Political elite gather in Montreal to remember Jean Lapierre, Nicole Beaulieu

"He would be able to explain Quebec to the rest of Canada and he would be able to explain Canada to Quebec," is how former prime minister Paul Martin described what it was about Jean Lapierre that so many people loved.

Couple died in plane crash on Magdalen Islands March 29 along with 3 of Lapierre's siblings

When the daughter of Jean Lapierre, Marie-Anne, walked out of her father's Montreal funeral service on Saturday, she was greeted by a crowd of applauding onlookers who had lined up beside the church entrance, where they waved Quebec flags and cheered their goodbyes.

"We're here to say goodbye to someone who was a part of our lives," said Marie-Madeleine D'Aragon, who tuned in regularly to listen to Lapierre's political commentary.

Lapierre and his wife, Nicole Beaulieu, were mourned by about 700 dignitaries and friends during the Montreal service at Saint-Viateur d'Outremont Church on Saturday. 

RAW: Montreal funeral for Jean Lapierre and his wife Nicole Beaulieu

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The Montreal funeral for Jean Lapierre and his wife Nicole Beaulieu got underway Saturday with the arrival of the couple's ashes at Saint-Viateur-d'Outremont church, followed by Jean Lapierre's daughter, Marie-Anne.

The couple was killed on March 29, in a plane crash on the Magdalen Islands. The pilot and co-pilot, as well as three of Lapierre's siblings were also killed. The group was headed to the islands to mourn their father who had died the day before.

A more intimate service was held for the family last week on the Magdalen Islands. Saturday's service focused on Lapierre's wider network of friends in political and media circles.

"He had an incredible knack to both understand and engage at the highest political levels while never forgetting what regular people thought," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters before the service.

Lapierre 'understood' everyone

"He had tremendous political courage and really believed in the things he said. There was no artifice about him," former prime minister Paul Martin said.

Lapierre served as transport minister in Martin's cabinet after being recruited by the federal Liberals in 2004.

"I first met Jean when he was a young minister in Parliament, serving under John Turner ... we became friends for life," Martin said.

He said Lapierre was loved by so many people because fundamentally, he "understood us."

"He would be able to explain Quebec to the rest of Canada and he would be able to explain Canada to Quebec ... When necessary, he could explain Quebec to Quebec, and Canada to Canada," Martin said, prompting laughter from the packed church.

Gilles Duceppe, former leader of the Bloc Québécois, also called Lapierre a friend.

Lapierre helped to found the Bloc, and Duceppe said the two remained close after Lapierre left to join the Liberals.

"He was a friend, I knew him since 1990," Duceppe said outside the service, adding that they stayed friends even after Lapierre left the Bloc to return to the Liberals.

"I talked to him on the eve of the tragedy," he said.

Radio 98.5 host Paul Houde speaks during the funeral for Jean Lapierre and Nicole Beaulieu as colleague Paul Arcand looks on in Montreal, Saturday, April 16, 2016. (Joel Lemay/CP)

Lapierre also received moving goodbyes from the colleagues who he worked closely with at the French TV station TVA and on CHMP-FM radio at 98.5. 

Radio host Paul Houde, who lost a colleague and a friend with the death of Lapierre. said he can't help but imagine how Lapierre would have covered his own funeral.

"I feel you with me, Jean, taking notes in your little black notepad, to recount the minute details to us on Monday."​

'No winds strong enough to separate us'

Lapierre's daughter Marie-Anne bid her father a tearful goodbye during the funeral service, saying he would always be with her.

"On March 29, a big part of us was taken away by the wind of the islands. But there is no wind strong enough to separate us, Papa," she said.​

'We miss you, Nicole'

During Saturday's service, Nicole Beaulieu's brother and sister shared memories of her.

She was remembered for her love of life, and her bright smile.

"Every day you're not with us, we miss you, Nicole," Beaulieu's brother Pierre said.

Marthe Beaulieu, Nicole's sister, struggled to speak through tears. She leaned into her brother, who took over.

"Rest in peace beside Jean, your companion ... Your love," he concluded.