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Despite challenges author gets Acadian history book published

Mercedes Benoit-Penney, author of a book entitled “Back of the Pond,” poses for a photo. The book recalls the early days of Stephenville, the American base in the town, along with some of Benoit-Penney’s thoughts on growing up in Stephenville.
Mercedes Benoit-Penney, author of a book entitled “Back of the Pond,” poses for a photo. The book recalls the early days of Stephenville, the American base in the town, along with some of Benoit-Penney’s thoughts on growing up in Stephenville.

Authoring her book was a dream that Mercedes Benoit-Penney couldn’t accomplish, until recently.

While never clinically diagnosed with depression, she’s had problems with solemn feelings since the age of six.

She said for some reason several years ago the feeling of not being able to think clearly left her and now her head is “clear as a bell.”

The book that had its roots 16 years ago, “Back of the Pond,” came together in the past two years and is now in print.

“It’s like a new life, a new beginning,” she said of how writing has provided an escape from her somber moods.

“For as long as I remember I’ve been writing and it’s been very therapeutic because it took me away and always made me feel good.”

While there is a lot of history about the roots of Stephenville and its first Acadian families in the book, along with the establishment of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base, a lot of Benoit-Penney’s feelings are revealed in the book.

During research for the book, she found out a lot of things she wasn’t aware of before about family and school life.

One of the topics in the book deals with the discovery back in the 1970’s of the Allderdice syndrome, which came about as a result of studies by Dr. Penny W. Allderdice, which identified an inversion 3 chromosome irregularity.

The earliest common ancestors of this inversion 3 were a couple married in 1817 by the names of Etienne (Stephen) LeBlanc and Anne Marie Cormier, who had come from Cape Breton and settled in Sandy Point.

As more members of the LeBlanc family married and relocated, the condition became far-reaching and no longer contained to the surname LeBlanc.

Benoit-Penney goes into great detail in the book about the syndrome, including several letters from families in the United States who were affected.

The book also has oodles of images from the past, from the early homes “Back of the Pond,” which refers to Stephenville Pond before 1941, prior to the arrival of the Americans to the area during the Second World War.

There are photos in Stephenville including businesses, homes, churches, schools and even Mosey Murrin. Also included are photos of the early Mi’kmaq and how they related to Stephenville’s history.

The book cover features a painting of Indian Head Range painted by Austin White/LeBlanc in 1928. The French Acadian scene gives a sense of the time (1930’s) and the farming way of life depicting Agnita LeBlanc, in a hayfield.

A U.S. military plane is inserted in the skyline to depict the base that was established in Stephenville.

Benoit-Penney, a retired teacher who is now 66 years of age, said one of the things she’s after finding out is that no matter what you read in the book, it starts up a conversation.

The book is available by contacting Benoit-Penney at (709) 648-9561 or at Scrap Happy, (former Drapery Shoppe) at 17 Gallant Street in Stephenville.

This photo shows the cover of “Back of the Pond,” a book authored by Mercedes Benoit-Penney.

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