Joffre Street

  • Papa Joffre

  • Kenneth (King) Lee, and the Commodore Restaurant

Joseph Joffre

Papa Joffre

Joffre Street runs south from Delamere and ends in a cul-de- sac above William Street. It first appeared on the 1922 map when it was shown as running through to William. However, when Dr. Crehan built the large brick Tudor home, which still stands at 420 William St. Joffre became a cul-de-sac.

Joffre was part of the Avon Heights subdivision, registered in 1920 by a group of about a dozen landowners, including Lt. Col. Thomas Gillmor Delamere. (see Delamere Avenue) Col. Delamere served with the Canadian Mounted Rifles during the South African (Boer) War (1899-1902) as a young man. He was later commissioned in the Perth County Militia Unit, then known as the 28th Regiment.

With the outbreak of the First World War, he volunteered for service and went overseas with the First Division. Col. Delamere chose the names for Haig and Joffre streets because both were soliders in active service in France. Haig Street was named for General Haig, commander and chief of the British Forces in France. By Stanford Dingman

Joffre Street was named for Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre, commander and chief of the French armies on the Western front from 1914 to 1916. He is best known for regrouping the retreating allied armies to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne in September 1914.

His political position waned after unsuccessful offensives in 1915, the German attack on Verdun in 1916, and the disappointing results of the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme in 1916. At the end of 1916, he was promoted to marshal of France, the first such elevation under the Third Republic, and moved to an advisory role, from which he quickly resigned. Later in the war, he led an important mission to the United States. His popularity led to his nickname Papa Joffre. Source: text and picture Wikipedia

Kenneth (King) Lee, owner and manager of the Commodore Restaurant and Tavern.

Kenneth (King) Lee, and the Commodore Restaurant and Tavern

King Lee, who was born in China as Lee Yin Ming, first visited Canada in 1916 with an uncle. He came to Stratford from Toronto in the 1940s and ran the Commodore Restaurant and Tavern at 107 Ontario St. until his retirement in 1976. He had an engaging personality, quick smile and business acumen.

“He was very much a businessman. Very smart. Very astute. His work ethic was very strong. He believed in honesty. And he liked to help people.” That from his daughter, Marjorie Culliton of Stratford, in an article in the London Free Press in 2013. She also noted that her father emphasized the importance of education, particularly post-secondary school. From him, she learned the value of hard work by waiting tables at the Commodore from the age of 11 and by coming home weekends from university to help as well.

Kenneth (King) Lee was born March 4, 1898, in Taishan, China. He emigrated in the 1930s “to make his fortune.” According to his daughter, he was hired for a mining job in Kirkland Lake, but opted to cook for the miners after he noticed “they were bringing people up from the mines who were dead.” At some point, King was not only running the kitchens in mining country, but travelling south to hire cooks. He eventually settled in Stratford in the 1940s.

In the Commodore, he served Americanized Chinese fare and Western-type dishes. Once a year, he would hold what would now would be called “a customer appreciation night.” He would fill up the restaurant and, recalled his daughter, “there would be a whole feast” to feed them all.

After King retired in 1976, he sold his business to a nephew but retained ownership of the building. Two years later, in the spring of 1978, the building went up in flames, the result of a fire that began in the adjacent Greenberg’s Ladies Wear store. Cause of the fire was attributed to an unattended iron and steam generator in the clothing store. It took out four businesses and left more than $1 million in damages. The Commodore was where Fellini’s restaurant is now.

Until he was 109, King lived in Stratford with Marjorie and her husband Mike at 8 Joffre St., where he still did all the cooking. He enjoyed retirement walks around the river. The long life he lived was filled with adventure, hard work and family.

He died peacefully on Nov. 29, 2012, at the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care in Scarborough, Ont. He was 114. Source: Gord Conroy

Ontario Street fire 1978. Brian Wendy Reis . . . FB

The 1978 fire damaged the Commodore, Greenberg’s, Ontario Credit Jewellers, Boyd-Rickert Shoes, Smith-Wagner Statikonery and others. Brian Wendy Reis FB