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Normandy school renamed after New Brunswick D-Day hero

Click to play video 'Normandy school renamed after Canadian D-Day soldier' Normandy school renamed after Canadian D-Day soldier
WATCH: A school in Normandy, France has just been renamed after a Canadian soldier who died in the D-Day invasion – Jun 7, 2019

The 84-year-old sister of a New Brunswick soldier killed on D-Day was in Normandy on Friday to see an elementary school renamed after her brother.

Jeannine Mercier (née Roy) was nine when her 21-year-old brother, Pte. Louis Valmont Roy, was killed on the night of June 6, 1944 in the village of Anguerny.

Pte. Louis Valmont Roy died on the night of D-Day. It is believed that his actions during a gunfight saved his regiment from a German attack.
Pte. Louis Valmont Roy died on the night of D-Day. It is believed that his actions during a gunfight saved his regiment from a German attack. Diane Mercier Allain

“I am proud,” said Mercier, remembering how her father was very reluctant to allow his son to join the military at the start of the war.

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“It’s an honour and it’s a recognition for his work, and I think that dad would reconcile with the whole thing.”

Known to family and friends as Valmont, the soldier from the Régiment de la Chaudière’s A Company was shot during a gunfight after German troops broke through a Canadian perimeter set up about seven kilometres inland.

READ MORE: D-Day by the hour — A timeline of Operation Overlord in Normandy

Roy’s body was found on June 7. He is among the 2,048 soldiers buried at the nearby Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, most of whom are Canadian.

Mercier’s father, Henri Donat Roy, was the station agent in Kedgwick, N.B., and was the first person to read the telegram saying his son was missing in action.

“That was disaster day,” recalled Mercier. “Dad was mad at first. (Valmont) should have listened to him.

“But mum took it and said: ‘Look, if he saved a regiment, it was worth it.’”

The last time Mercier saw Valmont was when he came home for a visit when she was five. He asked his little sister to polish the buttons on his uniform.

Jeannine Mercier and her older sister Yvonne in 1940. This picture was taken around the time Jeannine last saw her brother.
Jeannine Mercier and her older sister Yvonne in 1940. This picture was taken around the time Jeannine last saw her brother. Diane Mercier Allain

“There was a design (on each button) so I had to go and polish in between,” she said.

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“And, oh my God, I had to do it right because I was so proud of him, and, hey, I was helping my brother that was in the army.”

READ MORE: Canadians gather on Juno Beach to mark 75th anniversary of D-Day

A plaque commemorating Roy and six other soldiers from the Régiment de la Chaudière was erected close to the school in 1990, but Mayor Jean-Luc Guillouard wanted to do something special for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“It was more important for us to name a regular soldier than one who was an officer,” he said.

The Normandy village of Colomby-Anguerny renames its school after Canadian D-Day hero Pte. Louis Valmont Roy on June 7, 2019.
The Normandy village of Colomby-Anguerny renames its school after Canadian D-Day hero Pte. Louis Valmont Roy on June 7, 2019. Braden Latam / Global News

Roy was initially buried in the village before being transferred to the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery after the war.

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Local families in Normandy volunteer to look after one or more graves at the cemetery.

READ MORE: Canadian youths in Normandy learn about D-Day sacrifices

Mercier, who lives in Edmundston, N.B., travelled to Normandy with her son, Paul, a retired major in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

They only found out about the June 7 ceremony 10 days beforehand when Global News contacted Mercier to interview her about the event.

She immediately knew she had to be there, and Guillouard welcomed Mercier and Paul to stay at his home for five days.

“I’m glad I came and I’ll be back,” said Mercier.

“If I can, I will be back and see the friends I have made here.”