Eganville – A retired member of the Renfrew County bar who owned and operated a successful legal business in Eganville for many years is being remembered for his common-sense and practical approach to his profession.
H.J. Stewart Lavigueur passed away suddenly Sunday evening in the home at Golden Lake he grew up in, shocking his family and his wide network of associates in the legal profession, his friends and the many clients he represented.
Although Mr. Lavigueur lived in Eganville, he also kept the family home in Golden Lake following the death of his mother, Agnes, in 2015.
J.P Quintall, who purchased the Lavigueur practice in Eganville in September 2016, knew Mr. Lavigueur for over three decades.
“I’ve known Stewart since I came to town (Pembroke) as a junior lawyer over 30 years ago,” he shared. “He was already running his own practice in Eganville back then and was known as Eganville’s lawyer. He was the guy in Eganville.
“He was an incredibly down-to-earth, no B.S., straightforward, honest, with a bit of a comical bent to him,” he added. “He always had a joke or story to go with it.”
Mr. Quintall said he likely met Mr. Lavigueur during some Criminal Court proceedings as they were both practicing in that field at the time, or at some law association function.
“He also did some family law, as did I back then, so I would have run into him there, and real estate,” he added. “It’s a small bar. It’s hard not to get to know and interact with the different folks.”
He recalled Mr. Lavigueur had articled with McCann and Shepard in Pembroke, where he also later articled.
“Everybody remembered Stewart and they had an excellent working relationship with him then,” he remarked. “And I had an excellent working relationship with him throughout.”
Mr. Quintall noted Mr. Lavigueur is the only lawyer in Renfrew County to have received the Law Society Medal in May 2015.
The Law Society Medal was established in 1985 and is awarded to outstanding lawyers in Ontario in recognition of exceptional service, whether in the academic sphere, particular area of practice, or in some other professional capacity, where the service is in accordance with the highest level of the legal profession over a long period or for a single outstanding act of service.
“That’s about the highest accolade the bar can give to any of its members,” he explained. “And it came as a recommendation from the lawyers here and it was well-deserved.
“That gives you an idea of how highly he was regarded,” he added. “It wasn’t because he had an office with a plush carpet, it wasn’t because he wore a three-piece suit. It was just because he was down-to-earth and honest and good to deal with; the epitome of what we all hope our lawyers are in Renfrew County.”
He said Mr. Lavigueur often told stories of his exploits in law school, noting he was always ready with a joke, prank or good-natured teasing of his friends and contemporaries.
“He’d still come into the office occasionally and there was always a fun jab at one or the other and everyone was smiling after he was gone. That’s really the way he was.
“He did his job, he did it well, and he did it in a kind and gentle way,” he continued.
He recalled how often his friend would be rushing into the courtroom, pulling his tie from his pocket and trying to get it on before he appeared before the judge of the day.
Mr. Quintall said he looked after the people of Eganville and area, adding he was kind, generous, and did what he needed to do.
“He didn’t do it for the money, he did it because it needed to be done,” he stated. “I got to know more of that because I bought his practice six years ago, and the level of respect for Stewart that people still have . . . he was the Eganville lawyer.”
When Mr. Quintall purchased the business from previous owner, Bob Sheppard, he said he sought Mr. Lavigueur’s blessing as it was his clients and his community.
Employee For Almost 30 Years
Wendy Mundt was hired by Mr. Lavigueur in 1987 and worked with him until his retirement in 2016. At that time, the staff also included longtime employee, Lorraine Keller and a book-keeper.
She said the office was always busy and within a year of her hiring, she was made full-time from her previous part-time position.
When asked what she would remember most about her late boss and friend, she quickly replied his sense of humour and his kindness.
“He treated me really well all those years. It was more like a friendship, not just employer and employee,” she recalled.
Ms. Mundt shared how there is a closet with bi-fold doors near the entrance to the washroom at the office, which was the scene of many of his pranks.
“You’d go into the washroom and do your business and you’d come out and he’d have hidden in the closet. He’d open the doors and jump out at you.
“I don’t know how many times he did that,” she continued. “He had a wicked sense of humour and loved to play jokes.”
Ms. Mundt said if a client couldn’t afford the fees, Mr. Lavigueur would tell them to pay what they could or when they could.
“There was no demanding money up front; he was really good that way.”
She noted he did pretty much everything, except civil lawsuits, believing he enjoyed doing the criminal law cases the most of anything.
“It was wills, estates, criminal, family,” she said. “I think he was really intrigued by the criminal.”
She said he was notorious for being late for everything and the late Judge Russel Merridew would always chastize him for not being on time for court.
Mrs. Mundt said after his retirement, if something came up with an older file, they could call Mr. Lavigueur for advice and he was only too happy to provide direction or comments. She told others in the office that once word of Mr. Lavigueur’s untimely passing became public, they started getting lots of calls and people were dropping in to see if it was actually true.
The late Mr. Lavigueur is survived by his four children, Brent (Crystal), Turcotte, Kelli (Kevin) Holm, Shawn (Megan), and Ashley (Tom) Philipott, and six grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Maureen, in April 2012.