Friday, April 5, 2013

Ralph Klein remembered at celebration of life ceremony

Former Alberta Premier and Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein was affectionately remembered at a Celebration of Life ceremony on April 5 hosted by The City of Calgary.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Naheed Nenshi issued a proclamation declaring the day Ralph Klein Day in Calgary.

The ceremony began as an honour guard escorted Klein’s ashes into the Jack Singer Concert Hall to the Ian Tyson song Four Strong Winds and a blessing from an elder of the Tsuu T’ina First Nation. Klein was a vocal advocate for Native Peoples in Calgary and Alberta.

The packed house included Klein’s wife of 42 years Colleen, family and friends and dignitaries from across the country. The majority of the seating was reserved for the public, paying tribute to the man they knew as “Ralph.”

Speakers at the service included Mayor Naheed Nenshi, former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow, former deputy Alberta Premier Shirley McClellan, Alberta Premier Allison Redford and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier was the master of ceremonies.

Those who spoke recalled a man who was a dedicated politician as well as an approachable everyman.

Mayor Nenshi remembers former mayor Ralph Klein
Mayor Nenshi recalled a story from his youth about the first time he met Ralph Klein -- a photo from the exchange still sits in his office today.

“Ralph Klein was mayor when I was growing up. He was the template and remains the template for me for what a mayor is and what a mayor does,” he said.

He also talked about Klein’s legacy and how it can still be felt in Calgary every time someone walks through Olympic Plaza, rides the C-Train or visits Ralph Klein Park.

Alberta Premier Allison Redford referred to Klein as a true Alberta icon.

“He set a standard in political leadership in this province and across this country that we all aspire to,” she said.

A common theme throughout the ceremony that Harper spoke to was Klein’s dedication to making tough calls that needed to be made, saying that Klein’s seemingly absurd ideas from the past are now universally accepted. He recalled personal memories from working with him and Klein’s larger-than-life personality which garnered him the nickname “King Ralph.” He also spoke to Klein’s nature as a politician and his personal integrity.

Prime Minister Harper shares his memories of Ralph Klein
“He said what he would do and he did what he said,” Harper said. “I admired that, we all admired that. Ralph Klein was faithful and true, faithful to Albertans, true to himself.”

Others like Harris and McClellan reminisced about their long and personal friendships with Klein further exemplifying his reputation as a man of the people.

“Ralph’s name, for me, is synonymous with courage and conviction,” Harris said.

“Every decision he made, he made because it was truly what Albertans wanted and what was best for Albertans,” McClellan added.

Other notable attendees included Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Donald Ethell and former Prime Minister Jean Chretien .

The ceremony was preceded by presentations at McDougall Centre and Municipal Plaza. At McDougall Centre the Klein family was presented with the Alberta flag that flew the day he died and at Municipal Plaza , where Mayor Nenshi proclaimed April 5, 2013 Ralph Klein Day. The Olympic Cauldron at Olympic Plaza and the flame atop the Calgary Tower were lit in tribute.

Ralph Klein began his political career as Calgary mayor from 1980 – 1989.  His legacy as mayor includes hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, creating the Calgary Economic DevelopmentAuthority and leading the development of Calgary’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. 

He served as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary Elbow from 1989-2007. He became premier Dec. 14, 1992 and served until Dec. 14, 2006

Klein passed away on March 29, 2013 in Calgary, at the age of 70. 

Below is the series of photos of Klein during his time as Calgary Mayor and Alberta Premier and of the Celebration of Life Ceremony hosted by The City of Calgary:

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