Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hells Angels visit just another day

Townsfolk unfazed by biker funeral

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Quiet Gunton is a town of about 200 people, which sits between Stonewall to the south and Teulon to the north. Residents said Thursday they weren't worried or anxious about the arrival of dozens of bikers in their town today. A celebration-of-life gathering is being held for a biker associate, Leonard Beauchemin, who died last weekend.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Quiet Gunton is a town of about 200 people, which sits between Stonewall to the south and Teulon to the north. Residents said Thursday they weren't worried or anxious about the arrival of dozens of bikers in their town today. A celebration-of-life gathering is being held for a biker associate, Leonard Beauchemin, who died last weekend. Photo Store

POSTMASTER Veronica Ringoir hadn't heard the Hells Angels were coming to town.

Apparently, neither had her cat, Oprah, who was sprawled on a nearby chair.

Then the phone rang. It was Ringoir's sister.

"She just told me the Hells Angels were coming to Gunton!" Ringoir said, laughing. "Word gets out, eh?"

That was a vignette from Gunton, a quiet Interlake community on a sleepy Thursday afternoon, on the eve of reports Hells Angels bikers from across the country may converge on the town today for the funeral of a former associate, Leonard Beauchemin, who died last weekend after a short battle with cancer.

Beauchemin was a prominent member of the now-defunct Los Bravos biker gang and was a central figure in a dispute involving the Hells Angels clubhouse on Scotia Street, which was seized by police three years ago.

Although Beauchemin was not a full-patch Angels member, police anticipate his celebration-of-life gathering, believed to be held on a colleague's farm near Gunton, will attract bikers from other parts of Canada to pay their respects.

In turn, the biker's appearance will draw law-enforcement officials who will monitor their arrival, conduct surveillance and take photographs and videos to replenish their gang database.

The vision of Hells Angels, Harley Davidsons and police gang units descending on a town of some 200 souls -- located about 40 kilometres north of Winnipeg -- is at first blush a fountain of contradictions. In the Canada Post office, Ringoir was found holding down the fort with Oprah -- the only black-and-white on patrol -- curled up on a chair behind the counter.

"This is a pretty nice place to live," Ringoir said. "It's crime-free."

Well, not free, exactly. There was that local kid caught vandalizing an oversized Christmas ornament last winter.

But it's quiet.

"We had a movie star come here once," Ringoir noted. "His name was Bob Gunton, who was (the warden) in Shawshank Redemption. He was shooting a movie in Stonewall. When he came here he said, 'I never knew a town was named after me.' That's about as exciting as it gets in Gunton."

By coincidence, it could be looking a lot more like Shawshank today. Not only will gang members fly their colours in full view of police, more than a few Gunton residents have ties to the federal Stony Mountain Penitentiary in nearby Stony Mountain.

"If they come through town, I'll know a lot of them," said one resident, currently a Stony corrections officer, who wanted to remain anonymous. "They might recognize me. (But) they won't bother the locals. They don't create hassles in a small town. They'll be on their best behaviour."

Trevor Lloyd, 72, didn't seem too concerned about the Angels coming to town, either. Before retiring, Lloyd spent more than 30 years at the Stony Mountain prison as a guard.

"This place needs livening up," Lloyd shrugged. "Lots of action. I've got to get my camera working."

Like most residents interviewed, Lloyd appreciated the heads-up.

"It would be a surprise to a lot of people here," he noted. "Hells Angels, that's heavy duty."

Yet another resident, Linda MacLean, had a job in a women's prison in Edmonton. She wasn't threatened, either.

"There's an old saying -- pardon my French -- that Angels never sh-- in their own backyard," MacLean said, adding, "People are pretty laid back here. I don't think they'd care. They might make a lot of noise (on bikes), but... "

However, it's not as though biker sightings are unusual in Gunton, sandwiched between Stonewall to the south and Teulon to the north. There have been rumours about marijuana grow-ops and vehicle chop shops.

Ringoir will tell you there used to be 3,000 people living in Gunton, which for years had a limestone quarry that employed hundreds. There were two schools and a Main Street full of businesses.

Having a few burly Angels descending on the town might create more gossip than concern.

"It's a free country," she said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2013 0

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Updated on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 7:50 AM CDT: Change pictures.

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