My Haitian Heroes: Galbeau, Martin, and Wilfrid Saint Preux

My Haitian Heroes: Galbeau, Martin, & Wilfrid Saint Preux

In loving memory of my uncle Wilfrid Saint Preux (1931-2005)
By: Woodring Saint Preux

Every prayer begins with "Au nom du Pere, et du Fils, et du Saint-Esprit" Amen!

Virtually every sentence coming from my father's mouth starts with "Mwen Men-m, Martin, Wilfrid." (Me, Martin, and Wilfrid.) In honor of his relationship with his two other brothers. They were inseparable: Galbeau, Martin, and Wilfrid.

Today I will say... Amen!

Galbeau, Martin, and Wilfrid Saint Preux are three brothers, sons of Jules Saint Preux a native of Hinche, Haiti. They grew up together, they went to school together, they were in the Haitian army together, and today one of them took the lead, the eternal trip.

Wilfrid St. Preux passed on the eve of Haitian Flag Day, on May 17, 2005.

My father and "tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid have an untold story that they share. To honor my uncle Wilfrid, I would like to share with you just one chapter of their untold story.

My father Galbeau and "tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid, both spent 6 years in the Penitencier National, "National Penitentiary," in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

We grew up hearing stories about these six years.

On December 1961, "Tonton" Wilfrid got arrested in Hinche for treason (Traitre a la patrie).

A month later, January 1962, my father, Galbeau, received an order to report to Casernes Dessalines, "Haitian Army Barracks" in Port-au-Prince, across the street from the National Palace. Apparently, he was to bring himself in.

As he approached Grand-Castilleur a small town on the Haitian-Dominican border near Pedro Santana, Dominican Republic, coming from another remote border town of TiLori, he was greeted by a soldier, Jean-Dedier Jean who told him:

"Sejan Galbo, Jete-w

Ou tou pre fontye a

Retounen, pran madan-m ou ak pitit ou

Jete-w Sen Domeng."

Translation: Sargeant Galbeau, take your wife and daughter, and get out of the country. You are close to the border, go to Dominican Republic.

"Why?" my father asked.

"Yo arete Wilfrid, dapre sa-m apran, li mouri depi Pelig."

Translation: Your brother Wilfrid got arrested; I heard he died near the town of Peligre.

"I thought about this real hard," my father told me, "I wanted to leave, I wanted to escape, but if that soldier was wrong and my brother did not die, skipping town would definitely do it. If I left for the Dominican Republic, he would be dead for sure!"

"Wilfrid inosan, li pa fe peson anyen. Si Wilfrid mouri pelig, mwen men-m m-ap mouri Thomonde."

Translation: My brother is innocent, he didn't do anything to anybody, if it is true that he died in Peligre, I will die in Thomonde.

Wilfrid Saint Preux did not die in Peligre, and my father, Galbeau Saint Preux, did not die in Thomonde. They were incarcerated for six long years at the Penitencier National (National Penitentiary).

Their family and the town of Hinche thought they were dead.

Two promising young men, going through the ranks in the Haitian army. Apparently, somebody wanted them out of the way.

"Tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid was among a group of Army men who was sent to special training in California back in 1960.

Upon his return, it was recommended that he get promoted to the rank of Officer. That was not to be.

He grew up in a country where people do not congratulate you on your success; instead, they want you dead; it's the only way other less qualified people with a "parenn" (godfather) can move up.

During the Duvalier years, there was a very easy way to get rid of the competition. Send them to the "Penitentier National (National Penitientary)."

So instead of being promoted, "tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid was discharged from the army for treason, "Traitre a la patrie" (Traitor to the country).

When he then decided to restart the family business, he was arrested.

For six years, Wilfrid and my dad were in the Penitencier National (National Penitientary). I can't tell you all the stories and lessons that came from these six long years. It would require an encyclopedia.

My father told me about the tailor who was there, and how he used bits and pieces of cloth from old mattresses to make pants for other prisoners.

My father told me how "tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid became a Christian.

Nothing compares to the miracle he witnessed on May 2 1968, the day he was released. Thanks to Amalia Delsoin and Venina Bolivar and everyone else who helped them, my father did not die and neither did "tonton" (uncle) Wilfrid.

Finally it was time.

"Four white doves circled around the Penitencier (penitentiary) that day and landed on our cell block. They walked around a little bit; they flew back up, circled around the penitencier (penitentiary) once again, and continued in the direction of the palais national (national palace)."

Everyone was shocked! This never happened in all the years they were there! "Jesus Christ!" Someone shouted, "A miracle is about to happen in here today!"

About an hour later, Francois Duvalier sent a chauffeur to pick up 4 prisoners from the Penitencier National (national penitentiary.)

They were:

Galbeau Saint Preux, my father.

Wilfrid Saint Preux, my uncle.

Solon Galumette, their cousin from Maissade.

Doda Jacques, a friend.

When they got to the palais national (white house), they went straight to Francois Duvalier's office.

"Garde a vous!" Duvalier said, "Pour le salut un, deux." (Heads up! Salute one, two).

Francois Duvalier was sitting behind his office with two pistols, one in each hand. He started questioning my father, my uncle "tonton" Wilfrid, and the other two men asking them how they ended up in jail.

At the end of the interview, Duvalier ordered the men to go, get back in uniform, and return to their posts with the same ranks as before.

"But your Excellency", my father said, "This is how we ended up in jail in the first place. What's going to stop those same people from sending us back in prison or harming us?"

Duvalier replied:

"Effectivement, il y avait plusieur chefs d'etat en Haiti, mais je les ai fusilles, et je continuerai a les fusiller aussi longtemps qu'ils ne se respectent pas. Maintenant, il ne reste que deux chefs d'etat en Haiti: Francois et Duvalier!"

Translation: Effectively, there were many chiefs of state in Haiti but I shot them all, and will continue to do so, as long as they do not respect themselves. Presently, there are only two chiefs of state in Haiti: Francois and Duvalier.

"M'ap tounen nou Hinche pou sak te fe nou pe yo ka we nou," Duvalier added.

Translation: I am returning you to the town of Hinche so your enemies who tried to scare you can see you.

They left the national palace later that afternoon. They went to "ma tante" (my aunt) Amalia's house where a nice stew was waiting for them.

Ma tante (my aunt) Amalia told me: "Wilfrid gade bouyon-an epi li di "O, Amalia, dat mwen pa manje yon bon bouyon konsa, ou kwe-l pap fe-m malad?"

Translation: Wilfrid looked at the stew and said: " Oh! Amalia, that makes years I did not eat a good stew like that. Don't you think it could make me sick?"

Now, it was time to go home, where it all started.

They went through the towns of Peligre and Thomonde once again, and they didn't die.

They were going home.

When they arrived "anba Mango Landjez", a big tall mango tree at the south entrance of the town of Hinche, The driver of the "camion" (truck) made them get out and sit on top of it, just like during Carnival festivities.

"Mezanmi, men Ti Mesye Saint Preux Yo!"

Translation: People, here are the St.Preux boys" !

The entire town came out to see "ti mesye Saint Preux yo"(the St. Preux boys). The only way to believe that they were still alive.

Family members who thought they were dead came running inside madan Maxi's house, my father's older sister's home.

The other brother Martin who had remained in the Army, but unofficially in disgrace, was now retired from the military. To some it was a party, to others it was a resurrection. They had come out of the belly of the Penitentier National (national penitentiary).

My auntie Adulca remembered something about that day:

Monide, my older sister was only a few months old when my father was arrested. When her mother walked in, she told Monide "one of the two men sitting over there is your father, can you tell me which one it is?"

She ran straight to my dad!

Before today, my father always said: "Mwen Men-m, Martin, Wilfrid",(me, Martin, and Wilfrid.) After today, he will say "Wilfrid le defunt," (Wilfrid the departed one)."

Que la terre lui soit legere!"

Translation: May he rest in peace!

My dad and my two uncles are my heroes.

Even Wilfrid's death is symbolic. Wilfrid Saint Preux died on Tuesday, May 17 2005, one day before the anniversary day of the Haitian Flag.

On May 18, 2005, Wilfrid will celebrate Haitian Flag Day on the other side, with my other Haitian heroes: Dessalines, Toussaint, Petion, and Charlemagne Peralte, another native of Hinche, Haiti.

The generation I looked up to, the generation that raised me, the generation that brought me every value that makes me a man, that generation is at the train station, destination:

One way ticket to eternity.

They trained me well, every mistake they made was one less mistake I had to make myself. They gave me a great headstart. In the name of ever member of my generation, I would like to let you know that the Saint Preux flag is flying at half staff.

(Written by Woodring Saint Preux in loving memory of Wilfrid Saint Preux. Edited by Carl Fombrun)

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All Comments (2)

Gina J. Hilaire says...

hi, Doudou this Gina Monide's friend this is a very nice and well written article.God Bless
Give my regards to your father and mother.

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Cassandy says...

i think the story it's great Woodring.

i have never seen it before.i'm happy to see how you love our

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