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Wilbert T. Lagasse

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BOYNTONVILLE, N.Y. -- Wilbert Thomas Lagasse, 84, passed away peacefully at his residence on Monday after a brief illness.

Wilbert was born on Jan. 29, 1921 in Cohoes, son of the late Arthur and Eva (Ouellette) Lagasse. He attended St. Marie’s School and later Cohoes High School. As a first gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy in World War II, his tour of duty included invasions in Iwo Jima, the Pacific, North Africa and Europe. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1945.

Wilbert worked for the Watervliet Arsenal for a brief interval before the war, and then returned there after serving. He held down a number of different jobs at the arsenal, but spent most of his long stint there as a spectroscopist in the laboratories. He retired in March 1983 after 41 years of distinguished service.

He married Leora Jones, a hairdresser from Cobleskill, in 1946, and together they enjoyed 33 years of happy marriage before her death in 1979. The couple had four children, Simone Lagasse of Petersburgh, Michele Lagasse of Boyntonville, Mark Lagasse and his companion Gary Sunshine of New York City and Suzanne Kimball and her husband Alan of Salt Lake City, Utah. The family lived in Cohoes until moving to Boyntonville in 1961.

After his retirement from the arsenal, Wilbert began another successful career as a recreational activity volunteer at the Weston Hadden Center and the Bennington Health & Rehabilitation Center for 21 years, where he ran activities like crosswords, Bingo and other games, woodworking classes and discussion groups. He also was a volunteer at the Hoosick Falls Health Center for six years. He was known for his ready sense of humor, patience and deep sense of humanity. He won the Vermont RSVP Volunteer of the Year Award, not once but twice, in 1995 and 2004.

Wilbert lived his whole life with great enthusiasm and energy. He refinished hundreds of pieces of antique furniture, which now inhabit his home and the homes of his children. He loved to garden, planting more than 3,000 trees and bushes on his nine-acre property. He enjoyed swimming in lakes and especially the ocean. Anyone who ever met Wilbert never forget his limitless love, caring and generosity.

A communicant of St. George’s Catholic Church in Pittstown for more than 40 years, Wilbert leaves his four children as well as his sister, Hilda Vogel of Cohoes. He is predeceased by two sisters, Dolores Berthiaume and Vivian Chouinard, both formerly of Latham. Wilbert also leaves his longtime devoted companion Claire Santway of Bennington, Vt.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered on Friday, May 6, at 10:30 a.m. from St. George’s Catholic Church in Pittstown. Burial will follow the service at the Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery in Schuylerville. There will be no calling hours. Arrangements are under the direction of the Mahar Funeral Home, 43 Main St., in Hoosick Falls.
Published in Bennington Banner from May 4 to May 6, 2005
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