There were tears and laughter during the recent state funeral for former Mayor of Mississauga, political icon of Canadian and great friend to many, Hazel McCallion, on the day she would have turned 102.
Dignitaries from all over Ontario and Canada, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, friends and McCallion’s family members gathered with several others inside the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga to bid final farewell to the woman that served dynamically as Mayor of Mississauga for 36 years.
McCallion, a powerful political force that was seen at every level of government during her three-and-a-half decades in office, died on January 29 after a month-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
She is survived by three children–Peter, Linda and Paul–and one grandchild, Erica.
As speakers took their turns during the service to talk about memorable moments they had shared with McCallion, both personal and professional experiences, many clear themes emerged.
Among them were talks of McCallion’s fierce, combative spirit which stood up for Mississauga, and family.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described McCallion as an unstoppable woman.
He said: “I think we all felt she was going to live forever.”
He added that McCallion was fierce, passionate woman who always engaged in matters and issues of the day.
Trudeau shared a story detailing a chance meeting he had with “Hurricane Hazel” some 15 or so years ago in Italy.
He said: “I ran into Hazel (in Italy) and joined her on one of the longest, highest and fastest zip lines in the world…between two mountain peaks.”
He added that McCallion was in her late 80s when she zipped across the dizzying height and back.
Trudeau said she was one of the oldest people ever to complete that terrifying-to-most zip line trip at that time.
While concluding his remarks, he said: “That’s just who Hazel was, though. She wouldn’t let anything stop her. Ever.”
Jim Murray, a longtime friend of McCallion, hosted the memorial service.
In her remarks, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who succeeded McCallion when she retired in 2014, said that her predecessor and mentor impacted the lives of many, both in Mississauga and beyond.
She said: “Being a mayor may have been her calling, but hockey was her passion.”
She added that it was just nice that McCallion be remembered inside the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, home to the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
While talking further, Crombie laughed and said it’s a place where she was known to sneak away for a private skate.
She said: “And she never missed an opportunity to cheer on Canadian women in sport.
“She was our matriarch, the architect of our city…she built our city in her vision.”
She said McCallion was the Mayor when Mississauga transformed from “farmland and fruit trees” to seventh-largest city in Cabada.
The Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, spoke her and he described her as both a mentor and friend. He said he was privileged to speak with her for a couple of hours shortly before she died.
Doug said: “Hazel McCallion was a giant.”
He noted that there wasn’t a “person who met Hazel who wasn’t in awe” of her and “everyone knew Hazel was a force to be reckoned with.”
Ford said McCallion never lost sight of why she entered public domain to serve the people in her 36 years as a Mayor.
He said: “She was always fighting for the underdog, the people who never had a champion. She was a legend, an icon. She was Hurricane Hazel.
“Hazel, happy birthday.”
Ford concluded by saying that “Mississauga is a better city, Ontario a better province and Canada a better country because of Hazel.
“May God bless the greatest mayor this country has ever seen.”
Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, said at the beginning of his remarks that the voice of McCallion’s in his head was saying to him not to carry on for too long with his remarks.
While relating with the audience, Chretien said: “Jean, keep it clear and keep it short. Just like me.”
He described her as “one of a kind” and added that in all his travels around the world meeting world leaders, he “never met any politician like Hazel. Very clear, determined, hardworking, no-nonsense and successful.”
He added: “she had a big heart. It’s no coincidence she was born on Feb. 14.”
Instead of flowers, the McCallion family has requested that donations be made to Trillium Health Partners Foundation or the Hazel McCallion Charitable Foundation for Arts, Culture and Heritage.
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