Man of the people
Funeral for long-serving MLA Paul MacEwan held in Whitney Pier
A tireless advocate for his community was laid to rest on Monday when friends and family gathered to remember Paul MacEwan.
The former MLA, who died last week at the age of 74, was known as a champion of the people during his 33-plus years in politics that began when he was first elected in 1970.
“His son Richard told me that in those early years of politics his father wore out a pair of shoes every few months and then would actually carry a can of soup in his coat pocket, hoping some kind person would heat it up for him along the way,” Fr. Paul Murphy said, during MacEwan’s funeral service at the Holy Redeemer Parish.
“Paul would do what he could for you, for he believed in the dignity and the rights of the little person. There’s many a person here today who owes him a debt of gratitude. In truth, Paul’s was a life work of sacrifice and service.”
During the funeral MacEwan was also referred to as a man of ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ and as someone who gave himself ‘wholeheartedly’ to the people.
His well-known tirelessness was noted often.
Though best known as a politician, MacEwan was also a hockey coach and player as well as a teacher, among many other things.
But when his political career began in 1970 he quickly gained a reputation as someone who would work well into the night on Worker’s Compensation claims, Canada Pension Plan appeals and other needs of the residents of Cape Breton Nova.
“He listened and not everyone listens today and, not only that, when he promised something he tried to deliver,” said Nicolette MacLellan, who described him as a man of the people.
“You went to Paul, you were getting results. That was it,” added Bonnie O’Rourke. “He didn’t come back with ‘no, it can’t be done.’ It was done one way or another. He was an amazing man.”
Though the man is dead, O’Rourke said she was not sad on Monday because MacEwan is now in a better place.
She wasn’t the only person to suggest MacEwan’s advocacy and work for his community might not cease, even in death.
“He’s probably in heaven right now pounding the streets trying to drum up support for a new Cape Breton Labour Party,” said Murphy, during a light moment in the servicde. “He probably has God himself half talked into joining.”
Among those at the service were a host of past and current municipal and provincial politicians.
They included three former MLAs and one current member who went on to become speakers of the House of Assembly — Cecil Clarke, Alfie MacLeod, Vince MacLean and Gordie Gosse — just as MacEwan had.
Cape Breton Regional Police Service officers formed an honour guard during the ceremony.
His body was piped into the church by Courtney MacPherson, who was a student of MacEwan’s when he was a teacher.
Following the funeral, a reception was hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion, Br. 128 in Whitney Pier.
Courtney MacPherson pipes as the family of Paul MacEwan carries his body into Holy Redeemer Church in Whitney Pier Monday morning. MacPherson was honoured to be piper for the funeral of the popular MLA who was also his teacher at one time.