Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 23, 1888
Place of BirthSt Theodore de Chertsy, Montcalm, Quebec
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinIsrael Desilet, father 20 8th Street, Cloquet, Minnesota, USA
Trade / CallingBookkeeper
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number821929
BattalionArmy Artillery Park, Park Battery B
ForceAmerican Expeditionary Forces
BranchFirst Army Coastal Artillery Corps
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 3, 1970
Age at Death81
Buried AtLakeview Cemetery, Two Harbors, Minnesota
PlotSection J86 Block 6 Grave 2

Desilet, Joseph Octave

Joseph Octave Desilet was born on 23 July 1888 in St Theodore de Chertsy, Montcalm, Quebec, date confirmed by his baptism record. His father Israel Desilet was from Joliette in Quebec while his mother Marie Leontine Perrault was from St Theodore where the couple married on 27 July 1886. At the time of the marriage Israel’s occupation was listed as cultivateur (farmer). The couple gave birth to their first child, daughter Maria Fabiana, in 1887. By 1889 the family had moved to Norman, Ontario, a small community that is now part of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. Other Desilet family were living in Norman, with work found at the local saw mill. Sadly daughter Maria was born in 1889 but died three days after her birth. Marguerite Olivia was born in 1890. A short time after the 1891 Canada census the family immigrated to the United States, settling in Cloquet in Minnesota. Brothers Albert and Philip were born in Cloquet, Albert in 1892 and Philip in 1895.

By the time of the 1910 US census Octave was living in Duluth, Minnesota where he was working as an operator at the fire department. By 1917 when he signed his WW1 Draft Registration card on 1 June he was back in Cloquet working as a bookkeeper. His card described him as short, medium in weight with brown eyes and brown hair. His date and place of birth was given as 23 July 1889 in Norman.

As a Private 1st Class with Park Battery B, Army Artillery Park, Coast Artillery Corps, Octave embarked for overseas from Hoboken, New Jersey aboard the Kroonland on 15 June 1918. The passenger list gave his father Israel in Cloquet as next of kin.

The Army Artillery Park participated in a number of drives, having delivered ammunition, under fire in most cases, on the following fronts: Verdun, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Champagne. The number of projectiles hauled during the few months on the front was approximately 525,000, varying in size from 3″ up to 10″. Powder charges, primers and fuses for 475,000 projectiles were also transported; all of this work done by the three first truck companies, two park batteries and Park Battery ‘C,’ the latter with one month’s work to its credit.

At the shell-flattened villages of Esnes and Neuvilly, France advance ammunition dumps were established. Both of these dumps were bombed nightly. The Hun evidently believed in the old saying, ‘Have patience,’ for ten chances to one you could depend upon hearing the distant hum of Boche planes about 9 o’clock every clear evening (and most all of them were clear then). The sound of planes at that time of night meant ‘lights out,’ and no argument about it. A few moments after the first alarm they would start ‘dropping ’em,’ with the first landing about a mile away, the next closer. The tense moments were those from the time the nearest landed ’till the time Fritz had passed. Like other conditions surrounding us, we soon got used to being bombed and at the end hardly ever awoke, unless one dropped unusually close.

With the opening of the Meuse-Argonne offensive and the advance of the artillery, new ammunition dumps were established, one at Buzancy 36 hours after evacuation by German troops by Battery ‘A,’ the other at Dun-sur-Meuse, a town on the Meuse river, and at that time just a few miles behind the lines. This latter dump was in charge of Battery ‘B.’ However, the time at these two dumps was limited, as the armistice was signed soon after they were established, rendering them useless. Shortly after the signing of the armistice, the motor transportation was turned over to various other units, and the Army Artillery Park started homeward bound on the 29th of November from the little village of Recicourt, France where the whole organization had collected for the first time since landing on foreign soil. (Joe Hartwell ©2004-2017)

With the end of the war Octave embarked from Pauillac, France aboard the Canonicus on 19 April 1919, arriving in Brooklyn, New York on 2 May. His unit on the passenger list was given as Park Battery B, Army Artillery Park, First Army.

For the 1920 US census Octave was living with his parents and some of his siblings in Superior, Wisconsin. At the time of the census he was working as a bookkeeper in a lumber camp. On 18 September 1923 Octave married Anastasia Marie Miller, marriage registered in Lake County in Minnesota. Anastasia, the daughter of Grant Miller and Mary Regan, was born on 16 December 1897, likely in Two Harbours, Minnesota.

Octave and Anastasia gave birth to two children. Richard was on 24 October 1927 but was either stillborn or died shortly after birth. William Keith was born on 3 February 1930 in Duluth. The 1930 census showed Octave and family living in Duluth where he was working as a bookkeeper for a lumber building supplies company. By 1935 they had moved to Two Harbours where Octave worked as a night watchman for Lake County according to the 1940 census. On 25 April 1942, in Two Harbours, Octave signed his WW2 Registration card. At the time he was working for Lake County Highway out of Two Harbours. Once again his date of birth was given 23 July 1889, place as St Theodore de Chertsy.

Octave died on 3 January 1970 in Two Harbours. At the time of his death he was survived by his son Keith (Marilyn Novak) and two grandchildren as well as his brother Philip in Yellow Medicine, Minnesota. He was predeceased by his mother Leontine (1950) and father Israel (1951), both in Superior, his wife Anastasia (1965, Two Harbours), and siblings Maria Fabiana (Joseph) Bellefeuille (1934, Little Falls, Minnesota), Albert (1956, Lewiston, Idaho), and Olivia (Robert) Poling (1961, Thunder Bay, Ontario). Octave’s brother Philip later died in 1972 in Yellow Medicine. Octave is interred in Lakeview Cemetery in Two Harbors.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Octave and Anastasia’s son Keith served with the United States Air Force during the Korean War Conflict. Predeceased by his wife Marilyn in 2011, Keith died on 25 November 2016 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

By Judy Stockham

Desilet-Octave-2 Desilet-Octave-3 Desilet-Octave-4 Desilet-Octave-6

Grave marker photographs provided by J Huntley,

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