By Connor Lynch and Patrick Meagher
ST-EUGENE — A 51-year-old dairy farmer who died in a fire last month is remembered as a loving family man and an entrepreneur.
St-Eugene farmer Bertrand Villeneuve was found dead after flames engulfed his large machine shop on the family farm on March 7.
The fire, which broke out at 7 a.m., generated thick, toxic smoke and heat, said East Hawkesbury fire chief Dominic Normand. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
East Hawkesbury OPP told CBC that they do not suspect foul play.
Villeneuve and his wife, Micheline, bought the farm in 1992 from her family. She is the sixth generation on the farm. Its fence line runs along the Quebec border. The Villeneuves built a new barn in 1999. They are milking 175 cows and farm 3,000 acres.
Villeneuve’s brother-in law and neighbour Normand Brunette said 450 people packed the local Catholic church for the funeral. Hundreds of people were standing at the back or waited outside, he said. Friends arrived at the church in a tractor parade, parking numerous large and antique John Deere tractors at the church doors.
Villeneuve was a businessman and entrepreneur who had many projects on the go but always had time for family, Brunette said. “He was the guy we all wanted to be with to have fun. He loved getting people together. He was a quiet man but his house was always full. We had more fun there than anywhere else.”
Family is the centrepiece of the farm. The Villeneuves have six children, all of whom are involved in agriculture and three work on the farm.
The oldest, 27-year-old Ludovic, is currently working on a 5,000-acre cash crop farm in Saskatchewan that also has several thousand head of beef animals.
Hemi works off-farm, but her partner works full-time on the Villeneuve farm. Carl, aged 23, works full-time on the family farm, as does Audrey, who just completed studies in herd management at McGill University’s MacDonald Campus.
Samuel is studying horticulture at St. Hyacinthe in Quebec. Rosane is still in high school.