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Procession through Campbellford to honour Mayor Hec Macmillan

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

CAMPBELLFORD - Members of every walk of life came to celebrate the life of Hector Macmillan on Saturday afternoon.

Local, provincial and federal politicians, all members of the emergency services including police, fire and paramedics, friends and even strangers came out to honour a man who loved his community and who the community loved back.

Macmillan, the mayor of Trent Hills, died on Tuesday from pneumonia after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Before the 1 p.m. service, the Trent Hills Fire Department honoured him with a last last ride in the fire truck draped in black.

The procession started right across the road from the firehall in the home where Macmillan lived with his wife Sandy.

An OPP motorcycle led the way, followed by a lone piper, the firetruck with Macmillan's wife holding onto the urn and fire Chief Tim Blake driving the truck. Behind were members of the Macmillan family, Trent Hills councillors and firefighters.

Along the route people paused along the street to pay their respects.

Trent Hills and Cobourg fire department platform trucks held a Canadian flag high over Front Street North as the procession passed the bowling alley the Macmillans owned.

When they arrived at the church, Blake took the urn while Macmillan's wife accompanied him.

During the service a number of speakers gave praise to Macmillan for his strength in life and fighting for causes he believed in.

"Hector pushed the envelope. I know for a fact right now there are bureaucrats right now that are still afraid of him," said MPP Lisa McLeod, bringing laughter from the congregation.

"He pushed the envelope not only for himself, but for thousands, if not millions of other cancer patients, in not only Ontario, but in the entire country of Canada," she continued.

"I could not think of a more fitting legacy and more fitting legacy for Hector then the fact that there is now a pilot project in the province of Ontario and that's all 100% because of your husband. He epitomized what a politician is supposed to be."

McLeod asked people when they leave the church to "be like Hector when you see something wrong in society, don't turn the other way. Use whatever microphone you have to make that change. If there is one person up there that is scaring the heck out of cancer it is Hector Macmillan - God love him."

MPP Lou Rinaldi said when he first met Macmillan, Macmillan was holding a bag of Empire Cheese and a bag of World's Finest Chocolate in one hand, and a list of things that Trent Hills needed in the other.

"If we believe there is something after death, then we should warn them, Hector is coming," Rinaldi said.

Rinaldi said Macmillan was a special person to many, and a special friend to him.

"His focus was always the Municipality of Trent Hills said Deputy Mayor Robert Crate.

"He was driven to fight the fight that needed to be fought. Council and staff have lost a great leader, and friend."

Mike Rutter, who was chief administrative officer at Trent Hills with Macmillan for 12 years, said it's known the streets of heaven are paved with gold and he has good authority that with Hector there, work has now commenced and there was no sense doing the paving without water and sewer pipes.

Though he had many stories he couldn't tell, he shared a few.

One of which was that Macmillan loved T-shirts, but there was one that Rutter hated with a passion. It said, "Government back off."

One day Rutter called him on it and told him that he, Macmillan was the government.

Macmillan stood up and said, "don't you ever call me that again," Rutter said, bringing laughter from the congregation.

Rutter spoke of the love Macmillan had for each his family members, thanking them for sharing him with so many people.

He had many conversations with Macmillan on the front porch of the mayor's home, so close to the municipal offices.

"My greatest memories of Hector didn't happen in council chambers or in meetings, they were those conversations on the front porch," he said. "I'd give anything for one more porch chat with my boss, who I called boss but I loved like a brother."

Macmillan's sister, Jilliam Koplowitz, reiterated in true Macmillan fashion the fight her brother had with the health-care system and left no stone unturned delivering the message.

But she also brought up memories of her brother, who had "the ultimate chick magnet" when he was much younger.

Unbeknownst to many, girls in the neighbourhood would flock to Hector's home to watch him use an Easy-Bake oven, the first one in town.

After that, he kept cooking for his entire life, making many famous dishes including ribs.

While just a young boy, he also made a snow house with his friend. But it wasn't an ordinary snow house after some plow operators helped out.

"It became a very interesting house, with lots of passages and details," said Koplowitz.

"But mom really got alarmed when it was almost as high as the overhead wires."

And young Hector was looking for a way to install electricity.

After the mayor at the time was called, it was agreed it would have to come down.

Macmillan also enrolled at Loyalist College as an apprentice with the highest mark at the time of a mechanic.

Democracy and community is what drove her brother, Koplowitz said.

He was an advocate for the rural way of life.

"He was never afraid to do the right thing."

A friend of Macmilan's, Gina Redden, and her husband Eoin came drove more than four hours from Olcott Beach, N.Y. to attend the celebration of life on Saturday for Macmillan.

They first met when she phoned to see if they could pair up to support each other in the Ultimate Fishing Town.

She got hold of Macmillan and "it was a friendship ever since. He meant an enormous amount to Olcott Beach. He was so full of life," she said.

"We love Hector and we love Sandy and we wanted Sandy to know that she's not alone and we love her."

The last time Gina saw Macmillan was approximately two weeks ago when Macmillan, his wife and daughter Mindy drove down to Olcott Beach.

"He had all kinds of fight. He told me he could beat this and there was nothing he couldn't handle," she said.

"He wanted to tell me that the nano-knife worked and this was a complication of pneumonia."

Mindy Macmillan said the days prior to her father's death saw the family staying close with everyone visiting.

"It was just beautiful for everyone to see him and be in his own home to spend his last days. I don't think he would have wanted it any other way."

Regarding the procession through town, Mindy said, "anything that involved my dad was big. He put his whole heart and soul into everything he took on. So the fact that we are able to give him this last hurrah is amazing."

It's estimated more than 500 people came to the visitation on Friday evening.

Mindy said she and the family are truly overwhelmed with the stories they've been hearing and the amount of love and respect shown to their father.

"He was always the business guy," said Mindy.

"My mom took care of running around after four children and my dad took care of the business. He had to be more about the business when we were little, but as a grandfather he mad up for that. He was an awesome grandfather."