(1954-2023… and beyond)
Roger, son of Louis LeBlanc and Juliette Ostiguy, Campbellton, NB
Roger, life-time partner of la poète Dyane Léger
Roger, Emmanuel Manu Manuel’s Dad
Roger, lover of birds and Mother Nature
Roger, companion of our late Laylà, the other ‘bitch’ in the family
Roger, a play in several acts
First Act: Man of the theatre. After high school, Roger left Campbellton and came to Moncton where he would fulfill himself as a human soul. A student in the ‘Départment d’art dramatique’ or Theatre Arts program at l’Université de Moncton, he was part of the first graduating class (1977-1978). Since theatre jobs did not ride in with the Mascaret in downtown Moncton, Roger took the bull by the horns and laid the first milestones for L’Escaouette.
“Gathered under the evocative name of le théâtre L’Escaouette, this small group is composed of Marcia Babineau, Philippe Beaulieu, Gracia Couturier, Bernard LeBlanc, and Roger Leblanc.” For decades, l’Escaouette toured all over the Maritimes and in Québec. The endeavour was well worth the effort because, in 2023, L’Escaouette is entering its 47th season.
Marcia Babineau: “He (Roger) understood that dramaturgy is the foundation of all theatrical identity, that is, that Acadian theatre would exist as long as it had an originality that could embody it in a word from here and from the community that inhabits it.”
Roger, the little guy who had a vision, carried L’Escaouette in his heart. He became its first artistic director (1977-1985), as well as playwright, director, actor and… janitor, whatever it took to get the job done. Under his leadership, thousands of young people, here and elsewhere, were able to understand that theatre is not only a big-city affair, and that this profession can be practised en Acadie.
Later, under Roger’s direction, L’Escaouette began showing plays for the general public. Even though Roger moved on to “something else”, he remained faithful to L’Escaouette by taking on the role of president and by becoming a member of the board of directors, 2004-2013. Roger’s motto: The show must go on, come hell or high water.
Marcia Babineau, Théâtre L’Escaouette: “L’Escaouette is now a place where the imprint of Roger LeBlanc can be found everywhere. With his death, a major chapter of Acadian culture disappears. However, thanks to the traces he left, this chapter is now etched forever in the hard drive of the collective Acadian memory.”
Second act: Screenwriter and filmmaker: In 1985, when Roger and I returned to Acadie after a year in Paris, Roger felt the need to share his vision on a broader scale. Thus began a wonderful adventure in cinema and television. Roger, the screenwriter-director, would travel the world in search of beauty and truth. On the stage were “real people” surrounded by Mother Nature and her children.
However, it must be noted that the crew that worked with him had to be armed with courage and madness in order to follow him in his Fitzcarraldo adventures. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!
Accompanied by the sound editor and cameraman, Roger has filmed in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Romania, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Of these anecdotes told, there is the time when…
- in le bayou de l’Atchafalaya, a snake wanting to dance the two-step in the pirogue
- in Jamaica, Roger was delighted to learn that Brunswick-brand sardines are part of everyday family meals
- in Trinidad, the crew had to escort the baby leatherback turtles out to sea with flashlights because the turtles mistook filming spots for the moon
- in Los Angeles, thanks to magician Alain Choquette, they were “invited” to the Magic Castle, the place of the brotherhood of magicians
- In Romania… well, there were rumours of a close encounter with Vlad Tepes
Urban adventures were of less interest to Roger. What he loved was being on the slopes of Mont Carleton or Sagamook, tracking the Golden Eagle, with a biologist who needed to install a transmitter (tracker) on the eagle to learn about its migration patterns. One of these eagles is named Manu, after our son.
Roger was enchanted and delighted to be on top of Gros Morne, in winter, trying to spot a ptarmigan whose camouflage is a pile of white feathers among thousands of snowflakes.
I believe his “dream work/vacation” was to Nunavut. Again, he was happiest, holed up in a cache with the cameraman, waiting for the snowy owl to come bless them with its grace. Was he afraid of becoming a polar bear’s lunch? Roger said laughingly that their guide, Charlie, would defend them with his pocketknife. “You white or what?” became the leitmotiv of this journey.
In short, Roger has always worked with integrity and passion, and he never counted the hours. Writing, directing, cleaning his chainsaw, building patios and greenhouses, washing dishes made him say, “If it has to be done, it has to be done right.”
During his long stay at Bellefeuille Production, Roger produced commercials, corporate videos and documentaries, broadcasted on Radio-Canada-Atlantique, RDI, TV5 (Québec-Canada) TFO, Ici Explora, Chau-tva, ARTV and Canal D.
– Temps d’affaires, (163 episodes, spread over 8 seasons)
– Dans ma cour (12)
– Sur la piste de noms (13)
– Apprendre et Entreprendre (6)
– Passion sans Entracte, Claude Roussel, Herménégilde Chiasson (2)
– Tour de Magie with Alain Choquette (2)
– Amour @ haute vitesse
– Migrations (avec Zachary Richard Alain Clavette). (Migration was awarded the “Lirou d’or” for the best documentary at the International Ornithological Film Festival in Ménigoute, France)
– Macareux moine
– Harfang des Neiges
– La vie au sommet
– La baie des merveilles
-Les géants des profondeurs, (tortue luth et requin pèlerin)
and there would have been others, if Roger had had his way.
Jean-Claude Bellefeuille: “It is with great sadness and amazement that I learned of the death of someone who was a leading partner and friend for almost thirty-five years, Roger Leblanc. Roger and I have developed dozens of hours of videos, TV series and documentaries. Over the years, he has always had great loyalty and uncommon passion in each of the projects we have done and produced together. Today, my heart is full of tears when I learned of his departure which was so sudden! Our entire team joins me in bringing back countless memories that will be etched in our hearts forever.”
Third act: The ornithologist or the birder, or what as I put it: Roger Leblanc: the Acadian reincarnation of Jean-Jacques Aubudon.
The “avian adventure” that would give him wings, began with a simple outing with his nephew, Alain Clavette. These few hours changed Roger’s life and our family life, forever. From the first bird he observed, the sky became a treasure chest. I can’t say how many kilometres travelled, how many trips to Grand-Maman, how many “rare bird alerts” made him abandon us because he had the opportunity to add a “lifer” to his birding list. Nor how many plates were put in the fridge, or given to the dog.
As you might expect, Roger set up an “avian library,” worthy of a research centre. Endowed with a great intellectual capacity, a boundless curiosity, Roger assimilated the scientific content of these books, enthusiastically, example: the functioning of the third primary of the gull wing, or the very subtle differences between the subdivisions of a species based on morphological criteria in the framework of the geographical area.
Faithful to the spirits that shared his being, Roger gave his heart and soul to his new passion. Bird Counts; Owl Censuses; Christmas Bird Count(s), Compilations required for studies at Cornell, regular contributions to Bird Studies Canada, Oiseaux Canada, and elsewhere. Every year for almost 25-30 years, Roger has made his annual climb to Mount Carlton and Sagamook, looking for Bicknell’s thrush. And I don’t know how many times he went to the Observatory in Pointe Lepreau to witness the migrating birds.
In our backyard, Roger has built and installed huts for Northern Saw-whet Owls, Tree Swallows, Wood Ducks, and Eastern Bluebirds. His project to install ceramic huts, (made by potter Gerry Collins), is intended to help Cliff Swallows.
Roger was also very active in various naturalist clubs in NB, including the Moncton Nature Club and the Nature Festival; Le Club les ami.e.s de la nature du Sud-Est. He has given numerous lectures and led workshops for young people and adults; guided ornithological outings; organized many trips and welcomed many birding pals. Roger also did translation because he wanted les Francophones to have a place and their say in the avian world.
When I opened his computer, I saw his birding lists : List NB 363; Canada: 435 including TN 68, NE 141, IPE 29, Quebec 131, Ontario 189, Sask. 16, British Columbia 182; Notre-Dame list 107, including 66 breeders; Moncton backyard 75; France 115; Cuba 115; USA 135; Jamaica 21; Mexico 245 and Trinidad 35. For the love of life, I find it hard to understand where Roger found the time to follow le Canadien de Montréal, Blue Jays, and Raptors, not to mention spending hours watching television series and devouring books, pursuing the quest for truth in the political realm, while preparing firewood for the winter, and spending time with Manu. It is overwhelming.
I would like to add that the peregrine falcon nest installed on the Assomption building in downtown Moncton is there, in part because Roger believed it was essential. At the “poetic” inauguration of the park in front of Moncton City Hall named after Gérald LeBlanc, Roger was in tears when he saw the peregrine falcons flying above our heads, shouting “Ka yak, ka yak.” Total magic, divine paganism. Of all his projects, this one held a great place in his heart and in his soul.
This avian passion, Roger shared it with thousands of people, and “she” accompanied him until his last breath.
The morning of his death, Roger was on his way to meet the winged ones with his usual enthusiasm, his binoculars, and his Tilley: his faithful companions.
On the morning of June 3, 2023, Roger went birding… in the great big blue.
Here’s how Roger signed his emails:
‘Nous n’héritons pas de la terre de nos parents, nous l’empruntons à nos enfants.’
“We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.”
—Antoine de St-Exupéry
It is with love, beauty and grace that we humbly say : Au revoir.
Dyane et Manu
A gathering to celebrate Roger’s spirit will be held at the old homestead in Notre-Dame in July. Details will announced later.
The family invites you to sign a book of condolences at: www.funerairepassagefuneral.ca.
Arrangements under the professional care of Passage Funeral Cooperative and Cremation Center.