TORONTO—Rob Ford was eulogized Wednesday, March 30, as a consummate politician and loving father whose serious personal failings garnered international notoriety but only a passing mention on a day devoted to saying a final goodbye to him.
In a packed downtown Toronto cathedral, family, dignitaries, and members of the public paid their respects to the leader of “Ford Nation” and Canada’s best-known former mayor, who captured as much attention in death as he did in life.
“He’s the mayor of heaven now,” Ford’s daughter Stephanie, 10, told the service as her younger brother Dougie stood by her side. “He helped a lot of people. He was also an amazing dad.”
Ford, a loved-or-loathed larger-than-life politician, became a certified celebrity in light of his admitted crack cocaine use, alcohol abuse, lewd comments, and at times outrageous behaviour that transformed his mayoral office into an unprecedented spectacle.
It was left to Rev. Andrew Asbil, rector of St. James cathedral, to note the improbable heights of both adulation and infamy that Ford scaled as mayor.
“Very few of us in this room know what it’s like to carry the burden of living your failings and your weaknesses in such a public way as Rob Ford,” Asbil said in his homily.
“And—this is important—very few of us will know what it’s like to experience the love and admiration of so many for the work that we do in the same way as Rob did.”
Ford, whose clarion call was “time to stop the gravy train,” died last week at age 46, 18 months after a cancer diagnosis scuttled his bid for a second term as mayor, although he easily won election as a councillor in his west-end ward.
For two days this week, he was granted the rare honour of lying in repose at city hall, where thousands filed past his Toronto-flag-draped casket.
On Wednesday, a procession saw him leave city hall one last time for St. James, where scores who were unable to get inside waited patiently on the lawns.
Former Ontario premier Mike Harris called Ford, mayor from 2010 to 2014, a city hall “breath of fresh air,” while his brother, Doug Ford, highlighted how his untimely death had brought people of different views together.
“Today, we’re putting our political differences aside: We’re here for the Rob Ford party, the party of the people,” Doug Ford said. “Rob, I’m going to miss you like crazy but don’t worry: Ford Nation will continue.”
Earlier, cheers rose when Ford’s wife, Renata, blew kisses to the crowds as her husband’s casket was lifted into a hearse outside city hall. Family members, some sobbing quietly, stood nearby.
Along the procession route, some in the crowd sporadically broke into song, while others waved “Ford Nation” flags or chanted “mayor for life.”
Heather Hogben-Bruce, who attended the cathedral service that preceded a private funeral, called Ford a “very loved” man.
“He has done a lot for the people of Toronto, especially the little people. He was the people’s mayor,” she said. “Nobody’s perfect and I think he was an incredible man.”
Ford’s family planned a Wednesday evening celebration at a west-end hall that has been the site of huge Ford rallies in the past.
From The Canadian Press