The hundreds of mourners who packed St. James Cathedral for Rob Ford's funeral on Wednesday heard the former Toronto mayor's brother, Doug Ford, vow that his family's populist political movement, known as Ford Nation, would live on.
"Rob, I'm going to miss you like crazy. I love you more than anything in the world," he said, his voice quavering. "And don't worry, Ford Nation will continue, respect for taxpayers will continue."
It was Mr. Ford who took over his brother's mayoral candidacy in the 2014 election, after Rob Ford was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him at the age of 46.
Doug Ford's speech was just one of several to prompt applause from political dignitaries and members of the public, all saying a final farewell to the most controversial mayor in recent Toronto history – a mayor whose drinking, erratic behaviour and use of crack cocaine made headlines worldwide, but who still maintained a passionate base of support in this city.
Perhaps the most poignant moment came courtesy of Rob Ford's 10-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who read a touching speech to the 900 mourners inside the church, with her mother, Renata, at her side, coaching her and rubbing her shoulders, and her nine-year-old brother, Dougie, standing close by. "I know my dad is in a better place now," she said in a clear, self-assured voice. "He is mayor of heaven now."
The funeral began with a tribute from former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, on whose backbench Rob Ford's father, Doug Sr., served in the 1990s. Mr. Harris described Rob Ford as a "fellow public servant and friend" that he had known for more than 20 years.
"Rob lived what he preached. It has often amazed me that Rob was under investigation and attack from his foes in the media because his office and travel expenses were too low," Mr. Harris said, apparently referring to controversies over the years about Mr. Ford's insistence on paying for many of his own office expenses, in defiance of city rules.
"He was attacked because as mayor, he would help the less fortunate get sports equipment," Mr. Harris said, referring to the controversy over Mr. Ford's move to use his city letterhead to raise funds from lobbyists for his football foundation, a move that prompted a conflict-of-interest court battle that Mr. Ford ultimately won on appeal.
"What a breath of fresh air he was at city hall," Mr. Harris said.
Mr. Harris also praised Mr. Ford for personally intervening to help constituents. Even Mr. Ford's most ardent critics have in recent days taken to praising his special bond with many Torontonians, and his habit of returning his own phone calls and making it his personal business to solve whatever problem a citizen was having with the city.
The ceremony's only reference to Mr. Ford's personal problems came in the homily by Very Rev. Andrew Asbil, the rector of St. James Cathedral and the Anglican Church's Dean of Toronto.
"Very few of us in this room will know what it's like to carry the burden of our failings and our weaknesses in such a public way as Rob Ford did," Dean Asbil said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor John Tory, former mayors Mel Lastman and David Miller, former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, former premier Ernie Eves, Liberal MP and former councillor Adam Vaughan, and many of Mr. Ford's former city council colleagues were among those in the pews.
So were several former members of the Don Bosco Eagles high school football teams that Mr. Ford coached until he was fired in 2013 after making controversial comments about his players. One player, Clinton Leonard, addressed the church and praised his former coach.
On Wednesday night, a large, diverse crowd in the low thousands filled a room in the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke, where Mr. Ford launched his 2014 re-election campaign. Attendees picked up free drink tickets at the door, munched on pulled pork sliders and chicken empanadas, and danced to live reggae and rock.
The event, dubbed a celebration of Mr. Ford's life and organized by his family, featured a table selling bobblehead dolls of the former mayor for $30, with a sign saying the proceeds are pledged for cancer research. A slideshow displayed photos of Mr. Ford, followed by a tribute video.
Just before 8 p.m., Doug Ford Jr. addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support, and repeating some of themes from his tribute at the church.
"I can promise you we will continue on with what Rob started," Mr. Ford said to applause and cheering. "It's about respecting the taxpayer."
The morning began with a procession from City Hall, where Rob Ford's casket spent two days lying in repose, allowing thousands of supporters to file past to pay their respects.
Before the procession began, bystanders applauded the Ford family as they arrived, chanting "mayor for life" and singing Amazing Grace. Some shouted: "I love you, Rob Ford." Many waved banners and flags with the words "Ford Nation" scrawled across them.
Kenny Neville was holding a "Mayor Ford" banner, with a Ford Nation flag tucked into his coat pocket.
"I'm here to give the Ford family my support for the best mayor Toronto has ever had," he said. "Look what he did for Toronto: He took the $60 car tax off and took the gravy train away and gave taxpayers what they wanted."
One man said he came all the way from Montreal for the funeral.
"I have respect for him," Joseph Pugliese said. "The world's corrupt, and he did everything he could to make it better."
With reports from Julien Gignac and Michelle Pressé
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