In the digital age, the stamped cards and letters keep finding this Canadiens icon. If there is one Canada Post employee with ironclad job security, it’s the letter carrier who delivers to the address of Jean Béliveau.
The mail comes written by computer and by crayon. Simple words of encouragement. Hero worship. Brazen requests. Hockey cards and photos and memorabilia for a signature in the familiar, flowing script with which he has signed his name thousands of times over six decades.
The volume increases come the holidays. Many of the scores of Christmas cards are addressed by the same people who have been sending Béliveau their season’s greetings for longer than the recipient can remember, from across this continent and far beyond.
On this Christmas Eve, the Canadiens’ 81-year-old Hall of Fame legend and his wife, Élise, will dine at the home of their daughter, Hélène, in the company of her daughters — their granddaughters — Mylène and Magalie.
On Christmas night, they again will be together as a family for dinner at Béliveau’s South Shore condominium.
And as Le Gros Bill cherishes every moment of each of his days, his strength gently ebbing and flowing following the stroke he suffered 10 months ago, he admits to feeling “kind of sorry” about one thing:
“For nearly 60 years, I’ve answered almost every card that I’ve received,” Béliveau said during a lengthy talk a few days ago. “But this year, I can’t. I just don’t have the strength.
“I read every one that comes to me, to my home and directed from the Bell Centre. I only wish that I could let these people know that I’ve received their cards and wishes.”
The rest... just like Maryanne.