A Father's Perspective
The following is a personal description of Joseph Michael Vaillancourt, s/o Michael T. Vaillancourt & Barbara E. Custer Vaillancourt. It was written for an eighth grade assignment for Joe, by his father, Michael in 1997.
At the time of this writing Joseph is 14 years old, doing well in the 8th grade (gold honor roll), studying music privately and already an accomplished 2nd degree black belt in the martial art of Choi Kwang Do. Where does this drive come from? Has he always demanded the best from himself? Are his parents overbearing taskmasters? Let me explain by describing the "life and times" of Joe Vaillancourt, as I'm sure that some of us might still believe that man is but a product of his/her environment. Not Joe. He was born this way!
At the age of 12 months, Joe was quiet and had a limited vocabulary. This, however, did not keep him from articulating his immediate needs. His mother and I recall vividly the day he had finished lunch but was still confined to the high chair. My wife was on the phone when Joe announced sternly, "Mom, done!" She rewarded him with a "good boy" and continued her conversation. Joe reiterated, "Mom, DONE!" and then with his forearm swept the remaining food, bowls, bibs, etc. to the floor. From that day, he would give us one but no more than two warnings before he would clean up the dishes himself.
At the age of two, my job with Ford took us to Mexico for an eighteen month assignment--we stayed for five years. Joe was in great form when we had to get our passport photos taken by the Ford photographer at World Headquarters (WHQ). The night before we had watched the comedy "Young Frankenstein", and Joe was fascinated with Igor's limp. For the photos, we had to check in with WHQ security in the lobby then walk to the back of the building, and of course, we were late. I tried to carry Joe to make up time because it was crowded. No way! He had to walk. Then to my amazement he had to try Igor's limp. He was perfect! The problem was that this was taking too much time. He was falling behind. I yelled at him to hurry up and was all but attacked by the business people in the building. What a rotten SOB! How could I yell at a poor child with an obvious birth defect? This was not a good start to my Foreign Assignment. The actual passport photos are posted below.
For the first six months in Mexico, we lived in the Holiday Inn where Joe was the blond baby celebrity from "gringo-landia. In Mexico, if an adult thinks a baby is cute, it is customary to make a fuss, rub their hair, or even worse, anoint them with a kiss on the cheek. It is insulting not to acknowledge the baby, almost as if you are wishing the child ill. Joe was constantly peppered by the hotel staff with extra lipstick.
Two years later Joe attended pre-school with the local children where no English was spoken. He learned Spanish quickly and seemed to enjoy himself, but he insisted the next year on studing the martial arts. There was no dissuading him. Once his mind is set, its a terible thing in motion. His mother and I did our best to get him to training where language again became a problem as most commands were in Korean (with a Latino accent). Within three months, his Mexican martial arts instructor left the country and the class folded. Martial arts were on hold.
On our return to the United States in 1990 (all good assignments come to an end), Joe attended Saline's Houghton Elementary's 2nd grade class where he picked up an advertisement to join the martial arts and train in Houghton. There could be no rest in the household until he had his uniform and was lined up in the front row. I got tired of taking Joe and watching from the stage, and consequently joined myself some four months later. It's been six years now and I haven't regretted it--even though Joe out ranks me.
Our credo in Korean is "Pil Sung" which means literally "certain victory or "never give up". This spirit fits well with Joe's determination. Our pledge, when we recite in unison prior to each class is to "set positive goals and strive to achieve them, to apply self discipline to further my personal development, to stand for justice and honor my word, to promote friendly relationships among all people and to never misuse what I learn in class".
The physical training has been excellent for Joe (and myself), however, the more positive aspects of the time invested in Choi Kwang Do have been the development of Joe's confidence and personality. Above all, Joe is exceptionally witty, well mannered and fun to be around. On second thought, this may have been due to his environment and training. I am fully convinced, though, that it was Joe who insisted on picking this environment!
Joe is now a member of the Michigan Demonstration Team and will compete in Atlanta this spring in the ten year celebration of the art's founding. Twelve different countries will be contending, and we are quite sure that Joe will be one of our best representatives. Since I am writing this on a Sunday morning, I am privileged to train with Joe today in our Blackbelt session (90 minutes--still at Houghton Elementary). I have enjoyed sharing this article with you and thank you for the opportunity. On the subject of Joe, a song comes to mind, "the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!".
(P.S.: Joe's Michigan Demonstration Team came in first in the demonstration competition)
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids