Emile Benoit recognized as a person of provincial significance
© Star photo by Frank Gale
Rita Benoit, widow of Emile Benoit, displays the certificate designating Emile as a person of provincial significance.
BLACK DUCK BROOK Having her deceased husband recognized as a person of provincial significance was a proud moment for Rita Benoit, widow of Emile Benoit.
The honour of the designation took place at the community centre in Black Duck Brook on the Port au Port Peninsula late Friday morning when the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program added five new designates for this year, with Benoit the only person of provincial significance on the list.
“How can you forget someone who is uprooted most every day? He’s dead but he’s still going,” Rita said of Emile in an interview following the designation.
She said the designation was beautiful and that his children all still love their dad, who died on Sept. 2, 1992.
While she has been living in nearby Lourdes for the past six years, she hasn’t forgotten Emile, because “there are memories everywhere due to the lifestyle we lived.”
Mr. Benoit was born in Black Duck Brook, a Francophone community on the Port au Port Peninsula, on March 24, 1913.
He became a fisherman at a young age and continued in the industry throughout his life — and also found work as a carpenter, farmer, healer, veterinarian and blacksmith.
After receiving a violin at the age of nine, he began performing at dances, weddings, community and family gatherings.
But it wasn’t until 1973 that he won his first fiddle competition in Stephenville and went on to take part in a number of festivals throughout the province. He then branched out to play shows and festivals across Canada and then went abroad with his music, attending the Festival International in Nantes, France in 1987 and a year after that went to the Jazz Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
Among his accolades were an honourary doctorate degree from Memorial University and a lifetime achievement award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
He composed more than 200 fiddle tunes and recorded three albums including “Vive la Rose” in 1992, his final album that was released just prior to his death.
Following the designation on Friday, his two nephews, Robert Felix and Bernard Felix, played “Vive La Rose” as a tribute to their late uncle, which was heavily applauded by everyone in the community centre.
Florentina Stroia and Jeff Butt, who both work with French Services for the province, were the people responsible for nominating Emile for the designation.
Butt said he works closely with the Francophone community on the Port au Port Peninsula and if you look out at the people in this province who stand out, Emile is certainly one of them.
“He was a great storyteller in the traditional style of French storytelling. He was a good fit for this award and I think we (he and Stroia) had it right as the minister (Terry French – Tourism, Culture and Recreation) and the selection board felt the same.”
Stroia said the nominators felt it was important to have someone of importance from the Francophone community highlighted and that Emile fit that category perfectly.