Ralph Klein's life to be celebrated at Calgary memorial

Calgarians are preparing to say goodbye to Ralph Klein — one of Alberta's most colourful and well-known politicians.

Public service will be held for Ralph Klein at the Jack Singer Concert Hall at noon Friday

Calgarians are preparing to say goodbye to Ralph Klein — one of Alberta's most colourful and well-known politicians. 2:03

Calgarians are preparing to say goodbye to Ralph Klein — one of Alberta's most colourful and well-known politicians.

A "Celebration of Life" will be held for the former mayor of Calgary, who was also the premier of Alberta from 1992 to 2006, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Friday at noon.

Rod Love, a longtime friend and advisor, says Klein would have been uncomfortable with all the fanfare of a state funeral.

He is helping Klein's widow, Colleen, and the City of Calgary plan the event.  

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"She was honoured that the province offered a state funeral but she was adamant on one point, this is going to end at city hall because that's where it began," said Love.

The Jack Singer Hall is located across the street from Calgary's municipal headquarters. Love said Colleen wanted to honour the fact that Klein started out as a 26-year-old city hall reporter before eventually taking the mayor's chair himself.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow are among the dignitaries invited to attend. The service is open to the public.

Love says it is a fitting tribute for the man who many simply known as "Ralph."

"Friday's gonna be a sad day in a lot of ways, but we don't need the organ music," he said. "All the speakers are being asked to pick it up a bit — let's have some fun — and guys like Romanow, they know how to do that."

Memorial plans to be finalized

Dale Hodges, Calgary's longest serving alderman, sat on city council when Klein was mayor.

"He had tremendous support when he was mayor, the highest level of support I've ever seen," he said.

Seating will be available for invited guests and the general public, but some worry the Jack Singer — which seats 1,800 — simply isn't big enough to accommodate everyone who will want to attend.

"I think people are going to be waiting in line a long time to give their last respects to a man who was quite beloved," said political scientist Duane Bratt. 

City officials say more details will be released later this week as plans are finalized.

The former Alberta premier died surrounded by friends and family in a long-term facility in Calgary last Friday.

The 70-year-old is survived by his wife, five children and grandchildren.

"My beloved husband Ralph has slipped away after 42 years of marriage, and 70 years of life," said Colleen.

"In his public life, while many will now debate what he stood for, he himself simply believed that public service was important, that it need not be complicated, and that it revolved around people."

An online tribute page has been created for Albertans to share their memories of the former premier, and books of condolences have been set up at the McDougall Centre in Calgary and at the legislature in Edmonton by the province until April 12.