Joseph Levern Laurie Blais
July 3, 2021
By Rhonda Blais-Bawden
We have gathered here today to honor the life of Joseph Levern Laurie Blais, a beloved son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. A cherished friend and a respected businessman.
Laurie was born in Lac La Biche, Alberta, on July 4, 1946, to Levern and Louise Blais. He was the oldest boy of their seven children.
Laurie spent his first few years living on his parent’s homestead and learning the life of a farmer. When he was 7 years old the family moved to BC. Laurie attended school there, up to the 10th grade. At 15 he started his own fix-it stand, fixing lawnmowers and things with small engines on the weekends, while also working at Sun-Ripe where, after a lot of hard work and initiative he became their youngest Head Pressman.
At age 16, Laurie took a job working in the logging camps, where he worked until the family moved back to Edmonton in 1963. At 17 Laurie took a job up north working with a construction company. Within 2 years Laurie was the construction superintendent in charge of small commercial stores and custom housing builds.
1966 was an eventful year in Laurie’s life. In January he married Morea (Wilflingsider), he partnered in the company L&P construction, and later that year his first son Curtis was born.
L&P Construction did a lot of framing and some light commercial work in North Edmonton for the next few years. In 1970 after some restructuring the company was renamed Esquire Homes Ltd.
With Laurie now at the helm, Esquire grew and flourished. For the more than 100 homes built in the City of Fort Saskatchewan, and the substantial amount of building done in the Londonderry area of Edmonton, a strong reputation was forged for being a quality builder, with high standards of workmanship. Esquire became a premier builder in Edmonton and many surrounding areas: Fort Saskatchewan, Bruderheim, Lamont, Whitecourt, Mayerthorpe, Vegreville, and Barrhead.
With Esquire Homes successes, Laurie saw other opportunities and he ventured into more areas, with new companies: Esquire Developments - Large projects Esquire Building Products - Lumberyard BayFord Realty - Real Estate Sales.
During his big growth years in construction, Laurie was also involved with HUDAC - the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada. In 1974 Laurie served as the Home Parade Chairman. In 1975 he became the Vice President, and in 1976 he captured the role of President. Laurie also played a key role in aiding in the development of the Carpenter Trade program at NAIT in Edmonton. He and Morea enjoyed being members of Toast Masters and made many good friends and memories there.
In 1980 there was a recession in Alberta and construction came to a screeching halt. One by one, Laurie had to close all of the businesses that he had worked so hard to build. It was a stressful and rough few years of fighting to hang on to what you could, letting go of what you couldn’t, until it was all gone.
After the recession, Laurie had to start over. He made the decision to venture into real estate, which was a natural progression from the construction industry. He accepted a sales job with A.E. Lepage in May 1983 and started to rebuild. Once again, he used his go-getter spirit and gained a reputation for being an honest, hardworking, and knowledgeable Real Estate Agent in Edmonton. During the 36-month period between 1985-1987, Laurie was the month’s top producer 22 times.
Laurie temporarily took over as the Branch Manager of the AE Lepage office when his manager had a heart attack. Eventually, it turned into a permanent job change, as he was unanimously voted by the staff to take over the position when the company announced they would be seeking a new Branch Manager a few months later. In 1990 Laurie went to school and attained his Broker license and continued to Manage and build the reputation of the A.E Lepage Northside office.
By the late ’90s, Royal Lepage had been through lots of growth and changes. Mergers, a new name, and a new structure. Offices became franchised, and some were merged together. Laurie was eager to go back to sales and happily stepped away from the management side of things. He went on to serve as a realtor in Edmonton and the area for another 21 years. He attained many real estate achievements with Royal Lepage over the years. He displayed them there, where they covered the entirety of his two office walls literally from top to bottom:
• Sales Achievement
• Top Producer,
• Presidents Gold
• Master Sales
• Directors Platinum
• 25 years of Service
• Award of Excellence - for 10 years of consecutive President’s gold status (being the top 6-10% of sales in their marketplace)
In December of 2011, Laurie made the decision to change real estate companies and moved over to Realty Executives Progressive, which later became Maxwell Realty Progressive. In May of 2018, Laurie was honored and awarded his 35 years of service by the Edmonton Realtors Association. He slowed down after that and began the transition to semi-retirement He stayed with Maxwell Realty Progressive until his passing earlier this year.
Laurie’s life was surprisingly not ALL about work. He had a great sense of humor and was a bit of a prankster at times. When he was younger, he and his buddy would go to the road nearby, and they would take an empty wallet and tie it to a string or fishing rod and lay it on the road and go and hide. When cars would come along and see the wallet on the road and proceed to pull over, Laurie would quickly pull the wallet off the road, then they would hide in the culvert until the passerby left and have a good laugh at the driver’s expense.
When Laurie was a teenager, he loved riding horses. He saved up and bought a horse named Bird. He loved that horse and spoiled it as much as he could. He and Jay would go on rides whenever they could and especially enjoyed riding the 4 hours to Uncle Emile's place, where they would have a visit, stay overnight, and then ride back home the next day.
Laurie also enjoyed other types of Horsepower like his beloved BSA-650 Rocket. A Motorcycle which he bought right out of the front display window after he had come home from working up North and had a pocket full of money. Which apparently, cost him more than it would have to buy a house at the time.
Laurie liked a good sparring match, not just verbally, but literally. I have his boxing gloves from back then, he gave them to me when I was learning kickboxing. He told me that he sometimes served as a bodyguard for a band at a music club. He reminded me that just because someone is bigger than you, or looks stronger than you, doesn’t mean they are smarter than you and you need to be able to think on your feet. And then he proceeded to tell me a story about this popular, visibly muscular guy who had a “tough guy” fighter reputation, who he gave a lickin’ to after Mr. Muscle had been particularly mean to several smaller guys and then really rude and disrespectful to a girl that was standing nearby. He followed that up with, “But you know fighting doesn’t really solve anything...”. I knew there was a dad lesson in there somewhere.
Dad's first car was a 1959 Ford. I couldn’t confirm but am assuming he purchased it after he crashed his motorcycle, broke his nose and had to recover from a lot of road rash. For those of you who may not have seen photos of our dad when he was a teenager, just look over at Jerrid and imagine him, clean-shaven, with a leather jacket, white t-shirt, jeans, dark hair combed into that suave point, and some Elvis music playing. I can see Dad driving up and down the road, laughing with friends, and getting up to mischief in that car. Now apparently, there’s a secret story about that car and how it came to its demise, but you’ll have to ask our Mom Morea for the sordid details because my great Uncle didn’t think it was appropriate to share the details with me at my innocent young age of 52. But let’s not lose focus on the point, that being the responsible guy he was, Laurie still made it home without his car, just in time to leave for work the next morning. He always did have a thing about being on time.
Over the years Laurie enjoyed a variety of different activities like camping, fishing, boating, hunting, music, squash, and racquetball. Family was a priority to Laurie, and he always loved the time we spent out in Sicamous each summer visiting with his parents, and all of his siblings, their families, and friends who happen to drop in. He collected coins and different types of money.
He had a green thumb and took pride in planting all kinds of perennials in the yard each year. For a color blind guy, he did a pretty amazing job. He learned a great deal of what he knew from his dad, Grandpa Levern, who had been a professional gardener. In later years he took up golf, winemaking, raspberry, and tomato growing.
The great thing about all the activities that Dad enjoyed is that, as his family, we reaped the benefits along with him, occasionally learning some new stuff along the way. There were so many fun camping trips, crazy boat rides, eating Blais Burgers with all our cousins, singing his favorite country songs in the back of the Winnebago that were on continuous play on the 8 track as we drove along, cabin building 101, having the nicest perennials in all our neighborhoods, heaping bowls of raspberries to eat, many many a toast with cheese and tomato, and a tasty glass of wine shared with friends and loved ones. We were blessed by his generosity and know-how.
When I worked with Dad in real estate, he used to prepare two bottles of wine: one red, and one white, from his private batches to leave as a housewarming gift for the new owner. On more than one occasion, the new homeowner would call within a week or so and inquire as to “Where he got such delicious wine? That they had never tasted anything so good before.” Dad usually downplayed that he made it himself, and he was always generous in dropping off more for them to enjoy. It was just one more thing that in his typical Laurie style, he tried ALL the ways... until he found the best outcome.
He liked to be informed and I can picture him in my young girl mind sitting in that same chair in the living room and all you could see was legs, and a hand on each side of this huge outstretched newspaper that rustled every now and then when he’d turn the page, and when he was finished, he’d go sit down in the family room in his spot, you know, the one that we never dared sit in, and he would watch the news until Mom called us for dinner. He had an understanding of the world, the economy, politics, and the stock market that I think few people do. I felt highly uneducated listening to him talk to others about it and have their discussions. I admired the fact that although he had only attended school to the 10th grade, his life’s success and failures were his education. He never stopped listening and learning. He was like a library. He was always available if I had a question or needed some information on a specific topic and he was happy to share it.
He had done so many different things during his life, and he used the resources of that knowledge and his generosity to help his family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers to get a leg up. He never did things for accolades. He always offered to help with any endeavor you might be taking on. He had this way of sharing all these important pieces of information you should know by just asking you a simple question and talking with you. I’d find myself writing a list of things I needed to look into, and in the end, I was glad I did, and I was always very appreciative that he had taken the time to share his knowledge with me.
When I started writing this, I asked a few people who knew Dad well to describe him in one word, and then I read several of the notes and texts I receive about him and a list of qualities started to unfold. Fair. Hardworking. Loyal. Wise. Loving. Helpful. Generous. Efficient. Kind. Resourceful. Trustworthy. Exceptional. Appreciated. Respected. Knowledgeable.
After looking at the list of words I had written down I thought to myself, what one word would I use to describe my dad? There were a few I considered, teacher, friend, mentor, but when I looked up the definition for those words, they just didn’t seem right. And then I came across this definition: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievement, and noble qualities: Hero.
That is what my dad was to me. My Hero. A fitting description of a distinguished man who lived 74 years, honoring God, his parents, and the values they taught him, then teaching it to his children. A man who embodied every one of the qualities on that list, and who was the measuring stick of what a righteous man should be.
Dad, I will never forget and always treasure my memories of: your amazing smile & wink with the sparkling in your blue eyes, your hugs that made all the bad stuff go away and let me know I was loved, stopping to eat Revels and Fudgesicles on our way to the lake, going to the racketball club with you, how all my friends would tell me how great they thought you were and how they wished they had a dad like you and then realizing how blessed I truly was to have you as my Dad. Oilers games, blabber bags, never going anywhere with you without someone who knew you coming up to say hello and shake your hand, finding out a long time after - that many times you had paid the way for a family member or friend when they couldn’t, learning to drive standard in the Ford Ranger, the first set of tools you bought me, going with you to the job site as both a young girl and as an adult, sitting in the show home brainstorming floor plans and exterior designs with you, how you earnestly listened to me - without judgement always wanting to help me find a positive solution, Elvis’ Blue Christmas Album, Black Socks - Medium Black Socks - Light Black socks, Baba and your ongoing cribbage skunking battle, the answer to your burning question, watching you negotiate a complicated business deal, the proud look on your face when I signed and closed my first custom house build, the look on your face when you saw me in my wedding dress, when you came with me to my ultrasound appointment and were so excited to see the baby on the screen...and then a day later you forbid me to go to the job site anymore and watching you with Charlie...hearing you both laugh and giggle together and seeing how much you both loved and adored each other. For all these things and more I will forever be grateful.
Proverbs 23:24 says "The Father of a righteous child has great joy, and a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him."
So, I say to you: Dad, thank you! Thank you for your love and generous support, for your endless wisdom shared, for teaching the importance of family, for being honorable, fair and showing me how far a little hard work can take me, for showing me what a good parent should be, for loving me no matter how bad a disagreement we’d had or how bad I had screwed up, for always hearing me out, for your solid advice, for all the laughter, jokes and happy times we shared, for always encouraging me, for being my teacher, my friend, my mentor and forever my Hero.
I love you.