My Most Unforgettable Character
By Terry McConnell
Joffre L'Heureux, Chief of Police (RTD), reminiscing about his victory
as "Mr. Canada" in 1947
In everyone's life, at least one person stands out above all others as unforgettable. To me, Joffre L’Heureux was such a man.
My admiration for him began in 1940. I was seven years old; the second world war was underway.
I first met Mr. L’Heureux, a young policeman, in Sherbrooke, Quebec. His assigned duty at the time was to stand guard over a water reservoir next to my home. As a younster, I was intrigued by this man who daily took his post and remained vigilant throughout his watch. My mother made lunches for me to bring to him and I kept him company for many hours during his lonely, but important, vigil. He always had time to talk to me and was a strong influence in directing my respect of policemen, an influence that followed me throughout the subsequent years. He was then, and remains today, my special hero.
I had no idea then that he would become an influence in other ways. A gentle man, always ready to help others, he rose in the police ranks from constable to Chief of Police; his exploits are legendary in the field of law enforcement in the province of Quebec. A man dedicated to the protection and safety of others.
Joffre L’Heureux was a New Year baby in 1917. As a youngster, he was scrawny and lacked self-confidence. Smaller than other kids his age, he was the target of continuing jibes from childhood and school-mates. Having lost his father at the age of two, he was easy victim to other bigger kids and, lacking fatherly influence, had great difficulty in dealing with his lot in life despite a loving mother who did all she could to help her warm-hearted youngster. The tension and teasing he endured soon led to a greater physical problem, a nervous physical condition then known as "St. Vitus Dance", which led to a near complete physical and nervous collapse.
Influenced by strongmen of his early days, such as Canadian Louis Cyr and American George F. Jowett, Joffre not only conquered his nervous condition but, through the use of weight training, became a legendary force in the performance of his police duties.
In Richmond, Quebec, a mining town where he was hired as a modern day Wyatt Earp, he proved his metal in conflicts with bullies who brought fear to the residents of the small Eastern Township region. Long-time residents still speak of his exploits in cleaning up the town - physical battles in which he stood alone against strong odds - and successfully bringing the disturbing bullies to the station house. Two or three opponents at the time mattered little to the outwardly small but strongly developed body of a man who had dedicated his young life to building a superior physical being through weight training.
Having successfully concluded his requested task of cleaning up the Town of Richmond, Chief L’Heureux was summoned to another trouble spot in the town of Huntingdon, Quebec, which borders on Northern New York State. In Huntingdon, Chief L’Heureux served in the dual capacity of Chief of Police as well Fire Chief. Orders from the Mayor and town council were to "clear up a growing plague of thefts". Sworn in as "Chief" in October of 1948, on call and full duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Chief L’Heureux set to work to uncover the culprit or culprits involved in a chain of robberies which had plagued Huntingdon. The main perpetrator became known as "The Lone Wolf". He was arrested after excellent deductive police procedures, which led to his cache of weapons and other items.
As if these activities were not enough for a dedicated police officer and fire chief, Mr. L’Heureux never abandoned his weight training. His success in the field of bodybuilding spans many years. Among the titles garnered during the height of his career, he won many awards - "Most Muscular" and "Best Arms" were but a few.
In 1947, Joffre was crowned Mr. Canada. In 1949, he came second in the Mr. America Contest held in New York City’s Roosevelt Auditorium. That same year, he won Mr. North America and, in 1951, he was proclaimed "Athlete Of The Year" in bodybuilding.
Joffre L'Heureux, the bodybuilding Champion
A small man by today's standards, Joffre, at five feet eight and a half inches, sported seventeen and a half inch biceps at a weight of one hundred and seventy pounds. Compare that to today’s bodybuilders and you have a phenomenon of his time.
Now retired, at the age of eighty four, and after serious heart surgery, Joffre still maintains a light training program - light by comparison to the heavy weight training of his younger days.
Following a City Council decision to engage Quebec Provincial Police to insure the security of their community, Chief Of Police L’Heureux, the first and last full time law officer of Huntingdon, retired December 31, 1986, from the police force which had been his home for the great majority of his fifty-year career as a police officer.
Chief of Police Joffre L’Heureux was honored at a retirement party at the Huntingdon Chateau on Saturday, November 22, 1986 - after thirty-eight years with the Huntingdon Police Force. There were many plaudits attesting to Chief L’Heureux and his great success in a town which today remembers his fine work in making their community safe, both as a Police Chief and Fire Chief. Councilors and ordinary citizens alike agreed with the words of the incumbent Mayor, Gerald Brisebois, who underlined the courage and energy displayed throughout his illustrious career. In his final address to fellow policemen, firemen and administrators, Chief L’Heureux said, "I have always felt that it was my duty to help my fellow citizen to find the proper solution to the problem that was submitted. In applying the different laws, I have always sought to be as human as possible so that all decisions would be respectful of the rights of everyone, without exception whatsoever" - the code of a true police officer.
The Iron Warrior, the man who through his influence, instilled in me a high and continuing respect for police officers and great admiration for his success as a bodybuilder, is a gracious gentleman who, with his charming wife/companion of forty years, remains a most respected member of the community he protected for more that thirty-eight years.
The community you served so well will long remember that a strongly dedicated and efficient policeman was always there to safeguard their interests. A job, which, in my mind, makes you most unforgettable.
Congratulations Joffre. My admiration for you is unending.