If you rode a bus up Ridgewood Avenue in the early 1960s, you might have wondered why the old ladies would reverently scratch a cross across their chests whenever passing the fourth building from the bottom.
They were doing it for deceased Premier Maurice Duplessis, who they were convinced died on that street in the arms of his lover, quite a different version from the official story of how he died.
Duplessis ruled Quebec with the blessings of the then-powerful Catholic Church who turned a blind eye to the leader’s randy skirt-chasing ways, which was the source of much clerical head shaking, although he was not an adulterer, as he never married.
Meanwhile Duplessis described his relationship with a top religious figure: “I kiss his ring and he kisses my ass.”
Duplessis' Quebec City lover was a Mrs. Flynn. His Montreal lover was named Mrs. Massey, who apparently lived on Ridgewood.
According to official histories, Duplessis died in office after a series of strokes he suffered while visiting the Iron Ore Company in Shefferville in the presence of seven government and company officials on September 9, 1959. He was said to have left Montreal for Sept-Iles on September 2 and spent his last days in a remote log cabin.
But those women on the bus, and many other Montrealers, believed that Duplesss died in an apartment on Ridgewood while in the amorous company of his woman friend and that his body was subsequently moved for the sake of appearances.
Premier Duplessis suffered from hypospatias, a condition in which his urethral aperture was an inch from the tip of his penis. It's a condition than can be relatively easily repaired now but he lived with it all of his life and it might have made sex uncomfortable.
According to the story, police officers and ambulance technicians had their reports destroyed. I am told that there was a witness to the event, a neighbour named Paul Wilson, but it's unknown where he is now or if he's still alive.
Duplessis’ official death in Shefferville has two versions, one which claims that Iron Ore doctor Horst Rosmus, a German war medic repeatedly injured on the Eastern Front, attended to Duplessis’ final moments. Another report says Dr. Lucien Larue, the Premier’s private physician was there. Larue was an infamous character suspected of being involved in falsifying children’s reports in order to intern them in psychiatric institutions. Duplessis, by the way, spent time in such an institution for alcoholism.
Duplessis undoubtedly had time to plan his death. In 1942 he had suffered pneumonia, last rites were preformed only to see him make a full recovery.