REGION – Lester L. French (“Frenchy” to his friends & fellow firefighters) was born on April 7, 1919 in the town of Essexville, Michigan. Early in his life his family moved to Ossineke, Michigan where his mother and father worked in a Lumber Camp. Just after his 16th birthday he joined the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Core) and worked on many forestry projects. He then went on to join the Navy and served as a Gunner’s Mate in the South Pacific during World War II. He was wounded during the Battle of Saipan, and received many awards including the Purple Heart.
After the war he settled in the Baldwin, MI area and went to work for the old Department of Conservation Fire District as a Tower Watch. It was there that he met the love of his life Margaret Peterson. After a whirlwind romance of only TWO weeks they knew they were meant for each other and became engaged. On the FOLLOWING day – they were married. Love at First Sight!
In the Spring of 1948 they moved to Roscommon, where Lester went to work for the DNR Forest Fire Division as a Forest Fire Officer, and raise a family. They were blessed with three children – Lynda Wright (of Maine), and Richard French, and Nancy Barr who currently reside in Roscommon County. Richard (“Frenchy II”) followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the Coast Guard (retired) and now works for the DNR himself as a seasonal employee at the West Higgins Lake Access Site. Stop in and say “hi” some time.
In addition to fighting forest fires, Lester was heavily involved in the community. He went to schools and taught fire prevention, led a Wolverine Troop (BSA) & Margaret led the Cub Scout Troop, acted as school chaperone, and helped with events like the Soap Box Derby and Fall Festival. He was a member of the VFW and the CCC Alumni Association.
In July of 1975 he retired from the DNR but remained an active member of the community. On December 3, 1991 he served his community for the last time. While on a routine trip to the Post Office to mail some Christmas Cards, he stopped to assist a stranded motorist near the Roscommon Public Schools. It was then that he was struck by a vehicle, severely injured, and remained hospitalized until December 13th when he passed. He was buried with a full military service and is fondly remembered by all who knew and served with him.
Lester French made the world and his community a better place.