BURRILLVILLE – A nearly lifelong Burrillville resident, World War II veteran and 70 year member of the American Legion received new flooring, appliances, siding, a storm door and a handicap ramp for his home on Joslin Road this week as part of a program that aims to give back to those who have served the country.
An ever-humble 91-year-old Raymond Fontenault told NRI NOW this week that he doesn’t know what he did to deserve the honor.
The Smithfield branch of Home Depot provided the labor, materials and new home appliances to Fontenault and his 90-year-old wife Therese through their “Team Depot” program, a volunteer effort to help area veterans.
“The Fontenaults get to enjoy their home now,” said American Legion Post 88 Commander Raymond Trinque, who submitted Fontenault’s name for the program following a unanimous vote by Post members. “This is going to help them out and we’re so glad to do it.”
Trinque said he learned of the program thanks to an outreach effort by the company when Team Depot member Ellen Levesque made a surprise visit to his home. He said that Fontenault, an original member of the legion who has served in nearly every leadership position, has refused recognition in the past.
“Over the years he’s never accepted anything,” said Trinque. “He just doesn’t think he did anything. He’s super humble.”
He said it’s an attitude that is common among many who have served.
“A lot of guys don’t think anything’s owed to them,” Trinque said.
As construction began this week and local officials stopped in to see the couple, Fontenault proved true to the description.
“I feel guilty receiving all of these things,” he said. “What did I do to deserve this?”
Fontenault joined the Navy at the age of 17 and traveled South American and Europe aboard the USS Fargo near the end of the war. His wife spent much of her childhood in the house on Joslin Road and the couple purchased it from her uncle some 60 years ago.
“When you grow up in a town like Burrillville, you don’t go far,” said Fontenault. “When I went into the service, it was quite a change.”
Fontenault was an original member of Post 88 when the club formed in a small building across from Uncle Ronnie’s that has since been demolished. He has done stints as commander, secretary and finance officer.
“I’ve held pretty much all of the posts,” Fontenault said.
He worked for Raytheon for 37 years, rising to the role of manager of fabrications, a job he held for the final 10 before his retirement. The couple had six children and now have 11 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in July.
Six volunteers spent most of the day building the ramp and installing new flooring at their home on Wednesday, Nov. 15, and the remaining work is expected to be completed next week, when appliances, including a new refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer, will also be delivered.
Trinque said the post notified Fontenault about the ramp, which will help Therese to get in and out of the house, but did not mention the other items because he was afraid the veteran would refuse them. He said his post has been working to help get locals qualified for more veteran benefits and to utilize such programs.
“Veteran groups need to get more outreach,” Trinque said. “We want to stretch our network out a little further and get some good nominations for next year.”
Team Depot has completed more than 100,000 hours of service to veterans in 3,740 cities fixing more than 37,000 veteran homes and facilities, according to company officials.