Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

ORILLIA Carolyn Grant can be forgiven for nodding off during Gordon Lightfoot’s funeral Monday.

He kept the St. Paul’s United Church choir member up all night the night before.

Grant works security every night at the church, closing up after events like Sunday’s visitation for the Orillia singer-songwriter who died early last week.

And when the last of more than 2,000 fans passed by his coffin that evening, Grant was happy to have been previously asked by organist and choir director Blair Bailey to remain overnight with Lightfoot until the memorial service the next day.

Sitting watch over him was an “honour” she said she was thrilled to do.

Caroloyn Grant is a busy musician who also does security for St. Paul’s United in Orillia, where she kept Lightfoot company overnight Sunday in the church where he began singing.

Grant had gotten up at 6 a.m. Sunday to put on her uniform for the drive to Toronto for a police memorial service at Queen’s Park. She is the pianist for the OPP Chorus, which and includes non-members like her among the 15 in its ranks. And she accompanied the mass choir.

After it was over she rushed back to Orillia for a quick change to take in the end of concert at the Orillia Opera House that afternoon featuring the Toronto Mandolin Orchestra.

A fast bite and she slipped around the corner to St. Paul’s as more rainy day people trickled in and the long line-up wended its final hours outside the church after bells pealed 30 times in Lightfoot’s honour.

Closing the doors to the last few stragglers, Grant waited as family and friends lingered in final farewells before departing.

Grant was left with her own memories of the musical genius she had come to appreciate more since moving to Mariposa in 2000.

A flute player, she is also a member of the Orillia Concert Band percussion section, and accompanist for other choirs including the Elderberries in Gravenhurst.

Alone on stage with Lightfoot in the cavernous church built in 1847, she whiled away the quiet overnight hours in her own solemn, silent tribute.

“So at one point (in the middle of the night) I just sat down at the piano next to coffin and played music. I knew some Lightfoot songs and played them including “Cotton Jenny.”

“It was nice, calm and peaceful,” she said. “A highlight of my life.”

When the morning custodian arrived before dawn, Grant said “I could have gone home,” but had to be ready a 10 a.m. to robe up for the private morning service an hour later as a small crowd of family and close friends began to arrive again.

She said if she had gone home for rest, she probably wouldn’t have been able to get back.

“During the service I kind of dosed off a couple of times, but I had the gal next to me nudge me a couple of times to stay awake,” she mused.

Grant said afterwards she offered her condolences to widow Kim Lightfoot and told her she’d “kept him company.”

About 120 people attended the “moving” service. “It was very good.

“We ended up playing a recording that Gordie had done when he was a choir boy at the church, a boy soprano. He did the Lord’s Prayer.

“It was recording that we put through the sound system that he had done” and that had been found by church archivist Robert Chapman.

“And if you know the Lord’s Prayer, it goes really high at the end. He did it, he really nailed those notes.”

Following the funeral Grant returned home then was back at St. Paul’s that night to play percussion in the concert band rehearsal for their performance this Saturday Celebrate the Classics at St. Paul’s. Guitarist Brad Emons will be playing some Lightfoot tunes and the main guest artist is pianist Jacquie Dancyger-Arnold.

Yesterday, after a night’s rest, Grant was up again for the morning Gravenhurst Bifocals Band rehearsal, looking not that tired. An ever bright and cheerful person, she was surprisingly alert and per usual bubbly in recanting her tale of being the last person to spend a night alone with Lightfoot.

And “being kept up all night” by her folk hero.

Grant said: “We ended up playing a recording that Gordie had done when he was a choir boy at the church, a boy soprano. He did the Lord’s Prayer.” Photo St. Paul’s United Church archives

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