‘God has called you out of the game’: arena filled for Brown funeral

Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark speaks in front of the casket of MP Gord Brown during a funeral service at the Lou Jeffries Recreation Center in Gananoque, Ont. on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Facebook Live via Newswatch Group)

GANANOQUE – People packed the Lou Jeffries arena in Gananoque Thursday morning to say goodbye to Gord Brown.

The MP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes died suddenly last week after an apparent heart attack. He was 57.

The service lasted about 90 minutes with a number of people from Brown’s political and personal circles paying respects.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said that Brown was intensely partisan while still able to work with other parties. Scheer said Brown paid an “integral role” is transitioning the party into its role as the Official Opposition in 2015.

Retired Senator Bob Runciman reflected on his “long time friend” of more than 30 years, which started with the Young Progressive Conservatives. “Gord wanted to attend every ribbon cutting in the riding. The guy was exhausting,” Runciman said about his term as MPP and joining Brown in the riding, to chuckles from the audience.

The senator called him a “bulldog” when it came to getting things done for the riding. “He loved his job, but most of all, he loved his wife and two sons,” Runciman concluded.

MPP Steve Clark reflected on the “many political road trips,” including one in 1993, when Brown suggested that “wouldn’t it be great” if he was MP and Clark would be MPP and they could both do a lot of good for the riding.

Clark said it was amazing how Brown could “help people in a very quiet way” and that he didn’t want the recognition. “He wanted to go about his work and get his job done. He wanted to help people. He wanted to make a difference.”

“We’re going to make that dream come true,” Clark added about Brown’s vision to have a second ice surface in Gananoque.

Jeff Brown said his brother got the last laugh by inserting him within a bunch of seasoned politicos. He spoke about his family upbringing and the challenges of developing Brown Hospitality Corporation, calling themselves the ultimate team.

Jeff Brown said the family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community and tributes in the media. His speech also touched on Gord’s love of hockey.

“Gordon. I’m sure you’re up there with mom, dad and brother Greg as they are overwhelmed with the mark you have left, not only on the small town they moved to in 1970, but well beyond. As the ultimate teammate, God has called you out of the game for a well deserved rest.”

“He was a small town kid with a dream and he accomplished it,” said his nephew Colin Brown.

Those with other political affiliations spoke, including Warren Kinsella and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. “Warren and I make up the Liberal quota and thank you for not booing us,” Watson said to a round of applause.

A family friend spoke on behalf of Gord’s wife, Claudine, saying Gord’s passing has left an “enormous crater in all of our lives.”

“I want to him to know how proud I am of him and how much I love him. He was an amazing father and he loved his two boys so very much. I will stop at nothing to look after them and make sure they are safe and happy and I will ensure the memory of their father stays strong.”

The service included a musical performance of The Beatles classic “Let It Be” by two acoustic guitars and a bass – highlighting the MP’s love of old school rock.

Brown’s casket was escorted from the arena as a bagpiper played a soulful composition.

He will be laid to rest at the Gananoque Cemetery.

In Ottawa, the flag on the Peace Tower is flying at half staff until sunset today to honour the memory of Brown.

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