‘Best Mayor Ever’: Ford Nation
Ford Nation came out in the hundreds to say their final goodbyes to former mayor Rob Ford on Wednesday. The Ford family encouraged supporters to come the funeral procession and show love.
The procession began at City Hall, where Ford’s casket lay in repose since Monday March 28. The hearse carrying Ford, accompanied by police honour guards, ceremonial bagpipers, then headed to St. James Cathedral on King Street, followed by the sea of Canadians that make Ford Nation, chanting “Rob Ford, best mayor ever” as they swept by.
Although hundreds showed up, few were let inside the church. The rest filled tents on the church’s lawn to view the service. Inside, some mourners sat close to the projector screens while others huddled close behind. The surround sound felt as though outside was inside the cathedral.
A large crowd makes its way down Yonge street for the funeral procession for former mayor Rob Ford on March 30, 2016.
The service featured tributes from Clinton Leonard, who played under Ford’s Don Bosco Eagles, former premier Mike Harris, brother Doug Ford and two children Dougie and Stephanie.
Some cried as Ford’s children took the podium.
“Dougie and I know that he will be with us forever, I love him so much,” Stephanie Ford said.
“I know my dad is in a better place now,” she said, “and he’s the mayor of heaven now.”
Many rejoiced when Doug ford spoke. He shared stories of his brother’s ways, “classic Rob Ford.”
“I’ve always said he was a big guy that was the champion of the little guy,” he said.
“We haven’t seen so much love and support since the blue jays won the world-series. Let me tell you how grateful our family is and will be forever grateful and indebted to this city for the love and outpouring support.”
Hymns rang from the church as the service came to an end. Afterwards, everyone gathered out front to see the casket off. But as a crowd positioned itself near the fences, Forses Berkovitch stood idle — wearing a Rob Ford campaign T-shirt, keychain necklace with his Ford’s face hooked on and a V-for Vendetta mask pulled to the side.
“I usually have a giant face of Rob Ford on a stick,” Berkovitch said, “its fun and the people like it.”
“Robbie signed a couple for me, he always thought it was funny.” he said.
Berkovitch, 27, says he spent the day crying. He recalls being able to spend time with Ford and says they even made Instagram videos together.
“I said, ’happy birthday dad,’ and then he said, “happy birthday dad,” but everybody thought he was my dad. They didn’t understand what the video was about.”
However, he said he couldn’t find the words to describe how it feels loosing someone he loved.
“It didn’t matter if he was sick or famous or whatever, he still cared about the people.”
Beverly Scoon came from Etobicoke to join Ford Nation. She says if it wasn’t for Ford she may have been in debt.
“I would have had to spend $70 on top of my sticker for my car and because of him, each and everyone in Toronto took that off.” Scoon said. “He fought for us.”
Scoon remembers a mayor who was truly a phone call away. “The people’s mayor of Toronto. Just before he took sickness, I spoke with him…I called him and he called me back.” Scoon said. “I said, ‘Rob, we are praying for you,’”
While running for reelection in 2014, Ford announced his cancer. After doctors found a malignant tumour in his abdomen ‘Robbie’ was diagnosed with pleomorphic liposarcoma. He was immediately admitted to Mount Sinai hospital, where he underwent intense chemotherapy.
Pleomorphic Liposarcoma is a rare form cancerous tumour that develops in connective soft tissues and grows quickly.
In May 2015, he received surgery to remove the tumour and was later cleared to return to duty in July. In November he returned for a second chemo, by January 2016, a third and fourth. However, by then things looked grim.
Dane Shaw is a civil servant from Etobicoke. He says he appreciates the Ford family for their boots on the ground approach and community outreach.
“Doug Ford helped my mom get housing at Queen’s Plate,” Shaw said, “in less than a week.”
Queen’s Plate Drive is a community-housing complex in Rexdale – it’s also where Shaw calls home. Shaw, 36, helps organize community activities like the Rexdale Raiders, a basketball club that Doug Ford launched in 2012.
“He (Doug Ford) said, ‘take the kids and play basketball and run the community, we support you,’ that’s how they are.” Shaw said.
Shaw remembers a jovial Rob Ford. He recalls a time he went to go see the mayor just to check up on him.
“One time he had a charge in Florida. I went to meet him at city hall…I said, ‘yo Robbie, everything is good man.’ He said, “Thanks bud.” He’s always jolly, you know?”
The infamous, Robert Bruce ‘Rob’ Ford, died March 22, at age 46.
“He can never be replaced — can’t ever take away his title.” Shaw said.