Politicians gather at funeral for Audrey Best
MONTREAL - Funeral services were held in Outremont Saturday for Audrey Best, former wife of the past Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard.
Best passed away on Tuesday after a three-year battle with breast cancer.
The 50-year-old lawyer was remembered in a Catholic ceremony at the St. Viateur Church as a spirited and intelligent woman who devoted herself to her sons, Alexandre and Simon, and for helping the former premier through some of his darkest hours.
Both sons spoke at the private ceremony, describing their mother as strong-willed, determined, loving and fun-loving.
"She had everything," said Best's friend and Mayor Gerald Tremblay's wife, Suzanne Tremblay. "She was beautiful and intelligent, and she had a nice family and nice career in front of her, but... her time is done on this earth, and she will continue to accompany her sons and everybody that loved her."
The ceremony was led by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, and the public was permitted to enter to pay their respects.
Bouchard, who separated from Best several years ago, spoke briefly at the end of the service, inviting guests to attend a gathering afterward.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who was visibly moved as he exited the church, described Best as a remarkable woman who was "taken too soon."
"It was so sad, to see her two sons," he said. "She was too young."
Premier Jean Charest has said that Best was a generous, kindhearted person and that Quebecers should remember her as a person who represented Quebec with honour.
"Her and my wife got pregnant two weeks apart so they got to spend a lot of time together and got to know each other, and she accompanied former premier Bouchard for six years when he was premier of Quebec and did it with great distinction," he said at the service.
Charest cut short his visit to World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to attend Best's funeral.
Best is survived by her two children as well as her father Jimmie Merrill Best, retired major with U.S. army, and three sisters.
She was born in France, raised in California, and graduated from McGill University.
Best started working for the well-known Montreal law firm Heenan Blaikie in 2000.
Founding partner Roy Heenan said Best will be missed.
"She was so full of life and so full of joy. It's very hard for us in the office to believe that she's gone," said Heenan.
Best was on a flight from Paris in the late 1980s when she met Bouchard, who at the time was ambassador to France under the Mulroney government.
They were together as he became a federal cabinet minister, then leader of the Bloc Quebecois and, finally, Quebec's premier.
Best shunned the spotlight and stood by Bouchard during his stirring 1995 speeches in a near-successful campaign to win Quebec independence.
In one of her rare public comments, Best expressed displeasure to the news media on the day in 1995 that her husband announced plans to become Quebec premier.
She also showed little enthusiasm when asked about her husband's independence cause.
The couple separated several years after Bouchard's retirement from politics in 2001.
The flag at Quebec's national assembly was lowered Saturday to mark Best's death.