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American-French Genealogical Society

AFGS French Canadian Hall of Fame

The American-French Genealogical Society during its 25th anniversary introduced the AFGS French-Canadian Hall of Fame.
The hall of fame recognizes individuals of French-Canadian ancestry who have made significant contributions to their community, or who have achieved success in their life?s endeavors. 
French-Canadian Hall of Fame Inductions and Special Achievement Awards are Presented During Annual Awards Event

Class of 2009
Laurent Gousie, Ph.D Professor/Lecturer in French - Providence College
Eugene A. Peloquin Retired Educator
Moise Potvin* Renown Woodcarver and Violin Maker
Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste French-Canadian Benefit Society

Laurent Gousie, Ph.D
Laurent Gousie, Ph.D
Laurent Gousie began his college teaching career at Providence College in September 1960 as an instructor of Intermediate French. His career at PC spanned 50 years, retiring in June of 2009.
While teaching at PC, he continued his studies at Harvard University, where he received a Master of Arts degree in Modern German Literature in 1965. He was later appointed Coordinator of Study Abroad, a position that he held for 25 years. Between 1967 and 1970, Dr. Gousie served as the Resident Director of the Study Abroad Program in Fribourg, Switzerland. While there, he completed the requirements for his doctorate in Modern German Literature, with minors in German Philology and French Literature.
During the 1970s and 80s, Dr. Gousie continued to move up the career ladder. He was appointed Assistant Dean of the Undergraduate School. In that capacity he developed a semester exam schedule that was used for more than 20 years.
He was later appointed the Registrar for all schools at Providence College. His accomplishments in that position include the initiation of a telephone and online registration system, and the creation of an automated degree audit transcript that enables advisors and department chairs to determine whether a student has met all of the requirements for graduation.
Dr. Gousie served as the Associate Vice President for Academic Records, was a member of the college planning committee, and served on the committee which developed and introduced the Western Civilization Program at Providence College.
While serving as a tenured professor at PC, Dr. Gousie also achieved a distinguished military career. He served more than three years on active duty in the U.S. Army as part of the occupation forces in Germany, and remained there after in the Army Reserve for more than 33 years.
He has the distinction of moving through each of the enlisted and officer ranks. He enlisted as a private first class and reached the level of sergeant major. He then received a direct commission as a second lieutenant. He continued to rise through the officer ranks, and retired as a colonel.
As an officer, Gousie held many positions, including commander of an infantry training battalion, and commander of a major training unit. He also commanded an active duty exercise training 600 recruits for service as infantry soldiers. This was a ten week experimental program supervised by the highest levels of the Department of the Army.
He is the recipient of several service medals, ribbons and awards including the Legion of Merit, which is the highest non-combat award for meritorious military service.

Eugene A. Peloquin
Eugene A. Peloquin
Eugene A. Peloquin was born during the height of the Great Depression,.in the heart of the Social District of Woonsocket. Gene was the youngest of eight children born to Marie Louise (Tellier) and Armand Peloquin.
Gene attended St. Ann School in Woonsocket, graduated from Mount Saint Charles Academy, earned an associate degree from Our Lady of Providence Seminary. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Providence College and earned his master’s in education from Boston University.
He enjoyed a 31-year career in the North Smithfield school system, where he worked as both a teacher and a principal until his retirment in 1989. Gene also served his country honorably for 33 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve. He graduated from Officers Candidate School in Newport in 1956 and was commissioned an ensign. While serving on active duty, Gene served aboard the USS Fiske, was assignd to the staff of Commander Destroyer Squadron 8 aboard the USS Decatur with deployments to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.
As a member of the Navy Reserve, Gene was a Combat Information Center Officer, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Justice School and served as a ship’s legal officer and prosecutor for Courts Martial. He served as a unit commanding officer for seven years and retired in 1981 with the rank of Captain.
He was a teacher and principal of the Fire Station and Eleanor Howard Kindergartens, Bushee, Union Village, Andrews (a one-room schoolhouse), Kendall-Dean, and Dr. Harry L. Halliwell schools in North Smithfield.
Gene is a volunteer at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, something he has done since the museum opened in 1997. For the past ten years he has devoted much time to chronicaling the story of Catholic education. The so-called “Nun Project” is a an effort in which Gene is most proud. He worked with the leadership of the museum and a committee of religious, representing the many different orders who served the northern Rhode Island area to compile yearbooks, photographs and other historical information about the parochial schools, most of which have been closed for many years.
Gene has also spearheaded a number of projects that saluted military veterans. The most prominent was the Tribute to the Greatest Generation in 2004. The program, held at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, honored veterans of World War II. He also was involved in a project in which Woonsocket High School issued diplomas to World War II veterans in the city who had not completed high school because they volunteered for military service.

Moise Potvin
Moise Potvin *
Born in West Farnham, Quebec in 1876, Moise Potvin was the oldest of 17 children. At the age of three he was already exhibiting an unusually gifted talent that was evident in his drawings of livestock, common in the rural area in which he lived.
Since the only formal training at the time was to be found in Montreal or Quebec City, Moise remained, for the most part, self taught, drawing upon the environment and experiences to provide material for his work.
In 1891, his parents immigrated to the Arctic section of West Warwick, R.I. As the oldest child, he entered the textile mill and began to learn the trades of weaver and loom fixer. He worked in these trades for about 15 years. During this time he continued to dabble in drawing, painting, theatricals, and especially carving.
He married at age 20 and moved with his new bride, Arcelia Forand, to Woonsocket. He played parts in various amateur plays that were under the direction of Victor Vekeman. Moise was lonesome for his family and returned to West Warwick around 1900 and started an acting troupe entitled The Ten Potvins Dramatic Company. The troupe acted in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
He eventually returned to Woonsocket where he edited a small publication entitled Le Charivari. This “sheet” as he called it, published short, funny stories and jokes. He also started a small sign painting shop to help support himself and his family. During these years he began making violins on the side.
Potvin eventually quit the sign painting business and started a small violin shop on Main Street, where he made and repaired these instruments. Moise made 160 violins and repaired over 1,000.
Throughout these years Potvin continued to carve. His years of rebuilding looms, and vast knowledge of gear, wheel, and cog movements proved instrumental in his artistic career when he created animated scenes depicting his life and the experience of the French Canadians made entirely of wood. He used some 92 species of wood from around the world.
In 1925 he gathered these marvels and joined in partnership with George Fleurant to exhibit this extraordinary collection. That year they left for the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, where they remained for 16 months. From there they took their exhibit to New York City, and eventually to over 100 cities in the United States, and to the principal cities of Canada.
Potvin also developed a passion for clay modeling. He recieved many commissions to make busts of celebrities, and political leaders.
Moise Potvin died at the age of 72 on December 12, 1948. He is buried in Precious Blood Cemetery in Woonsocket.

Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Delegates from a number of local groups met in Woonsocket, R.I. in March of 1900 and voted in favor of establishing a new federation that would seek to unite fraternally minded persons of French-Canadian origin living in the United States in order to contribute to their individual and collective progress. For these delegates, progress was not only financial, but educational, cultural, and social. The officers and directors named at that meeting subsequently voted to establish Union Saint-Jean-Baptise (USJB) on May 7, 1900.
During the latter part of the 19th century local mutual assistance societies had sprung up in most of the heavily populated Franco-American centers to assist needy families when illness or death occurred. Whenever a member died, each surviving member was expected to donate $1.00 to his survivors.
By bringing together many local societies scattered throughout northeastern and midwestern cities, individuals and especially their dependents, could be better protected from the changes in fortune brought about by the sickness or death of a family provider. Ethnic solidarity--a sense of the community’s obligation to care for its own people--was at the heart of this movement.
L’Union fait la force--In Union There Is Strength--became both the motto and the rallying cry of the new organization as it strove to become the “national” society for Franco-Americans. It would succeed in its aim, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, where large concentrations of Franco-Americans could be found.
USJB’s first officers, who served from 1900 to 1902 were principally from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. As early as 1902, the first vice president was from Illinois, and the spiritual director was the venerable and revered Rev. F.X. Chagnon of Champlain, New York, who had played an inspiring and respected role in the general conventions held by Franco-Americans throughout the Northeast and Midwest in the late 19th century.
This wheel would come full circle in 1991 when once again USJB sought and found an ally in the Midwest--this time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin--when it merged with Catholic Family Life Insurance (CFLI), founded for the same purpose as USJB, to protect and assist an immigrant group, in this case the Germans. Like USJB, CFLI has a history that in can point to with pride. CFLI is the oldest Catholic fraternal benefit society in the nation. It is the first fraternal to issue a policy, first to offer insurance to women and children, first to adopt the legal reserve system, and first fraternal to pay dividends to members.
USJB is energized by the realization that it can count upon the wholehearted support of Catholic Family Life Insurance even as it remains true to the ideals of promoting the cultural and religious survivance of Franco-Americans.

The American-French Genealogical Society, founded in 1978, is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting people of French-Canadian ancestry in the research of their family history.

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Updated 9 November, 2009

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