Hélène Joly was born on May 20, 1909 in her father's house (as was the custom of the day) and was baptized in Église Saint-Jacques in Hanmer.
The Joly home was located on Concession 2 of Hanmer Township. Hélène's father was a farmer during the summer and a logger during the winter. Her mother was a midwife.
Hélène studied at the Brunetville School until the age of eleven.
Since her family consisted of only girls, it fell to Hélène to fill a son's role in the family when it came to helping her father with farm chores or assisting at his logging camp during the winter.
Her father's logging camp was located on Lac Jaune, now called Ella Lake and it was here that Mr. Joly felled the trees. Using the family's mare, 12-year-old Hélène would drag the logs to the spot chosen for loading the sledge. When her father went to deliver the logs to Lalonde Mill in Hanmer, Hélène waited at camp with her axe and knife within reach as it was common for bears to scratch at the door and for wolves to be heard howling during the night.
In 1929, at Église Saint-Jacques, Hélène married Wilfrid Quesnel, a young man from Hanmer who had fought during the war from 1914 to 1918. The newlyweds settled on the Joly farm where (as was the custom of the day) they cared for Hélène's parents until their death.
The young couple had six children. Hélène brought her eldest into the world with the help of her mother, the midwife. The birth of the five others was assisted by a doctor.
Wilfrid Quesnel often had to accept work elsewhere to meet the needs of his growing family. The years spent helping her father enabled Hélène to take care of the farm in his absence. Even before preparing her children for school, Hélène tended to the animals, milked the cows and put the milk through the cream separator. In the fall, she helped with the harvesting on neighbouring farms. Hélène became an expert at ploughing and even won the local farm circle's ploughing contest in 1945.
In 1943, during a snow storm that closed all the roads, Hélène's mother died at home. Since the only means of transportation was a dog-sled, it meant that Mrs. Joly's body had to be kept frozen in an unheated room in the house until it could be transported to the church for the funeral a week later.
When her children were grown, Hélène started to work in private homes, mainly taking care of the sick. At the age of 73, she still had a young and joyful heart.
Material compiled from Pionnières de chez nous.