By John Swartz
Thousands lined up Sunday afternoon to pay respects to Gordon Lightfoot, who was lying in state at St. Paul’s Centre in Orillia. A light sprinkle turned to rain at about 1:30 p.m. but that didn’t stop many from joining the line. Many people reported the wait was up to one hour to get into the church.
At 2 p.m. the bells at St. Paul’s and St James’ Anglican Church across the street rang in his honour. Lightfoot’s family and close associates were present, though there wasn’t a formal receiving line and the public was not allowed to interact with them.
Some came from further afield than Simcoe County, with at least one person travelling from Ohio and another from British Columbia. Some travelled from other parts of Ontario, several of whom grew up in Orillia.
The funeral to follow at a later time is closed to all but family, so friends and acquaintances also took the opportunity to say goodbye. Mourners were ushered into St. Paul’s in groups of 20 and given a moment before Lightfoot’s casket to contemplate their reason for being present.
In the accompanying video are comments from fans, and a few who had a closer relationship, worked for Lightfoot, or as in the last segment, have an incredible tale to tell.
They are David Newland, who along with Jory Nash and Aengus Finnan organized a 15-year run of an annual Lightfoot tribute night at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room, and Ollie Strong, who played steel guitar on Lightfoot’s Old Dan’s Records album – notably featured on the hit You Are What I Am.
The last comment, from Timothy Crumb, sounds fantastical. He also said he went to school with Lightfoot’s wife, Kim and remained friends with the Lightfoots over the years. The information he provided is opposite to what is generally known about the song, If You Could Read My Mind, and the veracity of his story will never be able to be verified, but this reporter observed Crumb to be warmly embraced by Lightfoot’s wife, giving credence to at least some parts of the story.
(Photos and Video by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Gordon Lighfoot’s Visitation at St. Paul’s Centre, Orillia, May 7, 2023.
Also read – On Gord