Diane Ford, matriarch of a powerful political family, laid to rest Saturday

A funeral was held on Saturday for Diane Ford, the matriarch of a family that continues to make its political mark on Toronto and Ontario.

Ford died at home on Sunday of cancer. She was 85. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, her son, spoke at Saturday's service, saying he remembered his mother as someone who was guided by three principles: family, community, and giving back through charity. 

"She guided us through the good times and through the tough times and until her last day. Our family never made any major decision without her," he said.

Doug Ford also thanked Ontarians for the support they have given to him and his family. 

"The outpouring love and support from across the province has been absolutely incredible and truly humbling," he said.

Chris Young/Canadian Press

Diane Ford's house was the setting for so many important moments in the history of her family, according to Doug Holyday, a family friend. Holyday, former Etobicoke mayor, sat on Toronto city council when the late Rob Ford was mayor. Doug Ford was also a councillor at that time. 

"I think the entire family revolved around her home," Holyday said.

"That's where they would congregate to to discuss family plans and situations, and of course, she'd be right in the middle of it."

After the family moved to the home in 1972, the backyard soon became the venue for an annual summer barbecue that evolved into an important political event. Now called "Ford Fest," it's a gathering that thousands attend and was last held at the Markham Fairgrounds.

CBC

Diane Ford's funeral started at 10 a.m. at the Toronto Congress Centre, located at 1020 Martin Grove Rd. It is the same venue in Etobicoke where thousands attended a celebration of Rob Ford's life four years ago. 

Holyday, who has been longtime friend of the Fords, says the family has long been involved in politics, starting with Doug Ford Sr., who as an Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP represented the riding of Etobicoke—Humber from 1995 to 1999.

The founder of Deco Labels & Flexible Packaging died of cancer on Sept. 22, 2006.

Chris Young/Canadian Press

But while Diane Ford did not run for or hold office, Holyday says she was a force behind the scenes.

"As far as her legacy is concerned I think that she played a big part in the political careers of her sons and I think a big part in the lives of her children," Holyday said. 

"And she probably was the catalyst of the family ... She was kind of the driving force, the one that kept everything together. I know they are a family with strong opinions and someone had to be in the middle to make that all work and I think that was her ..."

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Her sons followed her husband's footsteps into politics. Rob Ford was a Toronto city councillor and served as mayor from 2010 until 2014 — a tumultuous period in city politics in which he admitted to smoking crack cocaine, among other scandals. 

After seeking help for addiction to drugs and alcohol, Rob Ford died on March 22, 2016 of a rare and aggressive form of cancer. His widow, Renata Ford, ran federally this summer for the People's Party of Canada  

Michael Wilson/CBC

His older brother, Doug Ford also served as a city councillor and stepped in to run for mayor in 2014 when Rob Ford was diagnosed with cancer, eventually losing to John Tory. 

In 2018, he came from behind to win the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership during a turbulent party convention. He became premier that summer, after the Progressive Conservatives ousted Kathleen Wynne's Liberals in the provincial election.

The next generation of the political dynasty continues with Diane Ford's grandson Michael Ford, who served as a school board trustee and is now a Toronto city councillor.

"Nana, you have been a pillar of support for me from my earliest memories," Michael Ford said during a speech at the funeral on Saturday.

"It is hard to see living a life without you." 

Former Ontario premier Mike Harris delivered her eulogy.

"Matriarch, rock, steady, strong, loving, kind, sharing, generous — these are just a few words that come to mind when I think about my friend Diane Ford," Harris said on Saturday. 

Chris Young/Canadian Press

Holyday agrees. 

"You know, she was regarded highly regarded by a lot of people and she made a contribution to the democratic process by keeping her family involved, in getting her family involved, supporting her family when they were involved," said Holyday.

"And she was very supportive and loving grandmother to her grandchildren."