MONTREAL – Rene Angelil’s teenage son described his father as a “tough act to follow” Friday as he promised to take what he learned from the longtime impresario and pass it along to his little twin brothers.
Rene-Charles Angelil, who will turn 15 on Monday, spoke for little more than a minute at his father’s funeral on Friday as his superstar mother, Celine Dion, and more than 2,000 other people looked on at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica.
“You had a busy life but we were communicating through golf, hockey, poker and smoked meat,” he said to laughter – “and a lot of other wonderful food, bonding more and more as time went by.”
“You left me now with enough good memories of you to share with my younger brothers. As they grow older, without you being around, I’ll make sure to pass on what I’ve learned from you.”
“You are a tough act to follow but with your help, everything is going to be fine. Dad, I promise you here that we’re all going to live up to your standards. Je t’aime papa.”
Dion, 47, entered the church and walked to her seat holding the hands of Eddy and Nelson, the five-year-old twins she also had with Angelil, her longtime manager and husband who died of throat cancer at the age of 73 last week.
The ceremony began at 3:20 p.m. with a taped rendition of Dion’s version of the appropriately named “Trois heures vingt,” which was part of a service meticulously planned by Angelil.
Patrick Angelil, one of the deceased’s three adult children from two previous marriages, told the service his father was a loving man.
“If he couldn’t always be there with us, he never missed a chance to declare his love for us,” he said of Angelil. “All our life, our father told us, ‘I love you.’”
“And now, more than ever, we realize how exceptional it was to have had a father who never hesitated to utter such precious words.”
Angelil also said his father shared his passions, especially his love of gambling.
“When we were very young, we all learned we had to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ that we had to look left and right before crossing the street and that at blackjack, if you have a five and a six, you have to double your bet.”
The service ended with a version of Dion’s “Pour que tu m’aimes encore” playing, with the twins again by her side.”
Dion then kissed the casket for several seconds, put her hand to her lips and touched the coffin with her hand once more.
The singer’s family accepted Premier Philippe Couillard’s offer for the government to play a role in the organization of the funeral.
The premier called Dion’s international success a source of pride for Quebec and noted Angelil was there to help develop her career.
“But today, we’re not honouring Celine Dion’s husband, we’re honouring Rene Angelil himself, who did a lot for our culture to make it be known better all around the world,” he said.
“We also honour the philanthropist, somebody who has been extremely active in our artistic and cultural community.”
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney described Angelil as a “terrific gentleman” who will be sorely missed.
“He was a giant, Rene, and together they created the biggest success story in showbiz in Canadian history,” said Mulroney, who attended the couple’s 1994 wedding at the basilica.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Davos for the World Economic Summit, was represented by his spouse, Sophie Gregoire.
Composer Scott Price, Dion’s musical director, said he was able to get to know Angelil after working with her since 2008.
“People think manager, but he was also so creative and so involved in all the creative processes, all the artistic decisions,” Price said.
“Just a huge loss, irreplaceable.”
– With files from Stephanie Marin