MONTREAL — An overflow throng of more than 1,000 friends and admirers of Ben Weider paid respects to the late bodybuilding magnate at Oct. 20 funeral services that included some of the most prominent figures in the province. Weider died Oct. 17 at age 85.
The names included Jean-Claude Turcotte, Montreal’s Roman Catholic cardinal; former premier Lucien Bouchard; Michel Bissonet, former speaker of the Quebec National Assembly; Senator Serge Royal, and Rabbi Abraham Cohen, fundraising director of the Lubavitch movement’s Chaya Mushka seminary for girls, whose construction Weider financed and who participated in the service.
Also present were officials from the Jewish community, including from the YM-YWHA, whose Westbury Avenue headquarters Weider also paid for and is named for him.
Their presence and remarks testified to Weider’s reputation for building bonds between all faiths and people. Bouchard said that Weider paid for the repair of the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, while Royal, an honorary pallbearer, noted that he urged Weider to donate his collection of Napoleonic artifacts to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Royal shared Weider’s interest in Napoleon).
Rabbi Alan Bright of Shaare Zedek Congregation described Weider as “one of those rare individuals who succeed in creating an aura about them that sets them apart. Ben’s life was full, and his years crowded with achievements that touched all kinds of people.”
During the 50-minute service, Weider was also described as a great Quebecer and Canadian, a private man who loved big band swing music and who was greatly anticipating last Thursday’s opening of a permanent gallery at the museum showcasing his collection.
Outside the Paperman & Sons funeral home during the service, soldiers from the Royal 22nd Regiment and the 62nd Artillery Regiment stood in an honour guard, because Weider had served as an honorary colonel of the field artillery regiment and been associated with the 22nd regiment, popularly known as the Van Doos.
Among those also attending the service were McGill law professor William Tetley, a former Quebec cabinet minister; St. Jean Baptiste Society president Jean Dorion; former Montreal chief of police Jacques Duchesneau; Liberal MNA Christine St-Pierre, and D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman.