March 07, 2015 - 2:24 PM
OTTAWA - One of Canada's better known D-Day veterans and diplomats, who lived an extraordinary life at the centre of some of the country's most important 20th Century events, was remembered Saturday as an "old-school gentleman" with a streak of avant garde.
Ernest Cote died last week at the age of 101.
His daughter, Denyse Cote, described him belonging to the generation of men who were always impeccably dressed and gracious, someone who enjoyed a glass of sherry or a late evening brandy.
But he was a democrat who didn't tolerate foolishness or cruelty, she said.
Cote said her father was a "hero," not only for his wartime service, but for other aspects of his long life, which included having a hand in drafting the charter of the World Health Organization.
"He was a hero for his ethics and his humility in service rendered to all; family and country," Cote said. "He always faced the task at hand with the motto: Faire ce qui doit etre fait. (Do what must be done)."
Her moving eulogy ended with a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again."
As a lieutenant-colonel in the army during the Second World War, Cote was involved in planning the invasion of Normandy, but later went on to have a distinguished career in public service, including deputy solicitor general during the FLQ crisis and a stint as ambassador to Finland in the mid-1970s.
Many Canadians came to know him more recently when he survived a home invasion at his Ottawa condominium last December during which he was tied up and had a plastic bag placed over his head.
Cote's alleged attacker, 59-year old Ian Bush, is charged with attempted murder, but DNA evidence recovered at the scene led police to charge him with murder in an unsolved 2007 triple homicide.
Two federal cabinet ministers, the commander of the army and Ottawa's police chief were among the mourners who packed the ornate Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.
"In many ways, Ernest Cote represents one of the finest people of his generation, the World War Two generation," said Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole. "Not only was he one of the few who knew the plans for D-Day, but he landed and served after the war with remarkable distinction. He gave a lifetime of service. He was a larger than life figure."
Associate defence minister Julian Fantino, who was replaced by O'Toole in the veterans portfolio in January, said he used to appreciate Cote's wisdom and insight whenever they spoke.
"He never stopped giving and he never stopped his love of public service," said Fantino.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015