MONTREAL - Former federal cabinet minister Jean Lapierre was remembered Saturday in Montreal as a loyal family man and as a gifted communicator who shared his passion for politics with everyday people.
Several hundred family members, friends and dignitaries packed the Saint-Viateur d'Outremont church for a funeral for the ex-political commentator and his wife, Nicole Beaulieu, who died in a plane crash in eastern Quebec on March 29.
In a tearful eulogy, Lapierre's daughter Marie-Anne described her father as a proud man who protected what he loved and those he believed in.
"Papa, we are so proud to be your children," she said. "The beacon has gone out, but its light is still alive."
Lapierre, 59, three of his siblings and Beaulieu were among the seven people who died in the crash as they travelled to the Iles-de-la-Madeleine region.
Marie-Anne Lapierre also paid tribute to Beaulieu and the strong union the couple shared.
"For 27 years, Nicole was there for my father," she said. "They were so united, and they still are."
The two-hour Catholic service began at 11 a.m. as urns containing the ashes of Lapierre and Beaulieu were carried into the church to the sound of tolling bells.
Lapierre's son, Jean-Michel, described the crash as an "incomprehensible tragedy" that affected not only his own family but also those of the two pilots who died in the crash, Pascal Gosselin and Fabrice Labourel.
The mourners heard tributes from Beaulieu's siblings, Pierre and Martine Beaulieu, as well as numerous personalities from the worlds of broadcasting and politics.
Former prime minister Paul Martin eulogized Lapierre as a good friend and a gifted politician who made valuable contributions to Canada, notably while serving as Transport Minister between 2004 and '06.
He said his friend was someone who could "explain Quebec to Canada, and Canada to Quebec."
"Everywhere he went, he touched somebody, and he made people feel better," Martin said.
In a long tribute, former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard saluted Lapierre as someone who "humanized politics" and often left his fellow politicians speechless with laughter.
Lapierre was a longtime Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MP who quit federal politics in 1992 but returned after Martin became Liberal leader in late 2003.
He left politics in 2007 and soon became a popular on-air personality, drawing from his long list of sources in both federal and provincial politics to offer commentary on important news events for a host of different media organizations in Quebec.
Outside the Saint-Viateur d'Outremont church, politicians from all the major parties said Lapierre was able to connect with people from all political backgrounds and sectors of society.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the ceremony along with his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.
Speaking outside the church, he described Lapierre as "an extraordinary, thoughtful, passionate man who was deeply committed to his country, and always looked for the very best for it."
Former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and John Turner also attended, as did NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and several federal and provincial cabinet ministers and former Quebec premiers.
Lapierre's colleagues and rivals alike described him as a man who loved to laugh and as someone they could turn to for advice.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Lapierre had gift for explaining politics to the public in a way they could understand.
"He was a man from the regions but also a man from the city so he could talk to all Quebecers from all walks of life," he said. "There was a deep emotional attachment between Quebecers and Jean Lapierre."
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest said Lapierre "constructed himself a place that's unique in the political landscape and the media landscape, and he lived in both worlds."
Hundreds of people also attended a first funeral last week for Lapierre, his father Raymond, his two brothers, one of his sisters and Beaulieu in Lapierre's hometown of Bassin in Iles-de-la-Madeleine.
The plane carrying Lapierre and his family crashed as they travelled to attend the funeral of his father, who had died of Parkinson's disease a few days before.