‘Blessing of the Pete’ Rekindles Moving Soldier Memorial

BROSSARD, QC — “Tabarnouche I was so surprised I could hardly believe what I saw.” Owner-operator Raynald Bouthillier is talking about his reaction to events Wednesday afternoon when he stopped by Creations Jules shop to pick up his freshly painted 2005 Peterbilt Classic 379.

On hand inside the studio waited a small crowd, including a handful of soldiers; two clergy members (one to pray in each official language) a bag piper, some friends and acquaintances and two very special couples, who really wanted to simply touch Bouthillier’s truck.

Like Raynald and his wife Elaine Bouthillier, the two couples had both lost sons to the fighting in Afghanistan.

Because the Bouthillier’s truck carries the names of all 158 Canadian fatalities on the back of the sleeper berth, the parents just wanted to express their gratitude and literally run their hands over their sons’ names.

“Yes, it was kinda moving,” Bouthillier says.

If at this point you’re thinking ‘haven’t I read this somewhere before? Like when it was news?’ You’d be partly right.

The Hearst, ON- based Bouthilliers lost their son Jack to a land mine in Afghanistan in early 2009. And at that time, in his honor, Raynald and Elaine painted a Pete 379 with the names of all the lost soldiers emblazoned on the rear. (Jack’s 20-year-old face graces the sides of the sleeper.)

That project attracted media attention (including from Today’s Trucking and various TV outlets) and the truck became a familiar site around Ontario and Quebec, piloted mostly by Raynald’s friend and trusted driver Luis Dufour. The driver became accustomed to attracting attention and thumbs-ups from passers-by.

But then, on Dec.14, 2010, on an icy road near the tiny Northern Ontario village of Moonbeam, a car driver lost control and veered into Dufour’s lane. His load of logs came crashing through the rig. Dufour miraculously suffered just a few minor injuries and the woman was unscathed.

The truck? Totalled.

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