In Hamilton, news of Nelson Mandela’s death was met with sadness but also slight sense of relief.

“We held him alive with our prayers for so long,” said Albert Kittoe, a Ghanian-Canadian who was stopping by his friend’s alteration store when he heard the news.

Mandela died at home at the age of 95 on Thursday, South Africa President Jacob Zuma announced Thursday. The anti-apartheid leader had been seriously ill with a lung infection for months, something Kittoe says was hard to watch.

“No one wants to let a good thing go,” he said, adding in recent months he'd questioned Mandela's quality of life.

Mayor Bob Bratina said in an email he remembers Mandela as a world-changer, likening him to others like Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa.

“So many of us were inspired by the sacrifices they made for their ideals,” Bratina wrote.

“It shaped the lives and outlooks of many of my generation.” 

Community organizer Evelyn Myrie said plans are in the works to host a memorial service for Mandela at the Stewart Memorial Church, on John St., one of the oldest black churches in the country. Myrie said the church is also considering hosting a live viewing of Mandela’s state funeral. 

Tonight, though, Myrie is joining those mourning Mandela. “It’s very emotional for us right now … it’s just the passing of an era,” she said.

She said Mandela’s ability to lead, and work together with white people after his imprisonment has served as an inspiration for her own work.

“It’s really about ‘we’re all in this together,’” she said. 

'Time to cry'

At a Jackson Square beauty store, a Zimbabwean-South African woman named Hazel said many people would “need time to cry,” tonight.

Like Kittoe, Hazel said she was “OK” to see Mandela — she affectionately calls him Madiba, as many do — go, even though he was one of her heroes.

“I’m happy he was able to see the freedom of black people,” she said.

Behind Hazel, her young boy Mandel, who often gets called Mandela by mistake, swivels on a chair. Hazel said she won’t teach him about Madiba yet (“he’s too young”) but that he’ll eventually learn the story.

For Kittoe, Mandela was one of two strong political leaders he looked up to. In school, he learned about Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, who led his country to independence in 1957. Years later, he marvelled at Mandela’s strength, as he overcame the tortures of prison at Robben Island and became leader.

“He wouldn’t be broken,” Kittoe said.

And for that, “no one’s going to forget him.”