TORONTO — Family and hundreds of friends from the worlds of sport, the arts and media gathered on Monday to remember “Les Miserables” star Michael Burgess at a music-filled funeral service.
Former NHLers Paul Coffey, Darryl Sittler and Sean Burke, “Mamma Mia!” theatre star Louis Pitre and rocker Tom Cochrane were among those who filled a downtown Toronto Roman Catholic Church, while uniformed police officers on horseback stood guard out front.
Friend Bruce Bowser spoke of Burgess’s love of sports, his fans, and tireless efforts to support countless charities with performances and appearances.
“He changed things, he made things better,” said Bowser.
“God has brought Michael home to a place in the sun, a place of peace and rest.”
Music at the service was to include singing by students of St Michael’s Choir School and performances of “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace” by Adrian Luces and Jackie Richardson.
A program for the funeral listed hockey legend Bobby Orr, TSN personality Rod Black and Burgess’s son Jesse as pallbearers. The program also included a message from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Burgess died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 70.
Burgess became known for playing Jean Valjean in a long-running Canadian production of “Les Miserables” and singing “O Canada” at Toronto Maple Leafs hockey games.
His passing last week united friends from the theatre and sports worlds, including Sittler and stage impresario David Mirvish, who spoke of Burgess’s generosity and dazzling voice.
In lieu of flowers, the Burgess family is requesting donations to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in his name.
Burgess is survived by his son Jesse, mother Dolly Burgess and siblings Wayne, Missy, Cathy, Bill, Patty, Julie and their families.