Rene Angelil 'a tough act to follow', son says at funeral
Published Friday, January 22, 2016 7:08AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 22, 2016 6:55PM EST
Celine Dion, a veil over her face and dressed in black, clutched her twin sons' hands as she guided them into Notre Dame Basilica to say farewell to their father Friday.
Dion walked into the church first with her youngest sons Eddie and Nelson; her eldest, Rene-Charles, followed close behind helping Dion's mother Therese as the family arrived at the national funeral for Rene Angelil.
It was a packed church as a crowd of 2,700 people, including 600 members of the public, came out to the ceremony.
Mourners gathered outside in the morning to pay their respects to Angelil, who died of throat cancer at the age of 73 last week. Angelil's wishes were that his funeral service take place at the Basilica, where he Celine Dion in 1994.
Christian Lepine, the Archbishop of Montreal, presided over the ceremony. Dion did not perform, nor did she speak, but several of her love songs were played during the service, including "Pour que tu m'aimes encore" and "All the Way", a duet with Frank Sinatra.
Patrick Angelil, one of Rene's sons from a previous marriage, said while the world is remembering Angelil the talented manager and tenacious showman, he was remembering his and his siblings' father.
"He couldn't always be with us, but he never missed a chance to tell us he loved us. All our lives, our dad told us 'I love you,' and now, more than ever, we are realizing how exceptional it is to have had a dad who never hesitated to say those precious words," he said.
Rene-Charles eulogized his father in French and English, saying he was lucky to have been born into such a loving family.
"Fifteen years is not a long time for a son to get to know his father. You had a busy life, but we [communicated] through golf, hockey, poker, and smoked meat," he said, a line that drew a smile from his mother. Rene-Charles, who is 14, also pledged to share the memories and lessons he learned from his father with his younger brothers, who are 5.
Mainstays of Quebec's entertainment and political scene were on hand for the funeral, including Premier Philippe Couillard, former premier Jean Charest, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, PQ Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau and Julie Snyder, television personality, producer and Peladeau's wife.
Singer Gregory Charles was there and spoke about a man who always had his back while he toured with Dion.
"In a few instances, because of my beautiful skin colour, I wasn't always admitted to places. Rene always came up to the plate and would say 'Listen, there's 100 of us. If he's not going, we're not going. There's no show.' He was adamant," he said.
Several hundred people visited the Basilica on Thursday for the public viewing and each one paid their respects and offered their condolences to Dion in person.
Every visitor received a card with a message from the singer, who stayed at the Basilica well past midnight. The note said that Dion considers her career to be Angelil's masterpiece, and that she must continue without him, for him.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced earlier this week that the flag at the National Assembly will fly at half-mast.
A celebration of Angelil's life will take place Feb. 3 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.