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Final sail: Cap-Egmont fisherman gets one last ride as family, friends say good-bye

Alfonse Richard at the helm of his boat, Steven III. All his boats were named Steven III until the Gab & Mel. Courtesy of Denise Arsenault.
Alfonse Richard is shown at the helm of his boat, Steven III. All his boats were named Steven III until the Gab & Mel. Courtesy of Denise Arsenault. - Contributed

The Gab & Mel sat ready to take her captain for one last sail Friday afternoon.

The white Cape Islander with orange trim sat under clear blue skies outside the East Prince Funeral Home in Summerside to carry the ashes of Alfonse Richard to his final resting place.

First though, he’ll go “around the block” one more time.

“The block for him was Wellington to Abram-Village to Cap Egmont,” said his daughter, Denise Arsenault.

Most of his children lived within the loop, and he’d often stop in to see them two or three times a day, said Arsenault.

The Cap-Egmont fisherman died March 31. He was 88.

Alfonse Richard in the wheelhouse. Richard died March 31, at 88 years old. He had fished for 75 seasons. - Courtesy of Denise Arsenault.
Alfonse Richard in the wheelhouse. Richard died March 31, at 88 years old. He had fished for 75 seasons. - Courtesy of Denise Arsenault.

 

“It’s an amazing story. He fished for 75 years of his life,” said Scott Gallant, the boat hauler who had the idea to take Richard for one last sail.

Cousins Ethan Arsenault, 13, and Brayden Gallant, 14, carried their grandfather’s photograph and ashes aboard the Gab & Mel for one last trip “around the block.”
Cousins Ethan Arsenault, 13, and Brayden Gallant, 14, carried their grandfather’s photograph and ashes aboard the Gab & Mel for one last trip “around the block.”

Gallant remembers often seeing Richard at the wharf talking with the younger fishermen.

“There’s a lot of knowledge there,” he said, calling the long-time fisherman a “legend” in the community.

“He was a legend, indeed,” said Richard’s daughter.

Richard was 18 when he bought his first set of fishing gear, boat and all, from his father’s father. He paid 25 cents.

“It was the worst boat I ever had,” Richard would tell his kids. It had no shelter and it leaked.

Ethan Arsenault, 13, and his cousin Brayden Gallant, 14, carried their grandfather’s ashes and photo to the wheelhouse on the Gab & Mel and stayed with Richard for the last ride.

After leaving Summerside, the procession headed west, circled through Arsenault’s Fish Mart, Richard’s buyer, and stopped at "the fishing cove".

Gallant stopped the truck on the rocky shore, where everyone got out to chat. Locals from P.E.I.’s Evangeline region stopped over to visit and soon there were nearly 50 people gathered with Richard on the beach.

“When we got down to the cove it was so calm. There was not a bit of wind,” said Arsenault.

“Everyone from his own wharf was there and some were even there from Egmont Bay.”

She was moved at the way the community came together to honour her father.

“It was amazing to see what an impact he had on the whole community,” she said.

Richard was born in Cap-Egmont in 1930 to Josephat and Clarice Richard. He married Pearl DesRoches in 1961 and together they had seven children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Gallant said Richard’s wisdom will be greatly missed. The aging fisherman did all his own maintenance and upkeep on his boat, despite being nearly 90, and was still fishing at the close of the fall season, said Gallant. He had planned to fish one more year.

The only other captain with as much water under the bow is Alcide Arsenault, born just a month apart from Richard. Alcide was at the service but didn’t want to talk.

“They’re still the captain of the boat. That’s what’s so amazing. They’re still in charge,” said Gallant, who wanted to stop at the shore to see if there were any seagulls.

“Who else would you do it for?”

Twitter.com/AlisonEBC

Alfonse Richard, in orange, fishing herring on the Gab & Mel. Richard bought the orange-trimmed boat at the age of 86. Courtesy of Denise Arsenault
Alfonse Richard, in orange, fishing herring on the Gab & Mel. Richard bought the orange-trimmed boat at the age of 86. Courtesy of Denise Arsenault

 

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