East Yorkers remember personal gifts in Ford’s legacy

GUERNIERI
Helen Papadakis, left, and Grace Guarnieri hold a “Rest in Peace” sign outside their store on Pape Avenue.

Grace Guarnieri never really knew Rob Ford, but she says he still left a lasting impression on her. In a phone conversation, some time ago, the owner of Second Elegance on Pape Avenue mentioned to the then mayor that her father was ill. Subsequently, Ford phoned back to ask if there was anything he could do.

“That’s epic. Who remembers that?” Guarnieri said. “I mean, just that act was consolation enough,” she said. “It was just him doing what he loved to do.”

The 46-year-old former mayor died on March 22. His funeral took place on Wednesday.

Rob Ford was first elected as Toronto city councillor for Ward 2 in 2000. He was re-elected two more times in succession to represent Etobicoke North.

His 2010 mayoral bid quickly gained momentum, finding popularity with his “respect for taxpayers” platform; he was elected Toronto mayor that year with 47 per cent of the popular vote. During his term as mayor, he became involved in a series of controversies related to his public and private life.

In 2014, media reports indicated that Ford had been diagnosed with pleomorphic liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer. During the 2014 municipal campaign, Ford announced would not run for mayor, but back in Ward 2 instead. Despite treatments in the year that followed, the tumors persisted. He died March 22, 2016.

Rob Ford’s body lay in repose at city hall on March 28 and 29 before his funeral at St. James Cathedral at noon on Wednesday. Ford was 46, and is survived by his wife, Renata, and two children.

Rob Ford had supportive colleagues during his service on Toronto City Council.

Former East York councillor John Papadakis said Ford “was dedicated to our city.”

“I will remember Rob very fondly as a colleague and a friend who was an inspiration to a lot of people,” Papadakis said. “He put Toronto on the map.”

Papadakis said he learned from Ford’s sense of loyalty.

“He showed that regardless of any situation you face, believe in yourself, believe in what you’re doing, and stay the course,” he said.

In October 2014, Ford endorsed Papadakis’s unsuccessful campaign for Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth councillor.

“He stood by me and I stood by him,” Papadakis said.

Helen Papadakis, John Papadakis’s mother, is one of many people trying to come to terms with Rob Ford’s death. She said she will always remember his smile. She said, on occasion she had an opportunity to cook for him. She said Ford was like a son to her. She recalled Ford working on a hot day.

“He would run and run, and he was all wet,” she said. “I put a paper towel to his head and he called me ‘Mum’ too.”

This week, Grace Guarnieri sent her condolences to the Ford family. She said if she had the chance to say something to them, it would be “on behalf of Ford Nation.

“Rob, I want to wrap my arms around your soul, the way you wrapped your soul around the city and the people who loved and supported you,” she said. “You left us orphaned, but Ford Nation is not going anywhere, so help us from where you are.”