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Humble man, great legacy

Roblin served humanity selflessly: eulogy

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Duff Roblin was remembered Thursday as a humble man who cared little about being in the limelight.

He saw his family, the public good, and perhaps most important, his God, as coming before himself.

At Roblin's funeral, friend Jim Carr, a former MLA and a Roblin confidant for a number of years, summed up how the former Manitoba premier saw his place in the world and how he chose members of his political teams.

"He appealed to the best of them as he looked for the best in us," Carr said during the intimate service at All Saints' Anglican Church across the street from the Manitoba Legislative Building. "It was never about him -- it was about us."

Roblin died last Sunday in hospital. He was 92.

Roblin was a lifelong parishioner at All Saints, Rev. Jim Draper told mourners, and up until recently, he regularly attended early-morning services.

That devotion, in part, explains why Roblin wanted no part in a large public memorial service and believed the focus should be on "the business of fixing the world," Draper said.

"He wanted very much for his life to stand on its own," uncluttered by sentimentality, Draper said.

It has, in a way.

Roblin was the province's 14th premier, from 1958 to 1967. He later became a senator and retired in 1992 at age 75.

He will forever be remembered for building the Red River Floodway in the 1960s. Derided by some at the time, its worth in protecting Winnipeg and its citizens is now well-established.

More tangible is his Progressive Conservative government's work in the late 1950s and early 1960s expanding access to public education and opening up Manitoba's north for economic development. What Roblin and his government did then laid the groundwork for what Manitobans enjoy today.

For his role in these achievements and others, Free Press readers voted him the Greatest Manitoban in 2008.

He was modestly polite in accepting the honour, which was one he never sought.

"I'm proud to say I put my best foot forward," he told the Free Press at the time.

Carr and Roblin's daughter, Jennifer Roblin, said at the service none of his accomplishments meant much to "Duff" -- he found satisfaction in making life better for others.

And throughout his long stint in public life, Roblin never had an ill word to say about anybody, Carr added.

"He played it straight in public life," Carr said. "Civility and respect were never compromised."

Mourners included former prime minister Joe Clark and four former Manitoba premiers; Ed Schreyer, Sterling Lyon, Gary Filmon and Gary Doer. Premier Greg Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen and Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard also attended.

The most touching moment came when Jennifer Roblin read a poem her father recited to her the day before he died.

She said her father found solace in reading, and while he read everything he could on any topic, he favoured poetry. He could even recite 18th-century poet Thomas Gray's Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard, which is no easy task.

"He read everything -- he forgot nothing," Carr said.

Roblin was interred at Elmwood Cemetery following the hour-long service and a funeral procession that took the former premier past the Golden Boy one last time.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2010 B1

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