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Members of the public are reflected in a portrait as they sign a book of condolences at the state memorial service for former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Members of the public are reflected in a portrait as they sign a book of condolences at the state memorial service for former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Thousands pay tribute to Peter Lougheed Add to ...

They could have been memories from anybody’s family photo album.

 

A young man beaming from the back seat of a car, his beautiful new bride at his side. A proud father showing off his newborn in a christening gown. A middle-aged man dancing in the kitchen or tossing water balloons with his growing brood. A grandfather with his children, and their children, on family vacations mugging for the camera.

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Much of Peter Lougheed’s life was lived in the spotlight during his 14-year tenure as premier of Alberta, and in the decades that followed as the former Progressive Conservative leader continued to counsel political up-and-comers of the conservative movement in Canada.

 

Since his death last week at the age of 84 in the Calgary hospital that bears his name, stories of his life as a dedicated family man – were put on pause as Canadians remembered Alberta’s great defender, and one of this country’s greatest statesmen.

 

But on Friday, 2,300 people filled the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary – dignitaries including current and former prime ministers and premiers from across the land – as Mr. Lougheed became the first Alberta premier to receive a full state memorial. His family was also present, and despite their grief, shared some of their most cherished memories.

 

As the cascade of photos and videos played on a screen, the montage showed a man known to them as brother, husband, father and grandfather – not Mr. Alberta. An audio clip of Mr. Lougheed addressed his personal struggle to juggle work and family.

 

“My time with the children is pretty precious and pretty limited,” he said. “Weekends we try to put aside, particularly Sundays, for family.”

 

If he ever felt he had any failings as a family man, certainly nobody gathered here ever noticed.

 

Stephen Lougheed reflected on his father as a man who set aside one-on-one time for each child and grandchild. His dad was a man who, on a trip to Europe for his 80th birthday, brought along a football to throw around with his family. (Mr. Lougheed played for the Edmonton Eskimos before he turned to law and politics.) He said his dad had “legendary charm and persuasiveness” but was still no match for a “mechanical or electrical device.”

 

As each of his three siblings, Andrea, Pam and Joe, stood at his side, Stephen Lougheed described their father as a coach, mentor, friend and cheerleader.

 

“My dad was always a team player, and the team he was most proud of was his home team, his family, starting with mom,” he said.

 

Mr. Lougheed married his wife, Jeanne, in 1952, the year he met her at the University of Alberta. She did not speak at the memorial service, which lasted 75 minutes and was attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former prime minister Joe Clark, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and former premiers David Peterson of Ontario, Frank McKenna of New Brunswick, Grant Devine and Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan and Jean Charest of Quebec, but her presence was evident.

 

Ms. Redford, who considered Mr. Lougheed a mentor and a friend, said he placed family at the centre of his life, a quality he respected in others. As she pored over photos – both from inside and outside politics – with the family during the past week, she noticed one thing.

 

“In every picture, his lovely wife, Jeanne, was by his side and they were looking at each other, I’m sure with the same affection and admiration and respect that they did when they first met,” Ms. Redford said.

 

Mr. Lougheed, who worked at the blue chip law firm Bennett Jones in Calgary until a few weeks before his death, had heart problems for years. He died of natural causes, according to his family, who held a private funeral in Calgary on Thursday. Even at the end, Mr. Lougheed concerned himself with the business of family, former Tory MP Lee Richardson told those gathered at Friday’s memorial.

 

“He could be seen on his deathbed, he was reminding his sons not to forget their sister’s upcoming birthday,” he recalled.

 

Earlier this week, Mr. Lougheed became the first Alberta premier to lie in state in the provincial legislature in Edmonton. His children remained by his side as hundreds filed by to pay their respects to the man who launched a PC dynasty now in its 41st year and is credited with modernizing Alberta and bolstering its place in Confederation.

 

Speaking at the public memorial, CBC commentator Rex Murphy also noted that he was more than that: “On the level of domestic life, Peter Lougheed was as much an exemplar as he came to be known on the wider stage of this country.”

 

Mr. Harper echoed that sentiment.

 

“You know, when a great man passes, it is sometimes forgotten that above being all of the things he has been to the wider society, he is first and foremost, a husband, a father, a grandfather, brother,” he said. “All of the roles in which he is truly irreplaceable.”

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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