Rob Ford's family greets mourners at city hall
Sandie Benitah and Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, March 28, 2016 5:52AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 28, 2016 5:36PM EDT
Rob Ford's family is greeting a long line of mourners who have come to pay their respects to the former mayor.
Among those who have come to city hall as Ford lies in repose are Mayor John Tory, Ford's former political rival George Smitherman, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie as well as former students from Don Bosco high school where Ford coached football.
"He was very passionate and very motivational," said Christian Gallipoli, wearing the Don Bosco jacket Ford bought him and the entire football team. "He knew about the game too."
Another player lauded Ford for the encouragement he showed for his post-secondary studies.
“He wrote a card to me that said all the best and that he’s so proud of me and everything. Every day I look at that card and it gives me motivation for my day to go ahead,” he said.
Ford’s family have been greeting mourners almost from the moment they arrived at city hall. Before dignitaries were allowed in at 9 a.m., the family was greeted by a ceremonial guard upon their arrival. The guards carried Ford's casket from the hearse to inside the rotunda as his widow Renata wiped tears away and their children Stephanie and Doug Jr. along with other members of his family followed closely behind.
Several floral tributes were inside the rotunda where Ford's body will lie in repose, including one from his mother Diane which read, "To my darling son, Rest In Peace. Love, Mom."
Hundreds of people from all walks of life could be seen lined up inside city hall to say a final farewell to Ford on Monday afternoon. Some joined a line to hug and snap a photo with the former mayor's brother Doug Ford.
Dan Jacobs, Ford’s former Chief of Staff said the day has been ‘very hard’ for Ford’s wife, children, mother and siblings.
“But the show of support has been really buoyant for them seeing the hundreds of thousands of people that Rob has touched,” Jacobs said.
He said that the public has submitted nearly 400 video clips and messages of condolence to the Ford family. They will be compiled onto a disc for the Ford family to keep.
For his part, Jacobs said he “grew really close” to Ford as one of his closest aides, and said that this Thursday will be probably “be a write-off” for him to grieve after Ford is laid to rest.
Jacobs said Ford’s staff will continue “the Ford legacy” and respond to constituent concerns after the funeral.
“Everyone who calls in, writes in and sends an e-mail will get a response and solution,” Jacobs said.
Speaking outside city hall Monday, Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, described Ford as a “generous guy.”
“Rob and I were good friends. We weren’t always on the same political side but we were good friends throughout,” he said.
“I am here to pay my respects to my friend.”
Today's public viewing began at city hall at 9 a.m. and will run until 6 p.m.
On Tuesday, the public visitation continues between 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Michael “Pinball” Clemons said approaching the casket with his wife was “much more emotional than I thought.”
“I thought I was going to come down and celebrate (his life) but there was some finality, there was something a little bit deeper that I didn’t expect as we approached the casket.”
On his and Ford’s shared love of the game of football, Clemons said the boys who made up the Don Bosco football team that Ford coached have “have grown up to become great young men.”
He said the late former mayor had “this big spirit but also that gentle touch” when he interacted with constituents in a public setting.
“It’s the combination of that big spirit but that common touch that I think I will remember about him.”
A funeral service will be held for the long-time Toronto politician on Wednesday.
A procession is expected to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday as Ford is taken from city hall to St. James Cathedral for the service, which is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.
Ford, who died last week following an 18-month battle with a rare form of soft tissue cancer, will be laid to rest during a private ceremony following the funeral.
The Ford family is asking that people make donations to the Ford-Panov research panel at Mount Sinai Hospital in lieu of flowers.
In a statement sent out last week, Ford's office said the former mayor's family appreciate the messages of support they've received from around the world.
"As difficult as it is to say goodbye, they would like to do so in the same manner in which he lived his life, by sharing it with the people," the statement read.