There was plenty of laughter and tears as hundreds of people packed into the Marguerite Lougheed Community Centre on Dec. 19 to say goodbye to Gerry Lougheed Sr.
The altar was decorated with a massive Christmas tree and dozens of red roses. A few dozen family and friends were seated on the altar, along with three clergy. Musicians stood along the sides and Gerry Sr.’s gold casket framed the scene.
In attendance was a who’s who of Greater Sudbury, including MPs Glenn Thibeault and Claude Gravelle, MPP Rick Bartolucci, Mayor Marianne Matichuk, and former mayors Jim Gordon and John Rodriguez, to name just a few.
His sons, Geoffrey and Gerry Jr., took turns eulogizing their father, praising him as a man of faith who put family first. But, as Geoffrey said, his father’s concept of family didn’t stop at relatives or even friends and members of the community.
“He believed we were all family and that we should treat everyone exactly as family,” he said, looking out to the 500 people crowded into the centre. “And I think that was one of the reasons why he was so popular. He had a very simple sense of goodness that he wanted to share with everyone as part of his family.”
Geoffrey also spoke of the special bond between his father and Geoffrey’s wife, Colette. His wife didn’t grow up with a father, and Gerry Sr. had no daughters. Up until the end of his life, he said it was Colette who could make her father laugh, even when no one else could.
“In each other, they found that bond father and daughter they had wanted in their lives.
He also talked about his father’s deep belief in God, and that they family took comfort that, in death, their father was now with their mother.
“I know there was a wonderful reunion Sunday night in heaven,” Geoffrey said. “God bless you, dad.”
In his remarks, Gerry Jr. poked fun at himself, saying that his father was very humble and Geoffrey “got a little bit more of the humility” from his father than he did. Just as Geoffrey thanked his brother in his speech, Gerry Jr. thanked Geoffrey for caring for their father in his last months. He then led the crowd in a standing ovation in honour of his brother.
Gerry Jr. also showed his father’s humorous side, and shared his dad’s favourite joke with the crowd.
“He always said to Rick Bartolucci, ‘I only vote for you because your mother doesn’t run,’ ” he said, as everyone broke out in laughter.
In closing, Gerry Jr. said he expected the centre to be renamed the Gerry and Marguerite Community Centre.
Rev. Anne Germond, one of three clergy to preside over the service, said she got to know the family over the last few years, and has celebrated several Christmas services with them.
“His one great sorrow over the last few years was not having his beloved Marguerite with him,” Germond said. “I should be celebrating the Eucharist with Mr. Lougheed this week, but I think he wanted to be in a new home this Christmas.
“Our while hearts are full and heavy as we say goodbye to this kind and generous and loving man, we rejoice that he is now in this new home, together with Marguerite.”
Bishop John Louis Plouffe and Msgr. John Caswell also spoke at the service. Caswell said Gerry Sr. was one of Sudbury’s most “outstanding citizens.
“We come together at this hour to thank him,” said Caswell. “We must try and carry on the work that he did, for those who are still among us.
Lougheed, 83, passed away at home Dec. 16 with his family at his side. Along with his wife, Marguerite, who passed away in 2006, he founded Lougheed’s Funeral Home and Flower Shop in 1952. Lougheed also started Sudbury’s first ambulance service around the same time. His ambulances were the first in Ontario to have oxygen, and he required ambulance staff to have medical training, almost unheard of at the time.
He was active in the local Rotary Club, which honoured his service on multiple occasions, and pioneered support for the city’s disabled through Easter Seals. He was also knighted, twice, by the Governor General of Canada.