It had been around 20 years since Armand Flamand hung up his keys, but it took until 2020 for the long-time truck driver to face his ultimate challenge.
Flamand turned 87 in January, and this past September, he was diagnosed with dementia.
“With this diagnosis, it’s been hard, to be perfectly honest,” said Leslie Flamand, Armand’s daughter. “He’s been a bit depressed. So, I had to come up with something to get back that little spark, because he lost the spark in his eyes.”
And what better way to bring back that spark than to get her father back in the cab of big rig?
“If you know truckers at all, they get the diesel in their veins and that’s it. They are diesel-filled for life,” said Leslie. “He’s retired about three or four times, and then he’d go back to something. He’s that type of guy, a typical trucker.”
Leslie turned to Facebook in search of someone who could help her set up a ride for her dad, and was ultimately contacted by the Premium Truck and Trailer location in Kelowna, B.C., where Armand and Leslie reside.
“One day before Christmas, one of our employees, Debbie Mortimer, was cruising Facebook seeing what she could see,” said Kelly Jones, branch manager for Premium Truck and Trailer. “She came upon a story about a gal looking for someone to take her ailing father on a drive in a transport truck, being he is a retired, long-time truck driver.”
Wanting to help, Mortimer contacted Jones asking if they could set something up for Armand, and his answer was a resounding “yes.”
“With 2020 being a nasty, cancel all plans, negative year, I thought it was time for a feel-good story,” said Jones. “Debbie got an over-the-top, happy response on Facebook that we were taking Armand for a drive.”
Premium supplied a 2020 Freightliner Cascadia for the drive, and Bell’s Trucking even offered one of its trailers.
Driving the truck was Premium’s service manager, Troy Thompson, and he and Armand were sent out on the open road in style.
“I had staff members sitting in all our display units in the front yard. They honked air horns like you’ve never heard,” said Jones. “As Troy and Armand left the yard, Armand was waving at everyone, honking while he giggled and said to Troy, ‘I could sure get used to this.’”
Armand likely didn’t get this kind of send-off every time he left the yard during his lengthy career as a truck driver.
First getting behind the wheel while living in Manitoba, Armand was one of 13 children in his family. He, along with one of his brothers, started by hauling wood in an effort to make money to help support their large family, with Armand purchasing his first truck at the age of 16.
“I had a long working life, from the time I was 14 until I was 81,” said Armand. “I really enjoyed driving to start off with. I enjoyed being in a truck. Trucks, trucks, trucks…it was in my blood.”
In the mid-50s, Armand and his family moved further west, where he had a stint in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., before heading into B.C.
He was not a long-haul driver, thanks in large part to his eventual wife, who didn’t want Armand to be away from his children for too long.
For most of his driving career, Armand was a grocery hauler in the Greater Vancouver area, maintaining a regional route so he could be home with his family.
After losing his licence in September due to his diagnosis, Leslie knew how much getting back into a truck would mean to her father.
“It was just nice to create a little happiness and have someone feel like a king for an hour.”Kelly Jones, Premium Truck and Trailer
“I let him know what was going on and he was absolutely beside himself thrilled,” she said, adding that the experience was more than she would have expected.
Armand was driven from West Kelowna up to the connector to the Coquihalla Highway and back. Upon his return, there were more surprises for Armand.
“Back at the shop, we handed over a few gifts and Armand was elated,” said Jones. “The drive was truly a feel-good story for all of us. Since then, we have checked in on Armand and he has good days with the not so good days. It was just nice to create a little happiness and have someone feel like a king for an hour.”
Though he loved being showered with gifts, which included a shirt, blanket, and chocolates, it was being in a truck again that brough the spark back to Armand’s eyes, at least for a little while.
“I wish I could go back to work, because boy, I could sure jump into that,” he said of the new Cascadia, which he said drives like a car and was “unbelievable.”
But no matter how new, how shiny, what brand, or what model, Armand will forever be at home in the cab of a truck, and will miss his time on the open road.
“Every time I see a truck,” he said, “I have to stop.”
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