Hundreds gather to say goodbye to Rita

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A rose is placed next to a portrait of Rita MacNeil and her teapot urn as the funeral for the Cape Breton legend came to a close in Big Pond on Monday.
Steve Wadden - Cape Breton Post

BIG POND — The community of Big Pond came to a standstill Monday afternoon as family, friends, neighbours and fans of Rita MacNeil gathered to say goodbye to the renowned singer-songwriter.

MacNeil died Tuesday of complications following surgery at the age of 68.

St. Mary’s Church, which overlooks the Bras d’Or Lake, accommodated 300 people for the service. Several hundred more gathered at the nearby fire hall where they were be able to watch the funeral through a live video feed.

The 35-minute service began at 2 p.m. with opening remarks from Rita’s daughter Laura Lewis. Fr. Joe Gillis presided over the service and delivered the homily.

The service included two hymns and one of Rita’s own songs, “Weary Travelers.”

The woman behind iconic songs like “Flying on Your Own,” “Home I'll Be,” “Reason to Believe,” and “Working Man,” Rita established herself as one of Canada’s premiere recording and touring artists in a career spanning more than 40 years.

Often described as Cape Breton’s first lady of song, Rita released 24 albums, selling millions of copies throughout her career. She won three Juno Awards, as well as numerous East Coast Music Awards, and many other honours, including the Order of Canada.

Rita is survived by her two children, Laura and Wade, four grandchildren, dear friend Rose, and seven siblings.

Geographic location: Canada, Mary, Cape Breton

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  • Andrea Girard
    April 23, 2013 - 18:51

    Good afternoon Laura, My name is Andrea Girard I got the wonderful opportunity to speak to your mother one evening after one of her concerts and she was a wonderful person inside and out my daughter Aidan loved her music vary much and was vary upset when she came back from a schooltrip to France yesterday when I showed her this article. I have a picture of Aidan and your mother after a concert when my little girl was 5 years old. Out here in Nanaimo B.C we loved her and her tea was wonderful I just wish I could get some more. Thank you Laura and if you are ever in Nanaimo you always have a place to bunk. Simcerely Aidan and Andrea Girard