AFTER an all-night wake Tuesday, Winnipeg's Homeless Hero will receive his final farewell at Thunderbird House this morning.
Faron Hall's body was discovered in the Red River Aug. 17. A few days earlier, he had been seen struggling in the river, but could not be saved. Hall became well-known in the city after jumping into the same river in 2009 and saving two people on separate occasions.
Outside of Thunderbird House Tuesday, a fire was lit around 5 p.m. It will burn until Hall's funeral there at 11 a.m. this morning.
About 50 people, most of them Hall's relatives from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, were at the wake. A cloth-draped casket stood at the front, along with baskets of items Hall liked, off to the side. As the ceremony started, people brought food forward to share with Hall and other relatives. Several people stood in front of the seated crowd and shared their memories of Hall.
One man, who said he had been homeless and spent a lot of time with Hall, told the crowd Hall's death was one of the few events in his life to make him cry. The man described Hall as a selfless person, despite the challenges he faced.
"This life we had was hard. But (Hall would) pull you through. He'd give you the shirt off his back," he said.
Around 7 p.m., Hall's cousin, Harold Blacksmith, led a group of singers in offering up a prayer. He encouraged those in the crowd to add their own prayers, regardless of their beliefs.
In an interview, Blacksmith said Hall was deeply impacted by his father's death, shortly before his own. Blacksmith said Hall's family believes he gave up the will to live after his dad died.
Blacksmith said he didn't like Hall being referred to as homeless, pointing to the grass underneath him.
"This is our home. Mother Earth is our home... We the Dakota people are never homeless," he said.
While police were looking for Hall in the river, they discovered the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.
Blacksmith said he credited Hall for her discovery.
"I think it was his last act of goodwill," he said.
Hall's cousin, Loretta Swaine, from Sioux Valley, said she had known Hall since he was a baby.
"We used to carry him around. He was a fat baby. But always smiling," she said at the wake.
Swaine said Hall never liked the attention he received after the rescues.
" 'I want to stay away from the media,' he used to say," Swaine said.
Hall's uncle, Patrick Hall, said his nephew's death hit family members hard, many of whom are still in shock.
"He was at his father's funeral a week and a half ago... Nobody thought that's the last time they'd see him," Patrick said.