The Remembrance Project: Yves Dalvet

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Yves Francois Dalvet began life as Yves Francois DeLapierre in the town of Laval, France. When World War II broke out, and the Germans were requisitioning young men to work in factories, he hid for several years in a Catholic boarding school under the name "Y Sambart Duplantier."

"He was the prefect of the study hall," his son, Stephen, recalls. "He’d be the one responsible for discipline—you know, 18, 19, 20 [years old], whatever, and these kids are 17, 18, whatever, and he’s trying to keep 60 of them in line."

The position was taxing for someone so young. Stephen heard the stories, but not from Yves.

"You know, I think we sort of have cobbled together a collage of sorts, but with all sorts of gaps of who and what he was," Stephen says.

After the Allied invasion, Yves joined the Resistance. There are intimations that he saved a town from massacre. It’s possible he smuggled food into rationed cities. He didn’t tell.

Then—the facts speak, here—he became a priest, first in Europe; afterwards, Chicago and Pittsburgh. After about 15 years, he left to marry, carrying one kind of abstinence into his next life.

"If I could characterize the values that he imposed on me and my brother, it was some kind of eternal austerity—you know, 'We’re not going to spend money senselessly on anything,' was sort of a mantra of his," Stephen remembers.

In the United States, he changed his name a second time, to Yves Francois Dalvet. He became a language professor, very beloved. Just once, he allowed his past and present to mingle. Shortly after Stephen graduated from college, they were in Laval together. Without explanation, his father led him to a street.

"We go to the back hall of a church—very simple door, poor church, poor neighborhood," Stephen recalls. "He knocks on the door and an elderly priest comes to the door, and my father says, 'Hello, I’m Yves Dalvet.' "

No response.  

"And my father says, 'Yves DeLapierre,' and the priest recognizes him and they shake hands, fervently."

Yves introduced Stephen.

"And I still remember the priest looking at me and looking at my father, and looking at me and looking at my father, and then shaking my father’s hand again—a little bit more intensely—and then shaking my hand," Stephen remembers.

The three of them shared a bottle of Calvados.

"I don’t know the details, but as far as I’ve been able to put together, [the priest] was sort of the figure after whom my father in his early days modeled himself," Stephen recalls.

It was their first encounter since Yves had left the priesthood decades earlier. In the small church, three men drank, but only two understood why.

Yves Dalvet died in Portland, Maine, last November. He was 92 years old.

Did you know Yves Dalvet? Share your memories in the comments section.


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