The death last week of Queen Elizabeth II elicited responses from around the globe. This area was no exception. In Waterloo Region, those who had met the monarch reminisced about the experience.
Bill Strauss was mayor of Woolwich for 13 years and said that meeting the Queen during her 2010 visit to the region was “one of the highlights” of his time in office.
“When she flew into our airport, I was there to greet her. She and [Prince Philip] got off and they came down and they knew I was the mayor of Woolwich Township. And she was talking to me a bit and he [Prince Philip] said ‘Woolwich Township, that’s just at the edge of Waterloo?’ And I said, ‘No, the City of Waterloo is at the edge of Woolwich Township.’ And he said ‘good comeback, Mr. Mayor,” remembers Strauss.
That the royals knew about Woolwich was a highlight, Strauss said.
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“She was such a glamorous person to see and to talk to in the few minutes that I had. It was a real honor and a pleasure and privilege to welcome her to Woolwich Township,” he recalled.
Kitchener resident Vera von Bogen-Cormier twice presented flowers to the Queen. First as a teenager in 2002 and once again during her appearance at Queen’s Park in 2010. Von Bogen-Cormier also had the opportunity to meet her during her visit to the RIM (now Blackberry) headquarters.
Von Bogen-Cormier looks back fondly on these occasions.
“It’s always one thing seeing someone on TV and then when you see them in person, of course. And there was definitely this aura about her – it was almost like a magical moment. At the same time as being sort of in awe of her, she was also able to put you at ease. The times where we really had that moment, where I gave her flowers and she really looked at you, sincerely thanked you, smiled, even though there’s hundreds and on some occasions thousands of people around and so just very gracious and patient as well,” von Bogen-Cormier explained, noting the Queen’s passing came as a shock.
“Certainly two days before when there’s images of her meeting the new British Prime Minister, she looked quite frail. We knew she was unwell that morning, [you’re not] shocked when a 96-year-old person passes away, but she sort of took a turn quite quickly. But after that initial period of shock and sadness, now we can look back and be thankful for long life and reign. Not many of us get such a long life, so one has to be thankful for that,” she said.
Bradley Barbour of the Kitchener-Waterloo-Wellington Region chapter of the Monarchist League of Canada said the impact death of someone who reigned for 70 years is being felt around the world.
“Even for people who aren’t royalists, they sense that this is a big change, not just for the United Kingdom, but it’s a big change for countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where the Queen is head of state. At the same time, we have had that stability in that constant person for so long,” said Barbour, who also met the Queen during her visit to the Ontario Legislature in 2010.
“I was part of the large group of people there that were sending her off, so I got to be on the grounds at Queen’s Park there and as she walked by, she extended her hand and I got to shake her hand, which was quite nice,” he said.
She seemed so much larger than life, Barbour added.
“It reminded me of the time when the Queen said that she had to be seen to be believed. And you did feel like you were in this big presence. She just has this magnetism about her that really draws you in and you just can’t help but watch her and follow her when she’s walking through the crowds. She just seemed bigger than life for a little lady,” he explained.
Barbour attended the Diamond Jubilee in London in 2012.
“When the Queen was out on the balcony…and everyone started singing God Save the Queen and you could feel the bass in your feet, because so many people were singing at once. It was remarkable the amount of love that people were showing her.”
Last week was both expected and unexpected, Barbour added.
“She was a 96-year-old woman and she’s had failing health over the past couple of years… At the same time, she also seems like one of those people that you just kind of expected her to live forever.”