Joseph played for the Kenora Thistles, a hockey team that had won the Stanley Cup in 1907. At some point the family moved to Saskatchewan and then on to Thunder Bay in the 1930’s. Other children born to the family were sons John, Albert, Gordon, and Ronald, and daughters Muriel and Helen. Joseph worked as a mechanic until his retirement from Abitibi Woodlands in 1961. He was a member of Branch #5 Royal Canadian Legion and enjoyed curling and bowling. During WW2 Joseph served with the Veterans Guard.

Predeceased by his mother Exilda in 1937 and Elizabeth in 1980, Joseph died on 16 December 1983 in Thunder Bay. At some point he had married Margaret Ligate, daughter of Alex and Margaret Ligate, all formerly of Edinburgh, Scotland. At the time of his death Joseph was survived by Margaret, and sons John of Terrace Bay, Albert and Ronald of Thunder Bay, Gordon of Regina, and daughters Muriel (Dennis) Claypole of Thunder Bay and Helen (John) Landry of Edmonton. Also surviving were 33 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren, brother Ernest of Kenora and brother Joseph Louis of Thunder Bay. Joseph in interred in the Riverside Cemetery in Thunder Bay.

Joseph’s brother Joseph Charles Ferdinand Fortier enlisted in Kenora and went overseas with the 94th Battalion, transferring to the 17th Reserve Battalion and then on to the 43rd. He was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme and is interred in the Regina Trench Cemetery.

by Judy Stockham

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Photograph of Joseph as found on many public family trees on
Obituaries courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library

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