Funeral for Rene Angelil underway in Montreal

Hundreds of mourners have gathered in Montreal to celebrate the life of Rene Angelil, music producer and late husband to Celine Dion.

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Angelil died of throat cancer last week at the age of 73 and was given the honour of a national funeral by Quebec’s National Assembly.

Dion arrived outside Notre-Dame Basilica shortly before 3 p.m. with family members, including five-year-old twin boys Nelson and Eddy, and 14-year-old son Rene-Charles.

The family entered the church at 3:20 p.m. accompanied by a French recording of Dion’s 1984 song “Twenty Minutes Past Three.”

Dion placed black flowers on a cushion atop Angelil’s casket. It was the same cushion used for the couple’s wedding bands when they were married in the basilica on Dec. 17, 1994.

The first to speak was Angelil’s son from his first marriage, Patrick Angelil, who remembered his father as a man who loved to “eat, loved to share and loved to play blackjack.”

“We were always able to call upon his wisdom,” he said in French. “He taught us that we have to treat others as we want to be treated.”

Rene-Charles spoke next. “Fifteen years is not a long time for a son to get to know his father,” he said, adding that they had bonded over “golf, hockey, poker and smoked meat.”

Rene-Charles promised to pass on what he had learned from his father to his younger brothers. “Dad, I promise you here that we are all going to live up to your standards,” he added. “I love you.”

That was followed by a recording of Dion’s song “All the Way,” then a song from a boys’ choir, and prayers.

Among the dignitaries present are Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Premier Philippe Couillard and NDP Leader Tom Muclair.

Hockey heavyweights have also arrived to pay their respects, including former Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore and current head coach Michel Therrien, and Michel Bergeron, who coached the Quebec Nordiques.

Archbishop of Montreal Christian Lepine is presiding over the ceremony.

In Quebec City, the flag at the legislature is flying at half-mast.

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

Angelil was born in 1942 to a Syrian father and mother of Lebanese descent but soon became a fixture of Quebecois culture.


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