Armand LaPalme was the second of three children born to a family of second generation canadian french immigrants. His parents Arthur LaPalme and Sarah LaPalme (LaPanne) had settled in a stucco home on Duryea St. In East Springfield which at the time, was a wooded and marshy area. His mother died when he was a boy, and as a result Amand spent many hours with extended family while his father was working at his barber shop in the city. He became very familiar with the extended family, and they have always been very important to him. He went to the catholic school, where he was not a particularly good student. He eventually avoided school altogether, and by his early teens, preferred instead to trap muskrats with his friends Earl and Dave. They sold the pelts to the furrier and made some money for their families.
At 20 years old Armand enlisted in the Army and was soon on a long voyage to North Africa. Pa didn’t talk much about the war, but later in life he would say how he hated boats due to the sea sickness he had endured the entire way to Africa and at the end of the war, on the way back home from Europe. Pa fought in north Africa, Italy, France, the Rhineland and Central European campaigns as an anti aircraft automatic weapons crewman. He was often within a mile of the front lines, according to military records.
Some years later he met and married Rosel Buchholz of Mulberry St in Springfield. Soon after their first son, Robert Armand was born, and the new family moved to the West Farms area of Northampton and purchased a rough and small farmhouse on 100 acres of land off Sylvester road. Soon, second son Stephen Joseph, was born and then a daughter, Annmarie Eva.
Pa worked multiple jobs to support his family. He eventually took a job the US Postal Service on Tapley Street in Springfield from which he retired on July 5, 1979. He worked the night shift at the post office, and each day worked on the property in the woods completing annual forest improvement projects as a tree farmer directed by State Forester, Gill Bliss. Pa and the boys planted fifteen hundred scotch pine and spruce seedlings on the back hill which were later sold as Christmas trees after years of expert pruning Pa taught himself to do.
In fact our Father was an actual self-made man. He studied carefully in order to write well crafted letters to politicians hopefully convincing them to consider the importance of conservation during their deliberations. He could speak fluently in French, and spoke some Italian also. He raised beef animals, chickens, and sheep. Pa built his four bay garage near the barn, and split salvaged phone poles for the barn yard fence that lasted for years. With hand tools, he did finish work in the house, including cabinet beds in the boys bedroom with built in desks and cabinets. The boys shared a room, but Annie had a whole room to herself! Armand’s love of the land as a caretaker was evident in his membership in the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Izaak Walton League, and work with multiple local and regional land preservation organizations. He enjoyed taking family and friends on outings in the woods. He was very knowledgeable about forest and fauna and freely shared it. He built and installed a variety of birdhouses on the property and could identify many bird species by vocalizations and/or appearance. He shared bird nests, feathers, and animal pelts with local schools for many years. He donated his collection of animal bones and skulls to the biology department at Greenfield Community College, most of which are currently on display there.
Later in life Pa partnered with his cousin Frank, and nephew Bob, to research the family genealogy via the Canadian Genealogy Index, and other sources. They created a very detailed history of family lineage which includes several full blooded native Abenaki, which the family holds as a great source of pride.
Armand and Rosel, (she passed last November), were married for 72 years , and left their legacy of land stewardship for today and future generations to enjoy. The inception and donation of their Sylvester road property became the beginning of the Mineral Hills Conservation Area.
A Celebration of Life will be on Saturday April 16 from 11am to 1pm at the Mitchell Funeral Home
Anyone wishing to honor their memory please consider donating to; City of Northampton: maintenance Mineral Hills Conservation /Sylvester Road .
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Armand LaPalme, please visit our floral store.