Friday, May 05, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online: Continued from part one. . .

Wilbert Coffin had spent the major part of his life in and around the Gaspe' region of Quebec. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Coming from a family of eleven, Wilbert learned at a very early age the necessity of people pulling together, especially in a small town.

One of Wilberts surviving sisters, Marie Stewart of Gaspe', in her own words stated to me, "my brother was always concerned about the other person, and would do what he could to assist, and thus, Wilbert was always the first there, when someone needed a hand." It was only fitting that Wilbert appear on the scene and be able to help the party of American hunters. It was simply his style and his place to be.

Wilbert's helping hand was not limited to his local community however. When the Second World War erupted in Europe, and Canada put out the call for manpower, Wilbert was there to answer the call. Wilbert would spend most of the war years in Europe, defending the honor, and the rights and freedoms of fellow Canadians.

Upon returning to Canada after the war, the subsequent years were spent adjusting to civilian life once again. With the post war economy being in a state of disarray, jobs were not plentiful. Wilbert did what many locals did. He busied himself in fishing, and in forestry work. Wilbert had a keen fondness for mining and minerals, and thus, developed an interest in prospecting. As a result, he staked claims on behalf of others, as well as himself.

In quietier periods during the winter months, Wilbert did odd jobs around the community. He worked for sometime as a cook in the local hotel, a profession that he learned in the army during the war. In leisure time, Wilbert enjoyed the company of his fellow cronies, bending the elbow to a few pints at the local tavern, while swapping war and prospecting stories, and any other tale associated with the community. As his brother in law Leigh Stewart recently related to me, "Wilbert was just a normal every day guy like everyone else, and you always knew when he was around."

As with other local people trying to make a better life, Wilbert sometimes travelled outside his normal boundaries. He spent some time in Quebec City, Val D'or, and Montreal. It was on one of these trips that Wilbert would meet the love of his life, Marion Petrie. Sometime later, a son, James would be born to Marion and Wilbert. Marion, would live for a time in Gaspe', and then later return to Montreal where she had been employed previously. Wilbert would make trips to Montreal so they could spend some time together as a family.

It was apparent that big city lifestyle was not for Wilbert, as the lure of the small Gaspe' community always prevailed. He was happiest doing what he did best, being outdoor and roaming the hills and forests for minerals. It was not unusual for Wilbert to spend one night or two weeks, camped out in pursuit of his dreams.

It was just another of these sojourns into the forest that Wilbert would come upon three American bear hunters, stranded with a broken down vehicle. The date was June 10, 1953. Little did Wilbert know, this would be his last adventure into the wilderness. Wilbert Coffin's journey into Hell on earth was about to begin.

Lew Stoddard
Posted to site May 07, 2006

The upcoming posting on May 10, 2006 will outline the case that was built around Wilbert Coffin, and the resulting trial, controlled by the government of Quebec.


Lise Cote' said...

Mr. Stoddard,

Have never commented on any of your postings in the past but want you to know you are doing an incredible job in the writing of this story. You are to be complimented, you have a way with words of putting one right into the story.

I am to young to remember any of this of course, but have heard it talked about many times over the years, both at home, and during university. I hope the government will finally come clean and order a proper inquiry into the Wilbert Coffin affair. Canadians owe it to not only Mr. Coffin's family, but to the American families as well.

Lise Cote'
Valleyfield, PQ

John said...

Once again sir a great story and hits close to home on this one. we didnt show muc respect for wilbert coffin way back then so time to do it opinion anyways.

john in Fort Mcmurray

J McEwen said...

That frightens me when you mention in your upcoming segment of his trial being controlled by government. Hard to believe isn't it that we would ever use those words in Canada, you know the land of the free and all. Makes one wonder if we really are as free as we think? Great story and since you began this series, have taken the opportunity to learn as much as I can about it. Look forward to the following pieces.

J. McEwen
Fredericton, N. B.

Therese B said...

As I read your story Sir it is becoming all the much more interesting. You write it well, and with compassion. That is good.

I just wish Wilbert Coffin would have had a chance to be part of modern day society, sadly, it is apparently through the actions of government and a very corrupt system that he was denied that chance. I hope his name can be cleared, and thanks to people like yourself who are working in that direction.

Therese Beaulieu
Montreal, P Q

Bill McIndoe said...

I know the final outcome of this affair, but will be good to hear some details. My Dad always used to speak about it when I was young. He always felt that Wilbert Coffin got a very raw deal. Thanks for writing about it.

Bill McIndoe
Timmins, Ontario

Kerry T said...


Over the years I often felt this is something that would happen in some Third World Country. Not in Canada, Never Never. Shame Shame!!

Kerry Thomas
Regina, Saskatchewan

Kevin D said...


Canada does not have a good record in human rights, and yet we are always meddling in the affairs of others. The Coffin case and others prove we have not been a very good role model.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Kevin Derrah
Kentville, Nova Scotia

Sylvia and Dave said...

Lew Stoddard,

Have enjoyed this story thus far, obvious that you have put considerable time into it. The way you have expressed it, does not seem like the passage of 50 years, seems like yesterday. Great job, and am hopeful that it may influence a decision for the authorities to look again at the case for the Coffin family.

Still remember your "Money Matters" talk show on tv. Had wondered where you were, now I know. Keep slugging Lew.

Sylvia and Dave Taggert
Kamloops, B C

Old School Journalist said...

I am not sure if Mr. Coffin was guilty or not, but one thing that I am sure of, in todays world he could never be possibly found guilty on the basis of what was presented back then. It would be laughed out of court, and when you consider the deceit and corruption of the Quebec government of those years, I think the bottom line is, he really was not guilty, just railroaded. C'mon Canada, if you don't do something to investigate this again, then you are just as guilty as your corrupt counterparts of the 50's in Quebec.

A Retired Journalist from the old school.

Cory baird said...

hey Mr stoddard, remember me? i am that dumb teen ager who writes to you hear sometimes. you know what,i dont know too much about what you are talking about sometimes but this time i asked my grand dad and he knows about this mr. Coffin. he never thought he was guilty so I dont either and it is sad that he had to die. this dumb teen ager says to the goverment to get this sorted out as not fair. thank you again sir for giving me a chance to make my opinion.
Oh yeah too school almost over for the year then party time, but you know what i will be flipping burgers at the big M for part of summer.

Cory Baird

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew
Thanks for bringing up the Wilbert Coffin case. Although Mr. Coffin met the saddest end to his dilemma, we should never stop fighting for Justice.

Look at Joyce Milgaard. As we read her testimony at the inquiry, we see how she at one point was totally alone in the fight for her son. Getting no help from the police (of course)and her lawyer, she had to resort to all night vigils tracking down a person she needed to talk to.
She was not even a bar-fly...still she donned a wig and visited bars, trying to find information to show that her son was innocent and horribly railroaded by our fine Government. Finally, after decades of fighting for her son whom she knew was innocent, she prevailed. She is now a shining example of what one person can do, when they know that they are fighting for Justice and helping their fellow man.
She knows what the word Justice means, as opposed to our past and current Justice ministers and Attorney Generals. We would be better served by having Joyce as Justice Minister. She knows the true meaning of the job.

Let us also keep up the pressure on
the government in the Truscott case.
It is laughable to see how they are bringing forth motions about evidence they want to use in the appeal; evidince that was no good in '59 and
totally useless today. You can read all about it here
Bent Romnes
email as always:

Bob W said...

I agree with last commenter, we should never give up the fight. Although Mr. Coffin died a horrible death for no apparent reason, let us keep the pressire on for justice.

Bob Wicks
Vancouver, B C

Becky said...

In reviewing the comments form other readers I can tell that people are interested in this case and are moved by it.

I have a challenge to anyone who wants to see justice in this. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Make people in your comunity aware of this shameful mark in our recent Canadian histroy. Remind your local MP of this case, I am sure she/he is familiar with it. Let them know that it is something that as a Canadian you would like to see the government make right.

From what I can tell, as Canadians, we prefer a gentler approach, we are not big on demonstraions and making noise. But this story needs to be heard again. And if you are at all moved by it you can help.

This remains a tender, greif-filled issue in the Coffin family, who are now speaking out about it. Add your voice to it.

Bill Coffin's great-neice,
Becky Roberts
Penticton, BC

Lew Stoddard said...

Hello Becky Roberts,

Thank you for posting such a powerful message to my site regarding Wilbert Coffin, whom you have identified as being a great uncle of yours.

As you can appreciate, this event took place many years ago, and thus, I am endeavoring to contact as many people as possible, that can offer comments and suggestions.

You write and express yourself well, and obviously, you are a determined person.

I would very much like to have a short chat with you by e-mail if possible. You can reach me at this e-mail address. It is the e-mail address for my web site, and access is restricted only to myself. I would never publish your e-mail address, so no need for concern. You can also access the e-mail address by clicking on it under "My Profile Tab" on the main page of the site. Here is the e-mail address:

Once again, thanks for your comment, and hope we can perhaps discuss this matter, as I have a couple of questions that you may be able to assist me with.

Thank you again,

Lew Stoddard

Catherine M said...

Have just been made aware of your site. Took the time to read a lot of your past articles. You know how to dig at the heart of Canadians, especially with your writings on Steven Truscott, and now the saga of Wilbert Coffin. Many Canadians would have otherwise been unaware of both these two very black marks on our society in this country if people such as yourself wasn't willing to go the extra mile to do what you can to make people aware.

I do hope that the families involved in these two sordid cases can come to closure on what must be the bleakest time of their lives.

Keep up the work, Don't let the establishment grind you down.


Catherine McDougall
Sherbrooke, PQ

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