ONE YEAR AGO: A city and country said goodbye to ‘Hurricane Hazel’ in Mississauga

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Published February 14, 2024 at 9:53 am

Hazel McCallion state funeral in Mississauga one year ago today
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks by the casket of former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion at her state funeral on Feb. 14, 2023.

It was one year ago today that dignitaries from across Ontario and Canada gathered inside the Paramount Fine Foods Centre to bid a final farewell to political icon and Mississauga matriarch Hazel McCallion.

On the day she would’ve turned 102, Feb. 14, 2023, the political figure widely known simply as Hazel or “Hurricane Hazel” was given a state funeral at the Mississauga venue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, former prime minister Jean Chretien, who had become good friends with McCallion over the decades, and scores of friends and others joined family members to celebrate Hazel’s life and say goodbye.

As powerful a political force as this country has seen at any level of government during her three-and-a-half decades in office, McCallion died on Jan. 29, 2023 after a month-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

The casket carrying Hazel McCallion is brought out of the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga after the state funeral last Feb. 14.

There were plenty of tears, but also much laughter at McCallion’s funeral as various speakers fondly recalled their memorable moments with the woman who served dynamically and with fierce loyalty as Mississauga mayor for 36 years.

And there was a good deal of talk about hockey, too. Just as McCallion, a talented pro player in her younger days and lifelong lover of the sport, would have wanted.

Soothing voices singing Amazing Grace and another McCallion favourite, Danny Boy, were part of the grand send-off as well.

In his remarks at the state funeral, Trudeau described the longtime mayor who made her first and lasting mark during the Mississauga train derailment of 1979 as “so unstoppable.”

“I think we all felt she was going to live forever,” Trudeau told those in attendance, adding McCallion was fierce, passionate and always engaged in matters and issues of the day.

Former Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, who took the reins when McCallion retired in 2014, said in her remarks at the funeral that her predecessor and mentor touched the lives of many, both in Mississauga and well beyond.

She also summed up Mississauga’s matriarch in this way:

“Being a mayor may have been her calling, but hockey was her passion,” Crombie said, referencing McCallion’s lifelong love affair with the game, particularly women’s hockey.

“She was our matriarch, the architect of our city…she built our city in her vision.”

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