Mourners queue to pay respects to Rene Angelil

MONTREAL -- Several hundred people are lining up outside Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica this afternoon to get ready to pay their respects to Celine Dion's late husband, Rene Angelil.

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The viewing continues until 9 p.m. eastern tonight at the church where the couple married in 1994, while the funeral is set for Friday afternoon.

Dion was present in the church at the beginning of the afternoon and welcomed some of the mourners, including Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

One of those in line was Benoit Gendron, who said he has seen Dion in concert 192 times.

"Maybe I wouldn't have had the same life had it not been for Rene because I travelled around the world to see Celine," said Gendron, who comes from nearby Saint-Hubert.

"I based my vacations on where she was playing."

Gendron arrived at the basilica at 6 a.m. to be sure of being among the first to get in.

Angelil, who managed Dion's career for 30-plus years, was two days shy of his 74th birthday when he died last Thursday at his home in Las Vegas after a long battle with throat cancer.

Also in line Thursday was singer Jeremy Gabriel, 19, a well-known performer from Quebec and ambassador for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

"The Dion-Angelil family gave me enormous support during my career," he said. "Celine and Rene were very generous with me and invited me to Las Vegas in 2006. They let me sing with her twice and to meet her in Paris."

Dion and Angelil had three children -- Rene-Charles, who was born in 2001, and twins Nelson and Eddy, who arrived in 2010.

Angelil was in a band in the 1960s called Les Baronets. When it dissolved, he teamed up with friend Guy Cloutier to manage several up-and-coming Quebec artists including Rene Simard and Ginette Reno.

He later struck out on his own and in 1981 received an audio tape in the mail from Dion's mother, who encouraged him to "listen to it carefully. It's my 12-year-old daughter."

Struck by her voice, Angelil quickly took her under his wing.

He gave Dion an image makeover when she turned 18 and launched her first English-language album -- "Unison" -- in 1990, which established her as an international pop star.

A celebration of Angelil's life will take place Feb. 3 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Dion is also dealing with another tragedy in the family -- her brother Daniel Dion died of cancer two days after Angelil.

His funeral is set for Monday, just outside Montreal in the family's hometown of Charlemagne.


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