Aug. 25, 2017

The life of downtown veteran City Councillor Pam McConnell was honoured at a celebration of life service on Friday afternoon at The Cathedral Church of St. James.

The church was filled to capacity, with an overflow area set up with speakers, tents and chairs outside. Approximately 100 people were seated outside when the service began.

McConnell was described by family, friends, and colleagues as a passionate advocate.

Daughter Heather Ann McConnell described how her mother’s time spent in local politics played a role in her own childhood. Heather Ann remembered her mother always speaking with neighbours and being in the know, to the extent that it caused her sister and her to avoid getting into trouble.

“Neither of us could withstand a Pam McConnell lecture. Like her speeches, they could go on,” Heather Ann said.

Phil Ritchie, Pam McConnell’s brother, described a passionate and funny woman, who – as the story goes – when meeting the Pope, instead of asking for a blessing, took the opportunity to tell him something important. “ ‘Remember the poor,’ ” Ritchie said through tears. “Pam was the very embodiment of this advice and never did forget the poor.”

Fellow councillor Paula Fletcher described her friend’s determination. “When repeated staff reports said [a community building] could not be built as envisioned, she never could hear the word ‘no.’ She just heard, ‘not right now.’ ”

Reverend Brent Hawkes closed the ceremony, praising the late councillor for her devotion to Toronto’s public service as though speaking directly to her. “Pam, look around… at the communities and at this city that you helped to build with your love, with your tenacity, and with your strategic brilliance. It is your love, Pam, and it is our love for each other that we will see as we walk about this city, and as we continue to create the city that we want. Blessings, my love, Pam. Well done, Pam. Well done.”

Following the final benediction, the tone of celebration changed quickly with the Recessional Song, “Who Put the Bomp?” (the Barry Mann classic), lead by the Songfest Choir, ringing through the cathedral, with many in the audience singing along.

Pam McConnell was the third longest serving female city councillor before she died, starting as a councillor at Metro Council from 1994-1998, and Toronto City Council from 1998 until her passing July 7, 2017. She was 71 years old.

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