(Orillia) More than 2,400 fans came out to pay their last respects to legendary folk singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, who lay in state on Sunday in his central Ontario hometown.
In the pouring rain, the line stretched to the sidewalk in front of St. Paul’s Church in Orillia, Ont., to gather near the coffin. This place had not been chosen by chance: Lightfoot sang there during his childhood in a choir.
Inside, each person had a moment with this Canadian music legend. The coffin, closed, was adorned with a large bouquet of red roses, as well as a single rose.
Inside the bouquet is a handwritten card from his widow, Kim Lightfoot. It read: “The treasure of my heart”. For the first hour, Ms. Lightfoot greeted visitors near where they entered the building.
Throughout the Lying Chapel, which ran until 8 p.m. Sunday, songs by Lightfoot played over the loudspeakers.
Steve Porter and his wife, Diane Porter, were among the first people in line outside the church at 10:30 a.m., two and a half hours before the doors opened. Not knowing how big the crowd would be, they wanted to be there early.
“I’m here on behalf of all my family and my ancestors who are gone but loved him very much,” he said.
Myeengun Henry, meanwhile, came from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation near London, Ont., with a gift in honor of Lightfoot. He also carried an eagle feather in his hand, which he said was a symbolic gesture of the highest-flying bird.
“He’s a bird that can see very far and that reminds me of Gord,” he mentioned.
“He could see things other people couldn’t see. I have a lot of respect for his legacy. »
Throughout the weekend, restaurants, bars and other businesses followed suit to pay tribute to their local hero.
Lightfoot bassist Rick Haynes, who worked with the musician for 55 years, acknowledged that visitors’ emotions “mean a lot to the family and a lot to me personally.”
“I think he would be very honored, because he loved the community and he loved his fans,” he noted inside the church.
“Gordon was the best. There are a lot of great songwriters out there, I don’t think any of them are better than Gordon. »
At 2 p.m., the bells of St. Paul’s Church rang 30 times: 29 for the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald and once in honor of Lightfoot. It was one of many tributes paid to Lightfoot in Orillia since his death on May 1.
On Saturday, a concert that was already planned as a tribute to his career turned into a celebration of his life and career.
Elsewhere, a book of condolences could also be signed at Massey Hall in Toronto, a venue where Lightfoot performed frequently throughout his career.
A private funeral is to be held Monday in Orillia, where Lightfoot is to be buried alongside his parents.