THE SEND OFF.
Heavy rains were the order of the day but I was determined to drive to Ste-Therese, a town about 25 kilometers north of Montreal. My classmate Roland Durand had died after a debilitating terminal illness and today was his funeral in Ste-Therese d'Avilia Church.
Roland and first met when we were in our first year in the Law Faculty of McGill University in 1954. He was originally from France but was well acclimated to Montreal and spoke French and English with a great deal of fluency. Our class was special. Most of the students became liflelong friends. I was first elected class President in our second year and again in the Third year. Consequently, I became president for life of McGill Law '57 , much to the chagrin of Fidel Castro. Castro has been president of Cuba for 45 years but I have been president of my class for 49 years. But I digress.
Roland became a crown prosecutor after we graduated and he seemed to enjoy Criminal Law. He later sought a change and then practiced civil law for a number of years. He was then successful in being elected Mayor of Rosemere, a town close to Ste-Therese and he was elected several times as he was quite popular. He also had great inner strength. The language laws of Quebec allow towns to have by-laws and signs in English and French providing the population of that town is a least 50% English. Rosemere eventually lost some of its English population and the Quebec Government then insisted that all signs and by-laws be only in French. Roland was unwilling to accept this edict and after a battle Roland was victorious and the by-laws and the signs remain bilingual. After he left office, the town of Rosemere honoured him by naming a boulevard with his name.
Roland was appointed a judge in the Superior Court of Quebec. He sat mainly in St-Jerome the judicial seat for the Laurentians. Three weeks after he was appointed , our class had one of our 5 year reunions. I announced his appointment and I congratulated him for never having been reversed by the Court of Appeal of Quebec. He loved being a judge and he enjoyed listening to witnesses and hearing lawyers arguments and rendering judgments. Recently, having had sufficient seniority on the Bench, he became a supernumery judge, which meant he sat only half the time of a regular judge, but received the same annual revenue.
How do I know so much about Roland? Every year, in the month of December, 15 of us had lunch at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montrea where we exchanged exaggerations of our accomplishments. We never talked about failures. Two years ago, Roland said he was going to remain a judge until he reached the age of 75. Unfortunately, he never reached his retirement age.
The announcement in the newspaper stated the family would receive condolences at the church at 9.00 am and the funeral service would start 9.30 am. I am never late. I parked my car in the parking lot and entered the church through the side door precisely at 9.00 am. The church was dark so I went to the front door. The sign on the lawn reassured me that I had arrived at the proper destination.
When I turned back, I noticed that the lights had been turned on. I selected a pew that was a respectful distance from the altar and sat down. I looked around the Church and it appeared that it was built sometime in the 19th century and that there in excess of one thousand seats. The church had recently been repaired and repainted was bright and clean and quite large. A priest in a white robe appeared and at 9.35 am two gentlemen came down the centre aisle carrying flowers. Soon four gentlemen brought is a tranparent square in which was located a metal container. It was obvious that Roland had been cremated. The family followed down the aisle with other mourners close by.
As the funeral mass commenced, the church appeared to be practically empty. I counted the people present and determined that there were only 50 people in attendance and I was the only classmate present. The mass was moving, the priest's semon was reassuring to the family and a nephew described how worried Roland was that he would be unable to render some of his judgments because of his illness. But only 50 people showed up.
I waited in line to express my condolences to the family and when I finally succeeded, I left the church with only one thought on my mind. Mr. Justice Roland Durand deserved to have a bigger SEND OFF.