#240 – Dick Bernard: Rene Collette Celebrates a Birthday

Today – September 8, 2010 – Rene Collette of Lemon Grove CA is 90.
These days, 90 is “just like a kid” in some contexts, another year hardly worthy of notice.
Rene is definitely worthy of notice, any year, any time.
The family invitation says “Rene [as in the French pronunciation wren-a] chose not to have a party, so we are planning a month long CARD PARTY!…Select any day in September and send a card or a note to Rene with any message you want to send. He will be so pleased to hear from you. That’s all there is: …No RSVP…No gifts…No traveling…No dressing up…No crowds…No rich foods…Just a nice quiet afternoon or evening of your own choosing to do whatever you want.
Rene’s address: 2520 Bonita Street, Lemon Grove CA 91945. Go for it! (If you’d like to take a peak at where Lil and Rene have lived for many years, a few miles inland from San Diego, here it is.)

Lil and Rene Collette, Lemon Grove CA, January 20, 2008

I’ve been privileged to know Rene for years, but it’s only since the 1990s that I have really got to know he and his spouse of 63 years, Lillian (Sando).
He is especially in mind now as he helped me get my start on researching our shared Collette family history in 1981. His handprints, shoe leather, pen and ink, miles on the road and intellect are all over the 500 page history of the Collette and other French-Canadian families that I just completed, and which will be printed within a couple of weeks. For many years, Rene has had a passion about preserving the family roots, the family story he grew up in during the 1920s and 30s. The book is an unintended birthday gift for Rene and for Lil (part of whose Norwegian family story also appears in the book.)
Rene was born in Grafton ND, the son of Edmond Collette and Clara Rheaume, and grandson of Ovide Collette and Olivine Laberge. He grew up in the largely French-Canadian Oakwood community just east of Grafton.
I know only fragments of his most interesting history, but I do know it included military service in Asia during WWII. He and Lillian Sando of Grafton area married, May 17, 1947, and have five children. Rene had a long working career in the San Diego area, and a hugely productive time in retirement, with active interests in many things. His backyard orchard was a place to behold, and his colony of large turtles would surprise a new visitor to their backyard. He helped rebuild historically significant airplanes at a Balboa Park facility in San Diego, and he was proctor at southern California Bar exams for many years. Life has been interesting for Rene, and in turn he has made life interesting for many, including myself. I was privileged to visit with he and Lil a number of times at their home.
An undated photo of Rene, his parents and three of his four siblings, is at upper left on page 41 of the Sacred Heart of Oakwood 1981 Centennial Book. A pdf copy of the entire Sacred Heart Centennial Book can be viewed in four parts, accessed here.