Pierre Chretien recently passed away on September 4, 2021 at the age of 69. I didn't personally know him that well, just general chit-chat at our nursing parties or gatherings when he accompanied his wife and my co-worker, Cindy. But like everyone else in town, I knew him well. This picture, with Cindy, is not the Pierre Chretien I normally knew. Just about every time I saw him, Pierre was wearing a suit and tie, and with a somber smile, would be greeting people who came into the Penetanguishene Funeral Home, something he did for as long as I can remember.
As a funeral director for over forty years, Pierre was the epitome of professionalism--empathy, sympathy, caring, understanding and compassion all rolled together into one so-nice a man. I often wondered how did he do it for so long, having to deal daily with death, grief, families and friends during the saddest moments of their lives. But he did it well and with class. Case in point...
My brother Pat passed away at his home on Don Street in 1999 after a battle with cancer, surrounded by his family. It was the middle of the night and other family and friends came to sit with us and Pat, one last time before he would be taken away. The funeral home was called and we were told told they would be down shortly. When Pierre walked into the house a short while later, he went around and gave everyone his sincerest condolences and then stood by Pat for a minute with head bowed. Then he did and said something that I will never forget and be eternally grateful for.
"Out of respect for Pat, who I knew," Pierre said looking around. "I'm not going to bring the stretcher into his house and place that he loved. No, instead, there are enough of us men here, I would like you to wrap him in a blanket and we'll gently carry him outside to the large front cement stoop where we'll put him in the stretcher out there."
Wow! I thought! Just wow! I never forgot that so simple yet strong act of tenderness, compassion and respect he had for the deceased, whether he knew them like he did Pat, or not. I thought to myself then, that Pierre was a pretty special man, who I bet was like this with everyone he dealt with. A very special man whose dedication and compassion for people never wavered until his retirement a few years ago. He had also been giving to his community whether as a volunteer with Hospice Huronia, the Penetanguishene Legion and as Treasurer of the Penetanguishene Knights of Columbus. He was a true man of the community.
To Cindy and your two daughters, Melissa and Katelyn, I can just say, "Wow! Be so proud! Your husband and dad was a pretty special and awesome man, who helped so many people in our town in their hour of greatest sadness and helped lighten their grief. It takes a special man. He was that, in spades."