To Them, Bill Belisle Was Simply “Pepere”

And what a great Pepere he was!

Bill Belisle
Bill Belisle and his granddaughters

This is a story about Bill Belisle. It’s not another tale from the ice rink.

This is about Bill Belisle, aka “Pepere.” Specifically, this is about Belisle’s three granddaughters and how their love of sports and other extracurricular activities put a smile on the face of a man whose stoic and disciplined nature led to unprecedented success with the Mount St. Charles hockey program.

The three daughters of Bill’s son Peter and his wife Carolyn never saw the “Coach Belisle” side of a man who pushed players to exhausting limits and owned a competitive spirit that fueled decades of success at Mount. Sisters Madeleine, Norah, and Halle Belisle saw a man who never missed a dance recital at the Stadium Theatre or a softball or soccer game. They only saw Pepere, the grandpa who took a fond interest in them.

 

 

“I know he took great pride in everything the girls did. It gave him a neat perspective because we’re such a male-dominant family with him being surrounded by hockey for so many years,” said Peter Belisle, presently the men’s hockey head coach at UMass Boston.

For Madeleine, a ninth grader at MSC, there was the time after a travel softball game when Bill suggested that she should stand further back in the batter’s box. Turns out the advice paid off and illustrated the belief that “once a coach, always a coach” regardless of the sport. Even with something as low key as learning to hit golf balls, Bill Belisle never hesitated to remind his granddaughters to keep their heads down.

 

 

“I think it was fun for me as his granddaughter to see me play another sport,” said Madeleine. “He’s been an influence in my life when it comes to sports … inspired me and motivated me to work hard and try my best. It was always awesome to have him there.

“It turned out he was right,” added Madeleine about the softball tip passed along to her by Pepere. “He wasn’t a softball coach but any sport or activity we did … it meant a lot that he was paying attention. Hearing those things from someone besides my coaches helped me improve as a player, but it was just as cool to receive that support.”

“He would even critique their dancing, saying they were in sync,” noted Peter Belisle. “In our family, we called him the baby whisperer. He was incredible with kids … walking them in their strollers for miles on end.”

 

 

Bill Belisle passed away on January 12 at age 92. His legacy in the hockey world was secure long before he coached his final game at Mount St. Charles as recently as 2019. For Madeline and Norah, a sixth grader at Mount, he’s ever present in their school days as well. They can’t go too far inside the Woonsocket-based Catholic school without seeing some type of reminder of what their Pepere built in terms of a hockey legacy.

 

Bill Belisle
Bill Belisle and granddaughter Madeline

 

For each of the girls – Halle will be joining her two older sisters at Mount next fall when she enrolls as a sixth grader – the walls covered in photos and Mount championship plaques help foster their desire to honor Pepere through their particular endeavors. This past fall, Madeleine felt “Mount Pride” wash over her as she participated in varsity tennis as a ninth grader. “Mount Pride” is a term that became synonymous with hockey success at MSC.

“I feel like he’s always with me,” said Madeleine.

 

Bill Belisle
Bill Belisle and granddaughter Norah

 

Added Norah Belisle, “He’s such a big deal at our school and meant so much to the community at Mount.”

Norah and Halle are the dancers among this sisterly trio with the former also involved in softball while the latter is the family’s resident soccer player. Sunday was set aside for the Belisle girls to spend time with their grandpa and for them to regale him with their latest athletic feat with help from video recordings.

 

 

“We enjoyed that … showing him the goals that Halle scored,” said Peter Belisle. “Anything the girls did brought a big smile to his face. They were also very eager to tell him what they accomplished and the positive things they did for the team on Sundays. That resonated with my dad because he was a team-first guy.”

None of the Belisle sisters play hockey. That didn’t matter one iota to their famous grandfather.

“Regardless of the sport, my Pepere was the type of guy that needed only five minutes before noticing something that he would give us advice about on how to improve. It didn’t matter what we were into. He was a quick learner,” said Madeleine Belisle. “Moving forward, I’ll definitely be dedicating all my games to him. He’s such a big inspiration within my sporting career.”

“Whether it was sports or dance, he loved them so much,” said Peter Belisle.

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