Family members come from near, far for Larpenteur reunion

| By Julie Pfitzinger | August 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Members of the Larpenteur family from the United States and France attend a gathering at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul during a recent family reunion. Auguste Larpenteur, for whom Larpenteur Avenue was named, was an influential member of the Catholic community who served on the planning committee for the third cathedral in St. Paul and the budget committee for the current cathedral. Jim Bovin / For The Catholic Spirit

When Marcia Kremer, a parishioner at Lumen Christi in St. Paul, first began assembling a chart of her mother’s family tree — descendants of a man named Louis Benoist Larpenteur — she reached a point where the monumental list of names filled an 83-foot-long spreadsheet.

“In 1996, when I first started to look into the genealogy of our family with a cousin who lives in California, I wasn’t very interested, but as I got more involved, it became something of an addiction,” Kremer said with a laugh.

Earlier this month, a group of 175 Larpenteur relatives from both the United States and France gathered in St. Paul for a four-day family reunion, which included a Mississippi River cruise and trip to Fort Snelling, a visit to the Cathedral of St. Paul and a ceremony at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, where more than 120 members of the Larpenteur clan are buried, including Louis Benoist, whom Kremer calls “the father of the American Larpenteurs.”

Cathedral connections

Auguste Larpenteur, grandson of Louis Benoist, settled in St. Paul in 1843 and launched a mercantile business. Auguste, for whom Larpenteur Avenue was named, became an influential member of the Catholic community. Bishop Joseph Cretin, the first bishop of St. Paul, selected Auguste to serve on the planning committee for the third cathedral in St. Paul (the first Mass was celebrated there in 1858) and the budget committee for the current cathedral, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1907.

Louis, a native of France who later settled in Maryland, traveled to Minnesota to visit his grandson and succumbed to typhus while in St. Paul; he is buried in Calvary, and his gravesite was recently restored, thanks to financial contributions from a group of Larpenteur family members.

Jean-Pierre LeFebvre was one of several who traveled to the St. Paul reunion from Paris. There was another Larpenteur reunion in France three years ago that many of the American relatives attended. This was LeFebvre’s first visit to the Twin Cities, and he found the experience at Calvary Cemetery to be an especially meaningful one.

“It was very moving to see these gravestones here,” he said.

Isabelle Hurtiger, another first-time visitor from France, is a descendant of Nicholas Larpenteur, a brother of Louis Benoist. She was happy to see local Larpenteur relatives as well, calling the entire reunion experience “a very moving event.”

Three years in the making

Along with Kremer, Michele Murnane, who was born in the Twin Cities but now lives in Seattle, was one of the primary organizers of the Larpenteur reunion.

“It took about three years to plan, and there were several members of the family that originally connected on Facebook,” she said. “Many of us met for the first time at the reunion in France, but there are people here now that are also meeting each other for the first time.”

Murnane’s sister, Mary Langner, and her husband, James, are part of the large local Larpenteur contingent. (Mary and Michele’s grandmother was a Larpenteur). The couple live in Richfield and are parishioners at St. Peter.

“We went to the reunion in Thomery, France, three years ago, which is a small town along the Seine River. It was the first time I’d ever been to Europe,” said Mary. “The whole town put on a party for us. There were French flags and American flags everywhere. It was marvelous, a phenomenal experience.”

According to Kremer, this is the first time Calvary Cemetery has hosted a large-scale family event, and she was grateful for its help with the coordination, which included staff members placing white flags on the 120 Larpenteur graves to help the family more easily identify their locations.

“We were amazed at the response to this reunion from our family,” said Kremer. “It has been really fun.”

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