ROCHESTER - Ernestine Cecile (Laitres) DesMarais, 80, Of Rochester, N.H., died peacefully at home in her sleep after a very quick decline in her wellbeing. She was born on September 20, 1935, in Sanford, Maine, to Eduard and Mary (Grenier) Laitres.
She attended St. Ignatius School in Sanford. As a young girl, she volunteered as a candy striper at Goodall Hospital in Sanford, a position she remembered fondly her entire life. Ernie, as she was affectionately known to family and friends, worked at various shoe shops including Kesslen in Kennebunk, Maine, Maybury Shoe in Rochester and Duchess Shoe in Dover, before arriving at her final employer, General Electric in Somersworth, where she stayed for 24 years until oral cancer forced her into early retirement in 1995. Her time at GE was always remembered with good memories of the friends she made there as well as sharing that experience with three of her nine sisters, Rose, Zelda and Marie.
Surviving an intensive surgery and lengthy healing time, she was able to eat by mouth again, something the doctors doubted she'd ever do again. Just one and a half years after her own ordeal, her husband, Martin, suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side, eventually suffering smaller strokes, need of a Pacemaker and the amputation of both legs. Though a difficult and near all consuming task, she continued to care for him at home until his death 11 years later in 2008, never wanting to place him in a home.
In earlier years, Ernie and Marty enjoyed day trips around N.H., and Maine, and visiting family in Massachusetts and Connecticut with their two children and many family gatherings. They also enjoyed playing bingo with family and friends. She felt great joy making and giving beautiful knitted or crocheted afghans, sweaters, mittens and hats to family and their children. She was funny and could get the whole room laughing. Thanksgiving at ma tante Ernie's and mon oncle Martin's was a yearly affair, often with 20 or more people, and to this day, recalled with truly fond memories by now adult nieces and nephews.
Once Martin suffered his stroke and going out as much as they had before was more difficult, she began making jigsaw puzzles, which she continued doing until the last day of her life. She could zip through a 1000 piece puzzle in no time and we would often joke she should slow down as we'd have to win the lottery to keep up with her need for new puzzles. She liked Rose and Mark at Piece Time Puzzles. Though dementia eventually slowed her ability to finish puzzles quickly, she never gave up and continued having fun doing them.
For her birthday in 2003, she adopted Freddie, a Chihuahua-terrier mix from the SPCA, who'd been found roaming the streets. She loved that little Freddie and he brought her joy every day until his death earlier this year. He was always close by, at her feet at the puzzle table, napping together on the couch, sitting on the porch in nice weather and stuck to her sleeping at night. She had also loved the other dogs in her life, Shasta, belonging to her son Dennis and daughter Diane's dogs Toby and lko. She enjoyed golf and ice skating on TV. She attended Holy Rosary Church until her car did not pass inspection in 2013 and she saw it as God's way of telling her it was time to stop driving, having found herself confused a few times of where she was. She saw it as God keeping her and others safe. Keeping her company through every good and difficult day was Mother Angelica and EWTN, watching Mass daily, sometimes more than once and praying the Rosary every day. She believed wholeheartedly in St. Anthony and His willingness to help if one just asked. Through the many physical and emotional trials she went through for herself and caring for her husband, her faith in God never ever wavered. She never complained about the many trials she faced, always aware so many others had so many more hardships. She often said how lucky and blessed she was to have a home and food and peace compared to so many in the world.
Weekly card playing with sister Rose and brother-in-law Joe and brother O'Neil and sister-in-law Lorraine was a favorite time for her, which she continued until a week before her death. With daughter Diane, together they helped many feral cats in their neighborhood, seeing that they got medical care through SAFER (Seacoast Area Feline Education and Rescue) with Gloria Everett and Janet Hawkins who helped get the cats spayed, neutered and vaccinated. She enjoyed immensely her caregiver Tia Boyle and daughters Mackenzie and Jamisyn who accompanied their mom and brought much joy playing games, coloring or just talking in the last year of her life.
Though only in the care of Cornerstone Hospice for just hours, Nurse Darlene saw to it she got a comfortable hospital bed delivered quickly. At the other end of the phone lines, Tina and Mary Lou answered any questions with compassion. Fortunately, mom was not in pain and was coherent until she went to sleep Friday evening. Thank you to the many people who prayed sincerely for mom for many years. She is so missed.
Ernestine is survived by her children Dennis and Diane and sister Rose E. Plante of Dover, N.H., and brothers O'Neil Laitres of Sanford, Maine, and Raoul Laitres of Plainfield, Conn., and many nieces and nephews, spread out all over the country.
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband Martin of 49 years, sisters Jeanne St. Pierre, Aldea St. Pierre, Anita St. Pierre, Merilda Lavertu, Zelda Leveille, Anne Giglio, Marie Vaillancourt, Rose A. Fontaine, and brothers Raymond and Emile and one nephew Gerard St. Pierre.