PUTNAM – “Dear Lord, give me the patience needed to serve everyone as my own…..and Lord, most importantly, the right to shed an honest tear when my heart is touched.” -From the Funeral Directors Prayer. For Larry, the funeral director’s prayer summarizes how he faced each day as he was called to assist families in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut during his more than 50-year career.
LTC Lawrence James Bellerose (USAR, Ret), 82, the former owner of the Gilman and Valade Funeral Homes of Putnam and North Grosvenor Dale, CT, died peacefully on Thursday, January 14, 2021, another one of the courageous fighters in the COVID-19 pandemic. He was born in Webster, the son of the late Laurent and Rita (Hamel) Bellerose. Raised in North Grosvenor Dale, Larry was a post-depression child who ran around the streets of the “Swede Village” with his gang of friends, including his best friend and “brother”, David Babbitt. He attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School and was a graduate of Tourtellotte High School, Class of 1956, and the New England Institute of Applied Arts and Science in Boston, Class of 1957.
Even as a young boy, it seemed the idea of becoming a funeral director was his goal in life. He began working for the Gilman family as a 16-year-old. Then following school, he served an apprenticeship with James T. Pratt Funeral Service in Hartford. While working in Hartford, he often would eat lunch at the local diner, where a young lady from Vermont, Arlene Boynton often ate as well. And, as things go, they soon were dating and then married in 1959, settling in Putnam to begin his career. Larry worked as director for the Gilman family for the next 15 years, and then in 1973, he was given the opportunity to purchase the business from them. Larry and Arlene became the caretakers of traditions of kindhearted service the Gilman family established in 1919. Then in 1980, he returned to his roots and was able to purchase the Valade Funeral Home in North Grosvenor Dale. Together with Arlene, they dedicated themselves to serving the families of the surrounding towns with care and compassion until their retirement in 2003.
Larry also enjoyed a second career while working as a funeral director. He was proud to serve more than 35 years as a member of the United States Army. Joining the National Guard in 1959, he then transferred to the Army Reserves as a 2nd Lt. in 1965. He rose through the ranks, serving posts with the 76th Infantry Division until his final post as Battalion Commander of the 417th Regiment in West Hartford in 1985. From 1985 to 1991, Larry served as a liaison officer for the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was honored to assist numerous students throughout Connecticut to commissions at West Point. He retired in 1998.
Larry also gave countless hours to numerous groups and professional associations. He was a member and Past President (1983) of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association and was a member of the National Funeral Directors Association. In 1988, Larry was chosen as the Governor of District 1 of NFDA, serving New England members until 1991. Serving the local community was extremely important to Larry. He was appointed to the former Board of Police Commissioners for the City of Putnam, serving until 1984. He was a 30-year member of the Rotary Club of Putnam, where he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow, recognition for following the ideals of Rotary, “Service Above Self” as well as awarded the Putnam Rotary Club Vocational Service Award. He also served as youth exchange officer for the club for many years and served on the District 7890 Youth Exchange Committee, assisting students with placement in families around the world. He and Arlene opened their home to several exchange students through the years as well. He was a member and Past Exalted Ruler of the Putnam Lodge of Elks, a member of the Elks National Foundation, a member of the Cargill Council 64, Knights of Columbus and the Msgr. Mathieu Council Assembly, 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. He was a member of the Oscar Swanson American Legion Post 67, the Board of Directors of the Hospice of the Northeast, a corporator of Day Kimball Hospital, where he served as the general chairman of the Annual Giving Appeal for 5 years. Larry also was member of the board of directors of the former Cargill Bank for more than 25 years. He was a faithful member of Saint Mary Church in Putnam, where he assisted on multiple committees and with many projects, including part of the parent group that started the “Circle of Fun”, the annual carnival fundraiser for the church and school. Larry also was the longtime sexton in charge of the Gate of Heaven Cemetery for the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Putnam.
Larry became an adopted son of Vermont with his marriage to Arlene. When not working, he enjoyed spending many a day in his adopted state. He also appreciated relaxing on the shores of Alexanders Lake in Dayville, where he purchased a small five-room cottage to serve as the place to recharge following his long hours at work. Larry and Arlene relocated to Clermont, FL permanently in 2007.
Larry’s beloved wife of 58 years, Arlene F. (Boynton) died in 2017. He will be forever missed by his three children, John L. Bellerose and his partner, Wendy Monroe, of Newmarket, NH, David B. Bellerose and his wife, Kimberly, of Oxford, MA and Kathryn B. Willard and her husband, Robert, of Thompson; his five grandchildren, Ryan Bellerose and his wife, Kat, of Putnam, Alexandra Bellerose of Oxford, MA, Anneliese Bellerose and her partner, Michael Benoit, of Rochdale, MA and Emma and Zachary Willard of Thompson; his great-grandsons, Raiden, Caleb and Talan; and his brother-in-law, R. Gary Boynton and his wife, Kathy Davis of Shelburne, VT. He was predeceased by his sister, Geraldine “Gerri” Carlage of Clermont, FL in 2010.
Larry’s family would like to thank all the dedicated staff of Matulaitis Nursing Center and the religious of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception for their loving care and support for Larry during his stay there.
His funeral will be held on Saturday, January 23rd with a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated at 11 a.m. at St. Mary Church, 218 Providence St., Putnam. Per COVID restrictions, masks and social distancing are required in the church. Burial in Evergreen Cemetery, Rutland, VT will be held in the spring. Due to the pandemic, visiting hours will be private.
Flowers may be sent, or donations made to Matulaitis Rehab and Skilled Care Center, 10 Thurber Rd., or the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, 600 Liberty Highway, both Putnam, CT 06260.