Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
TORONTO — Old friends, new friends and good friends paid their respects today at a funeral Mass for Bill Reddall.
And while his mortal remains weren’t there, his presence was felt all over — from in front of the altar to in the corners of St. Paul’s Basilica, where more than 65 people surprised Father Ted Smith by coming to the Catholic church on a Monday morning.
Reddall was across town at the medical school of his alma mater at the University of Toronto, where he was a theology student at St. Mike’s College 60 years ago.
He had donated his body to science, and students will get to open him up and see what made him tick.
There was plenty of opinions on that at Betty’s, his neighbourhood local, where for years after retiring he gathered at the Queen Street E. watering hole to talk politics, religion and hockey, often in that order.
Monday it was mostly the latter.
For the former St. Mike’s student and teacher, Canada’s winter sport was his game.
A provincial championship coach at the private Catholic high school in 1961, where he was a priest for eight years, he played a few games with the famed Flying Fathers.
But bad knees and a falling out with the church ended his career there.
But he continued the other half of his vocation, dedicating his life to teaching.
So, he wouldn’t mind students carving up his cadaver, for he understood the importance of education — as he was a lifelong student learner himself.
Of history, politics, world religion — and of course hockey.
“He was a great teacher and coach,” said Hugh McDougall, another Toronto native who was in the same class and studied and taught with Reddall.
“He was a good player, too,” before being injured in a game, McDougall said of his old friend.
McDougall, who was the same 83 years of age, grew up with Reddall and was pleased to pay his respects with everyone else.
Two other fellow teachers from St. Mike’s, Barry McDermott, 77, and Pat Fremleau, 81, also spoke well of their colleague at the wake.
They rallied around their St. Mike’s alumnus, just as they rally today to the defence of their beleaguered school at the moment.
All blown up by the media, said McDougall.
“It’s two weeks in time,” added their friend Dennis Mills, a former Toronto MP and another lifelong St. Mike’s guy.
Other teachers, from Reddall’s 20-year career at Gravenhurst High School were also in attendance.
Hal Humphries and Bill Tinsley, Jennifer Schandlen and Kathy Brown, came down from up north.
They were joined by a couple of former students, Dave Christensen and Tim Grimes, both members of the Gravenhurst championship Indians Jr. C hockey team Reddall coached in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
The two hockey players lamented that though they will have their own alumni Indians team at an oldtimers tournament in Gravenhurst this coming weekend, they won’t have their old coach. An injured Christensen gets the big to fill those big shoes.
Other old friends on hand included Bryan Edgar, for whom in retirement Reddall, and his widow Judy, did deliveries for at the Great Canadian Bagel Company in Bracebridge.
And the newer members of Reddall’s fan club were Betty’s regulars like Moe Sullivan, again a former St. Mike’s student who was younger but became acquainted with the coach and teacher over pints and politics.
Reddall’s first wife, Jane Cargill, of Bracebridge, and their daughter, Amy, of Portland, Ont., were also there mourning their loss and celebrating his life.
Bill Reddall was 83 March 19, three days before he died.
There was no Stanley Cup in his life, like his school contemporaries Dave Keon and Frank Mahovolich, who went straight into the NHL from St. Mike’s the year before the school’s Jr. A team won the Memorial Cup and Reddall’s Jr. B Buzzers won four straight playoff series by 4-0 sweeps to win their Ontario title with Rod Seiling and Gary “Suitcase” Smith on his team.
But Reddall won lifetime of admiration and appreciation from those around him and whose lives he touched.
That’s pretty much better than his beloved Leafs team, who haven’t won since Reddall wore a white collar.
And in the intervening years, Reddall won a whole lot more than they did.
Monday his friends showed you don’t need cups or rings to prove you lived a good and loved life.
Reddall went out like the winner he was.
His picture hangs on the ceiling at Betty’s where patrons can look up to heaven and see Father Bill reaching out to shake hands with Pope Paul VI.
If there’s a holy trinity of hockey in heaven, St. Mike, St. Paul and St. Peter are the first line.
God is in goal.
And Reddall is behind the bench.
Now that’s a championship line-up.