'She told the truth:' Hazel McCallion’s children mourn her death but celebrate her life
Published Sunday, January 29, 2023 11:15PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 29, 2023 11:15PM EST
Following the death of former long-time Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion on Sunday, two of her children shared what made her special, both as a mayor and a mother.
Linda Burgess and Peter McCallion spoke with CP24 outside their mother’s house this afternoon following her passing at the age of 101.
They say they want McCallion to be remembered as the person she was throughout her decades-long career as a public servant, during which time she gained a reputation as a fierce, pragmatic leader who was unapologetically herself.
“I just hope people remember her as the person she was,” Burgess said.
“She always told the truth, she didn't sugar-coat anything and she just was herself.”
Burgess said that in addition to her commitment to serve her community, McCallion was also very family-oriented and supported her children in whatever they were passionate about.
“She was always very supportive and always wanted us to do what made us happy,” Burgess said.
“And [she] was proud of us. As long as you did a good job, it didn't matter what job you had, if you did your best, then she was proud of what you did.”
When McCallion first became mayor of Mississauga in the late 1970s, Peter said that despite the increasingly big work load, his mother always made time for her children.
“When she got to Mississauga, it was a lot bigger obviously, but she still came home and cooked dinner back then,” he said.
“She did a lot for us.”
Both Peter and Burgess said they had time to prepare for McCallion’s passing, and are relieved that she’s no longer in any pain.
“She's with my dad now, so they're back together. She missed him a lot. She really loved him,” Burgess said.
“Someone asked her if she was going to remarry, [and she said] ‘I married for love the first time, the second time will be for money and I haven't found anybody rich enough.’”
Though McCallion’s physical health had been deteriorating in recent months, Burgess and Peter say her mind was as sharp as ever right until the very end.
They say she enjoyed the many visits she received over the last few days from friends, including Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory.
“[She was] sharp as a tack. She was constantly talking politics [and] she knew everybody and she was really happy that she had great friends that wanted to see here and pay their respects,” Burgess said.
“[John] Tory was here. She was telling him how to run the city,” Peter added.
“Which is normal, it'd be unusual if she wasn't. So that was wonderful.”
McCallion, who officially retired from politics in 2014 at the age of 93, has been an active community member since then, holding several positions in different sectors, including at post-secondary institutions and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.
Peter said she was determined to continue serving her community until she no longer could, and that drive is what kept her sharp and active at such an advanced age.
“She just wanted to get involved, but she wanted not to stop, because when you stop, you die,” Peter said.
“So if you keep busy, keep your mind going and your body going, you'll live a lot longer, and 101 is pretty good.”