You have probably never heard of Marc Trepanier, but there’s a chance that he might have affected your life, especially if you are Canadian. You might have, at some point, purchased something that was loaded on a railcar which was part of a train that Marc Trepanier dispatched. For over thirty years, Marc worked for the railway. He retired in 2003, finally won the lottery, and was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter.
I met Marc in 1998 when I started working for railroad as a crew dispatcher. He wore his grey hair long and sported a grey beard to match. Marc started his career in the days when the telegraph was still used by train operators to communicate orders to train crews from station to station. He always joked that he was terrified when those jobs were phased out because he would have to use a radio to communicate with train crews directly on the trains. He had a problem: he stuttered. Had he been someone else, maybe they would have laughed. However he was Marc Trepanier, call letters MT, Winchester Sub and Hamilton Sub dispatcher. He knew his business and everyone respected him for it. I can still hear him “k-k-k-k-ing” to get the word “cancelled” out of his mouth. I was sad to see him retire and I am even sadder to know that the world has lost him.
In 2000, after years of refusing trainees, he agreed to train me as a rail traffic controller. I don’t know why that was, but I was the chosen one. The attrition rate for the job was around 50%. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, but Marc upped the ante. He informed me that I was his dolphin, the one to rescue him. From what? From the weight of past failure. He gave me a mandate and didn’t let me forget it: I was to redeem all of the trainees who had failed him. In other words, I better get certified and qualified because his ego was counting on it. Marc’s standards were high for himself and his co-workers. Moreover, he was a great teacher. I don’t know how anyone who had the honor of learning from him could have failed.
I was also lucky enough to become his friend. After our shifts, we rode together on the metro. I heard about his 10 siblings, about his beloved mother, Eugenie, about growing up in La Sarre, Quebec, about recent books he had read, about politics, economics, and the office gossip. We never discussed sports because he knew that I wasn’t interested, but he loved them. All of them, I think. However, he had his favourites. He was a Canadien fan in the winter and an Expos fan in the summer. He tried to convince me to go to the last Expos game with him. I refused. Since then I have become a baseball fan and wish I had gone. But today, I wish I had gone because it would mean that I would have one more memory of him.
A few things that defined him: he loved beer, he loved to dance and have a good time; he loved Chinatowns – the s is not a typo; he rolled his cigarettes for the day while watching sports; and he loved cities-the hustle and bustle of the big city excited him, even after living in Montreal since the 1960s and having travelled North America.
When we first meet a person, he is like pieces of a picture puzzle. Once we get to know him, the pieces start to fit together. It is difficult to justly describe someone, especially someone we love because we no longer see the pieces, we see the picture. To try to pull the pieces apart is like blurring the picture. A person’s name is the only description of him. There will never be another Marc Trepanier.
Rest in peace my friend.
The Expressway train on the Winchester Sub. A train Marc would have dispatched.