Around the turn of the 20th century when Joseph Alexandre Villeneuve, of Dyer Road, married Marguerite Doré, they could only have dreamed that a century later, their descendants, now numbering over 400, would gather to celebrate their family and their heritage.
Towards the latter part of that century it had become tradition for the “city Villeneuves” to challenge the “country Villeneuves” to a friendly baseball tournament, explained Jeff Villeneuve, great-great grandson, and event organizer. As they grew up, he says, the tournaments would eventually stop, but from there, the idea of a more formal family gathering took flight.
The first formal gathering of the fifth generation of the Joseph Alexandre Villeneuve family was held on Sunday, August 4, 1996, at home of Noble Villeneuve. The successful event has now become its own tradition, being held every four years, perhaps not coincidentally, on every summer Olympic year.
This year’s event, the fifth, was held this past Sunday, welcoming approximately 400 Villeneuves, from all over North America, to the recreation centre in Moose Creek.
Representing the nine children of the original great-great-great grandparents, the different clans dress in nine different coloured t-shirts to help tell each clan apart, said Jeff.
It takes some organizing to host so many, but with five of these under their belts, he says that they’ve come up with a formula that seems to work well.
The one day event included activities and games for the children and a large-scale pot luck, where each “colour” in in charge of a dish. As much as possible mingling with the other colours is encouraged.
“We have name tags, said Jeff, who admits that it’s difficult to keep track of everyone. “We don’t even know all the people of our own clan.”
At each of the reunions, the family members who have deceased since the last are remembered and the new members born are recognized. This time around seven have passed and 34 have been added to the mix.
“It’s always fun to see which of the families has been more prolific,” said Jeff.
Notably among those in attendance, was the eldest member, Father Tom Villeneuve, 86, and the youngest, little Mary Walker, three months.
Taking a cue from the Olympics, a new family crest was unveiled this year. Designed with the Olympic rings in mind, the logo includes nine different coloured rings, representing the different clans, intertwined in a circle.
To date the largest reunion was held in 2008, with an attendance of 411; the final tally for this edition was not yet in.
The family plans on continuing to gather every four years indefinitely, the next being in 2016, same time, same place.