Girard Joseph Vaillancourt, 94, of Berwick, entered eternal peace to be with our Lord in heaven on January 11, 2018 at Epsom Healthcare Center in Epsom, NH. He was born in Somersworth on June 25, 1923, a son of Philias and Alma (Turcotte).
Girard began to work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1941. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Following basic training at Camp Polk in Louisiana, and follow on training at Fort George G. Meade, he deployed to France and was ultimately assigned to Company D, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division. Combined in a Task Force with Company C, 37th Tank Battalion, Girard participated in the “Hammelburg Raid,” whose mission was to liberate Allied prisoners of war from OFLAG XIIIB, a POW camp 50-60 miles behind enemy lines. After liberating some 200-300 prisoners, the task force began its retreat. Unfortunately, the German Army captured nearly every member of the task force. Girard was briefly held at the same camp he helped to liberate. He was then assigned to work details in the Nuremburg area (at one point working in a cheese factory). Local villagers would often throw objects at the prisoners as they passed through their streets. Reminiscent of the Hammelburg Raid, the 7th Armored Division liberated the camp in which he was held. Girard returned home, arriving in Staten Island on June 3, 1945. Following some well-earned R and R, he transferred to Fort Knox, KY, serving as an instructor until his discharge in November 1945. His decorations include the Purple Heart, European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 3 bronze service stars, Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Ribbon, World War II Victory Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He was presented with a POW medal in 1996, and the Croix De Guerre, awarded by the French government.
After returning home, Girard became an auto mechanic, working and managing Turcotte Motors for 40 years. On November 7, 1959, he married Audrey Mae Brooks, sharing 58 years together. After leaving Turcotte Motors, Girard returned to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where he worked as a sheet metal fabricator for 20 years. He loved his camp on Lake Winnepesaukee, having cleared the land and building the house himself. The family enjoyed many summers there. He also enjoyed being on his farm with his livestock and farm equipment and snowmobiling. In his retirement, he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and traveling with his devoted wife. They visited Hawaii, Russia, Germany, France, Iceland and many other destinations.
Girard was a proud member of the VFW, Post 5744 in South Berwick, the American Legion, Post 79, Berwick, and the Battle of the Bulge Veterans Association.
He is predeceased by two sisters, Yvette Porell and Margaret Belair.
Girard is survived by his loving wife Audrey of Berwick; his son, Ronald Vaillancourt of Acton; two daughters, Robin Givens of Berwick and Rachel Tabeling of Pueblo, CO; his brother, Robert Vaillancourt of Somersworth; 4 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.
Visiting hours will be on Sunday, January 14, 2018 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a combined VFW and American Legion Service at 5:00 p.m. at Laing-Bibber Funeral Chapel, 36 Rochester Street, Berwick. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, January 15, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Martin’s Church, 120 Maple Street, Somersworth, NH. Military honors will be rendered at St. Martin’s; burial will follow in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Somersworth. Should friends choose, memorial donations in his name are encouraged to: VFW Post 5744, South Berwick; or to the American Legion, Post 79, PO Box 977, Berwick, ME 03901