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Hamilton pays its respects to Linc 8:15

Just weeks ago Erika Alexander sat down and wrote a letter to her grandfather.

Lincoln Alexander's health had deteriorated and she wanted to tell him what was in her heart.

Alexander died Oct. 19. He was 90.

Canadians will hear what is in her heart Friday as she reads from that letter at his state funeral in downtown Hamilton.

His granddaughter remembers a man who was down to earth.

"My favourite memories are about being at his house on Proctor Boulevard, sitting with him and [her grandmother] Yvonne watching TV, him reading his newspapers and us playing with all the trinkets and jewelry around the bedroom, walking to the corner store with him," she said in an interview at Hamilton city hall where her grandfather has been in repose since Tuesday.

He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1968, as the Progressive Conservative member for Hamilton West. He served for more than a decade.  From 1985 to 1991 he was Ontario's lieutenant governor.

And while Alexander may have cut a path as the first black MP in Canada, his granddaughter is not sure he would see himself as a pioneer of multiculturalism.

"It's just that he felt a duty," she told CBC Hamilton. "He knew that he could make a difference and people would listen to him."

Hard work, humility and an appreciation for what you have were his guiding principles, s—he said.

But most of all, he believed, we should "have some compassion for those around us, make sure we include everyone."

Thousands are expected for the funeral at Hamilton Place across from city hall at 2:30 on Friday.

Alexander's two granddaughters — Erika and Marissa — will join former premier David Peterson and former Toronto Argonauts coach Pinball Clemons as well as other speakers.

Since Tuesday people have streamed through the front doors of 71 Main Street West in Hamilton and up a flight of stairs to a flag draped casket surrounded by flowers and photos.

Young and old, rich and poor and every colour under the rainbow.

Linc was loved by them all.

There was the man in a purple beret, poppy on his lapel, riding in a scooter with a canopy to keep off the weather. He recalled how Linc bought him his first beer.

Or a woman who came to Hamilton from Africa. She'd heard before she got to here that he had been the first black MP in Canada.

That impressed her. It gave her hope for her kids.

But time and again it echoed through the line of people waiting to see Linc: he was special because he was so outgoing and unassuming.

In his final years he got around on a scooter. He stopped and visited with everyone. He remembered names and faces, times shared together, yesterday or years ago.

It is said that some people have a lazer-like focus and when you talk to them you feel you are the only person in their world.

Linc, they say, had that magic and when he talked it was just to you.