EDMONTON — Albertans lined up by the hundreds in the late-summer sunshine outside the legislature Monday to pay their respects to Peter Lougheed.
Inside, his closed coffin sat on a black riser in the marble rotunda at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to the assembly chamber where Lougheed dominated for 14 years as premier.
The casket was draped in a hybrid Canada-Alberta flag to symbolize a man who called himself a Canadian first, but who was also a premier who successfully fought to make the province an equal player in Confederation.
“He got us our (oil) royalties back, for one thing. He was for Alberta,” said Vern Kruk, who lined up early with his wife, Rose, to pay condolences and chat briefly with Lougheed’s sons, Joe and Stephen, and his granddaughter Kathleen.
“He was a man who was very proud of our province and did what he could for the future of our province,” added his wife.
“We’ve lost a great premier.”
Behind them was Mavis Thomson, a childhood friend to one of Lougheed’s children.
“We used to almost live at their house,” said Thomson.
“I learned quickly why the other children would stay quiet at the dinner table. He would wrap your words around you and you would learn a lesson, (but) apparently he loved me for just speaking out.”
Thomson teared up when asked about his legacy.
“Such class, such heart, such humanity,” she said.
Lougheed, premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985, died last week of natural causes at age 84.
Tributes have been flooding in from all leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for a man chosen earlier this year by one public policy think-tank as the greatest premier of his generation.
His body was brought to the legislature Sunday night in a white limousine and was to lie in state until late Tuesday.
The family will hold a private service and a public memorial is scheduled for Friday in Calgary.
Before members of the public were allowed in Monday, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, politicians of all stripes and other dignitaries paid their respects.
Redford returned early from a trade mission in China upon hearing of Lougheed’s death.
She entered the rotunda with Lt.-Gov. Don Ethell and his wife. Lougheed had been a mentor to Redford dating back to her earliest days in politics.
She stood for 15 seconds in front of his coffin with the Ethells, but spent the last 30 seconds by herself.
Twice she brought her hands to her face before moving on to hug the Lougheed family.
She declined comment, but in a news release said: “I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have known (Lougheed).
“Despite the heavy responsibilities he carried, he never let his duties interfere with the most important thing — his family. He was always there for them.
“He led the way a leader should — with honour and courage, with honesty and openness, and with boundless compassion and respect for the people he served.”
Mounties in red serge and provincial sheriffs in navy blue stood vigil around the coffin.
Alberta and Canadian flags stood at either end and gladioli and lilies encircled the rotunda. Mounted nearby was a black-and-white photo of a younger Lougheed standing at his desk and looking into the distance. The photo was picked out by his family.
There were no speeches. The rotunda fountain was switched off. The only sounds were the clicking of cameras and the clip of shoes on the marble floor.
Outside the legislature, deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk said Lougheed was active in politics right up until the end, getting updates and offering advice to Redford’s team.
“I had the honour of spending a bit of time with premier Lougheed lately because he really re-engaged himself with this government (and) with Premier Redford,” said Lukaszuk.
“I think his currency will not expire in Alberta for many, many years to come, if ever.
“Many of us in elected office from time to time ask ourselves the question, ’What would Premier Lougheed do if he was faced with a situation like this?”’
l CALGARY — A public memorial honouring former premier Peter Lougheed is to be held on Friday in Calgary.
The service is to begin at 1 p.m. at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Limited seating is available for the public on a first-come basis beginning at 10 a.m., but overflow seating will be available at SAIT’s campus gymnasium.
l CALGARY — Just days after the death of former premier Peter Lougheed, vandals have damaged the historic home of his grandfather in Calgary.
Staff at Lougheed House say the estate was targeted sometime late Saturday or early Sunday.
They say vandals climbed up to the second storey of the mansion in the city’s southwest and spray-painted the sloping metal roof of a tower.
They also spray-painted a chimney and an east-facing sandstone wall.
Lougheed House was built in 1891 and was home to Sir James Alexander Lougheed.
He was a life-long Conservative who campaigned for Sir John A. Macdonald and was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1889.
His Calgary home was considered a hub of social activity for the city’s elite.
The province designated the home a provincial historic resource in 1976 and it was declared a national historic site in 1995.