September 30, 1937-February 1, 2022
by Chea Waters Evans, the Charlotte Bridge
His intelligence and curiosity was unmatched, even though he never finished middle school. He was famous for his greenhouse full of richly colored roses, yet he was color blind. He struggled with dyslexia, but had a wildly diverse and full library. He never married or had children, but his family–and friends who considered him family–was vast and varied. Yvan Plouffe, Canadian by birth and Charlotter at heart, passed away last week after complications from a fall. He was a treasure to many.
Yvan’s nephew, Lambert Lussier, lives right near his uncle on Carpenter Road and said they were not only close geographically, but emotionally, as well. “He was basically my second dad,” Lambert said. His parents, Agnes and Renald Lussier, also live nearby, and Lambert said you wouldn’t often find Yvan and Renald without each other.
“My father and uncle were like brothers,” Lambert said, “even though they were brothers-in-law. They were like tweedledee and tweedledum. You couldn’t separate them. They were always doing things together.”
Doing things was Yvan’s specialty. A former dairy farmer, he was also a beekeeper, a gardener, a builder, a fixer, a small-talker, and a literal man-about-town. His friend David Miskell said, “He was everybody’s friend.”
Part of being Yvan’s friend was getting gifts. David said that mothers in Yvan’s circle always received lovely handmade wooden gifts for their children; he remembers a wooden sled gifted when his youngest daughter was small that his grandchildren now enjoy; one of those grandchildren also received a kid-sized table crafted by Yvan. He sourced all of the wood from his own farm.
Even if you weren’t Yvan’s friend, he would probably still give you presents. Lambert said that last summer, someone posted on Front Porch Forum looking for “the tomato man,” someone who had randomly handed them a plant that turned out the best tomatoes they’d ever had.
“That’s what he would do,” Lambert said. “He’d start 400 plants in the middle of March, and he wouldn’t know who was going to own them, because he only needed 30. He always regrew his seeds from his mother’s, from 50 years ago, that he grew over and over and over. He’d just start driving and drop them here, drop them there…that’s just what Yvan did. Just an incredible soul.”
Same went for the roses he grew in his greenhouse. “He would just start driving and dropping roses off here, and there and everywhere,” Lambert said. The impromptu gifts were also sometimes or honey, or vegetables, or really anything at all. David Miskell said, “Any time you ever went to the farm or house, he always had something to give you: those tomato plants, or maple syrup, or just some encouraging words.”
Lambert said Yvan was an influence on him in many ways, the most remarkable being his easy-going manner. “I’d just love to be as humble and generous as he was…I did learn a lot from him. And I need to learn more,” he said.
He said their family joked often about how Yvan was the mayor of East Charlotte, and that Yvan took it in stride, but didn’t say much about it. “We never said much about that outside the family, but we joked about it,” Lambert said. “He’d just smile, and it wasn’t a big deal to him.”
Part of his mayoral duties was hanging out in the shop at Lambert’s business, Spear Street Mowers. Lambert remembered with a laugh that Yvan was always an enthusiastic conversationalist with anyone who came through. “I don’t know how to explain him because he was just…he was a magnet for people,” he said. “He’d sit in front of my counter, I’ve seen it time and time again, he would just sit there and people would come in, and he’d start a conversation for half an hour, and I’d go to him and say, ‘Who was that?’ and he’d say, ‘I don’t know, but he was nice to talk to.’ That’s Yvan.”
If a stranger could pass a pleasant afternoon with him, his friends valued his company even more. David Miskell remembers how warm and generous Yvan was with not only his time but his energy and expertise.
“Farming is not easy,” David said. “And he certainly understood that. He also understood that there were different times on the farm that you really needed extra help. Always, with my greenhouses, when it came time to change plastic, improve trellis systems, or whatever it was, it required an extra skill. And he was always there. And he always kind of had a group of people working together on some major project.”
“The other part that was really fantastic was that he could make anything out of wood,” David said. “And so, fixing tools, normally these days, if something breaks you throw it away. If you had something for him to repair, it always came back much better than it was before you brought it.”
Lambert said that though Yvan’s interests were many, his heart was in the sugarhouse. “Sugaring was definitely his passion,” he said. His fondest memories of his uncle are from spending time together making syrup. “For me, it was just being with him at the sugarhouse. Just shooting the shit with him, him showing me how to do it when I was 13 or 14. I can still remember that. He bought me a sugar rake and he said ‘Here, you can do it now,’ and I still remember that.”
Yvan’s dedication to his family was a constant in his life; Lambert said that Yvan had a brother who died at the age of six months, and that it left an imprint on him that never went away. Yvan carried a special keepsake to remind him of his brother everywhere he went for 70 years, Lambert said. “He was always so sad about that…it always affected him.”
A big heart, a big smile, and a twinkle in his eye were Yvan’s trademarks. “Oh god, he was just full of mischief,” Lambert said. “When he was younger, he must have been something else. He really must have been a piece of work. He had his own moonshine way back, his own still, and he still had three gallons of it in his house that we found last week. It was 40 years old, but he loved to give people shots of his moonshine and see how they’d react after 40 years.”
“He was definitely fun,” David agreed. He said that he thought Yvan’s unique nature is a vanishing quality. “There’s not a lot of that type of person still around, I don’t think,” he said. “There are all kinds of fancy houses in the town of Charlotte, but you’d walk into his house, with all the different types of wood that he farmed off his land, and it was like a sculpture. Money couldn’t buy it,” David said.
Lambert said a favorite expression of his uncle’s was, “It is what it is.”
He said he will keep in mind his uncle’s can-do spirit and accepting nature as time moves on. “We have to pass along what he taught us,” Lambert said. “Just be humble, and love everybody no matter what. That’s just what he taught us. Sometimes you don’t realize it until the last.”
He said the many letters and cards from people from all walks of life has been astounding and gratifying. “It kind of makes it not so hard,” he said. “It is what it is.”