DR. RENE CHARLES LACHAPELLE

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DR. RENE CHARLES LACHAPELLE - SHELBURNE - Emeritus Professor, Rene C. Lachapelle, Ph.D. passed peacefully from this world at age 82 in the arms of his family on June 30, 2012, after a long and fruitful life. He was born on Jan. 28, 1930, in Joliette, Quebec, to Romuald Lachapelle and Maria Desilets, where he was raised in a loving home with his sister and five brothers. He had a long and distinguished career as an educator, researcher and administrator in the clinical laboratory sciences. He began his education at the Seminaire de Joliette. Fortunately for his wife and sons, he abandoned his studies for the priesthood and pursued a curriculum in medical technology at the Universite de Montreal. He immigrated to Allentown, Pa., and served as head of the Bacteriology Department for the Allentown Hospital Association. He then pursued graduate work at Syracuse University and met the love of his life, Margaret (Peg) Laba. They were wed July 4, 1959, in Syracuse, N.Y. Earning a MS in bacteriology and PhD in microbiology, he put his skills to work as technical and administrative supervisor of clinical laboratories at Syracuse Memorial Hospital until 1966, when he took the position of Director of Medical Technology in the Biology Department at the University of Dayton. In 1974, he moved his family to Vermont to serve as Director and Chairperson of the Department of Medical Technology at the University of Vermont. His research efforts applied his expertise in microbiology and bacteriology to a number of clinical problems. He taught courses in immunology, microbiology, and medical technology and also served for two years as Dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences. The hundreds of students he mentored, advised and taught were grateful for his warm personality, his open door policy, and for going the extra mile to ensure they succeeded. Many of his students have gone on to successful careers in the field of medical technology and academia; several attributing completion of their education to his encouragement and guidance. He is remembered for his compassionate approach to student problems. Among his proudest professional accomplishments was working with his colleagues Dr. Larry McCrorey and Sam Feitelberg to initiate, design and teach the Race and Culture curriculum introducing the topics of diversity, cultural pluralism, and social justice through critical analysis and self- reflection. The curriculum remains a requirement for undergraduates across UVM and stands as one of Rene's great legacies. His meritorious career included many distinguished awards including the Kroepsch-Maurice Award for Teaching in recognition of outstanding performance as a UVM teacher, and Professor of the Year at the University of Dayton. He held memberships and played leadership roles in many professional societies including the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Society for Medical Technology, American Association for the Advancement of Science and Sigma Xi. He held professional certifications as a Medical Technologist and as a Clinical Research Scientist. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1995 to work in Tunisia where he taught, conducted research and helped to develop a robust medical technology curriculum and clinical laboratory at the Medical College in Tunis. He spent a half-year sabbatical in Paris at the Pasteur Institute as a visiting professor. Upon achieving emeritus status in 1996, Rene along with his wife, Peg, turned retirement into a full-time vocation. Their selfless volunteer work included scheduling and delivering Meals on Wheels, collecting and organizing eye glasses through the Lions Club for distribution to developing countries, and working with the Salvation Army in preparing and serving meals and as bell ringer during the Christmas season. Fluent in French and English, he served as a bilingual tour guide at Shelburne Farms. Rene remained dedicated and devoted for many years to what he considered his "second family," the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Shelburne where he served as a Eucharistic Minister, a reader, and trained many new altar servers. Rene was also the church's consummate go-to person for repairs and woodworking to help save the church money. He spent many hours in his basement shop melting down short candles and recasting them into new ones. His talents and gifts can be witnessed in literally every corner of the church. He will also be greatly missed by many residents of Wake Robin retirement community where he would administer Holy Communion to those unable to attend church. In what was left of his spare time, he enjoyed playing cards with family and friends and engaging in casual casino gambling where he excelled at blackjack and craps. Rene had a lifelong green thumb for raising tomatoes, peppers and other tasty vegetables. A world traveler, he ventured to France, Italy, Austria, Nepal and Chile. A lifelong angler, he developed a true passion in later life for fly fishing. Visits to Montana provided many rewarding opportunities to commune with the trout, and to indulge in his love of music with his family and friends. His musical tastes ranged from classical to country and his rollicking harmonica playing and French-Canadian folksongs were the heart and soul of "The Fishin' Musicians" during postfishing campfire jam sessions. His signature adage, "It doesn't get any better than this" characterized his positive outlook on life. The following words of kindness were recently shared with Rene by a dear friend, colleague and former student, Dr. Anne Huot: "You have lived your life well my friend. You traveled the world. You loved your family as a first priority. You shared a true soulmate relationship with Peg and together you raised three fine sons, each of whom is wonderfully unique. You brightened the lives of countless students. You have looked for and found the very best in people. You met the challenge of your health issues with courage. You have contributed to your community, leaving it better than you found it. And, your glass has always been half full. Your outlook on life is perhaps the greatest gift you leave us all with. You laugh easily, you forgive quickly and you love with an open heart. What else is there that a person can give the world?" He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Peg of Shelburne; son, Richard and his wife, Lori, of Huntington; son Marc and his wife, Wendy, of Burlington; and son, Paul of Bozeman, Mont. His two surviving brothers, Gerard and Guy reside in Quebec; and his sister, Gisele in Bolivia. He also leaves brothers-in-law, Gary, Bill, Frank, John, and Conrad; and sisters-in-law, Yolande, Rosemary, Janet, Ann, Judy and Carol. He also leaves dear family friends, Robert Potvin; nurse/neighbor John Poulin; Bev and Charlie Chantell, who would share good times each summer in Atlantic City; Carrie Krause and her beautiful violin playing; Bridge partners Sue, Bob, Anne, Orest, Jules, and Jackie; and dear Syracuse friends, Natalie and Elsie; as well as friends around the world. The family would like to recognize the wonderful care and comfort provided by Drs. Zail Berry, Theodore Fink, Alex John, Paul Unger, and Fr. Michael DeForge, and the many angels of mercy from the Visiting Nurses Association, especially Mary Loney RN. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Shelburne, on Saturday, July 14, 2012, at noon, with a gathering immediately following in the parish hall. In lieu of flowers, please give blood if you can or just do something nice for a person in need. If you want to give a donation in his memory, The Rene C. Lachapelle Award has, since 2002, been given annually to an outstanding junior in Medical Laboratory Science for excellence in scholarship, involvement in extracurricular activities and commitment to cultural diversity. Make checks payable to The Rene C. Lachapelle Scholarship Fund, and mail to UVM Foundation, 411 Main St., Burlington, VT 05401.

Published in The Burlington Free Press on July 4, 2012
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