Elaine Pelletier Holland of Rochester, NH, and Norman J. Pelletier of Gorham, ME, contributed their father’s war correspondence, journal and other memorabilia to the Counting House Museum in 2009. Two other relatives, Lloyd Pelletier of York and Theresa Wilkinson of South Berwick, gave copies of their extensive family genealogy and family photos.
Items from the collection are now on display in a small new exhibit at the museum, open from 1 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through October, year round by appointment. Admission is free.
Wildré Pelletier, who grew up on what is now often called lower Main Street, South Berwick, and attended St. Michael’s parochial school in the building that contains South Berwick Town Hall, entered the Army in 1943. He was one of two sons to do so in his French Canadian immigrant family of nine children. Their mother, Clementine, raised them alone after their father, Henry, died of pneumonia.
Six months before Pelletier enlisted, his wife, Jeannette, had given birth to a daughter, Elaine. The couple exchanged letters every day of his almost three-year absence. Jeannette worked in General Electric and other factory jobs while living in Berwick, caring for Elaine and, like so many young wives, waiting for her husband’s return.
After basic training in 1943 an 1944, Pelletier was about to be sent to Europe for the D-Day invasion when he was singled out for his fluent French language ability and sent to the South Pacific for over 17 months.
In the Foreign Service Association Pacific Theater, he became interpreter for the large Allied base on the French island of New Caledonia, where he was a member of the 208th Army military police and attained the rank of sergeant.
After the war, the Pelletiers settled in Berwick and raised Elaine and her younger brother, Norman. Wildré worked many years at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and died in the 1986, and Jeannette in 1999.