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Lougheed mourners pay respects

Albertans lined up by the hundreds in the late-summer sunshine outside the legislature Monday to pay their respects to Peter Lougheed.
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Former Alberta premier Don Getty (in wheelchair), shakes hands with Joe Lougheed, Peter Lougheed's son as they pay their respects to former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed as his body lies in state at the Alberta legislature on Monday in Edmonton.

Albertans lined up by the hundreds in the late-summer sunshine outside the legislature Monday to pay their respects to Peter Lougheed.

Inside, his closed coffin sat on a black riser in the marble rotunda at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to the assembly chamber where Lougheed dominated for 14 years as premier.

The casket was draped in a hybrid Canada-Alberta flag to symbolize a man who called himself a Canadian first, but who was also a premier who successfully fought to make the province an equal player in Confederation.

"He got us our [oil] royalties back, for one thing. He was for Alberta," said Vern Kruk, who lined up early with his wife, Rose, to pay condolences and chat briefly with Lougheed's sons, Joe and Stephen, and his granddaughter Kathleen.

"He was a man who was very proud of our province and did what he could for the future of our province," added his wife.

"We've lost a great premier."

Behind them was Mavis Thomson, a childhood friend to one of Lougheed's children. "We used to almost live at their house," said Thomson.

"I learned quickly why the other children would stay quiet at the dinner table. He would wrap your words around you and you would learn a lesson, [but] apparently he loved me for just speaking out."

Thomson teared up when asked about his legacy.

"Such class, such heart, such humanity," she said.

"He wanted the best for Albertans, and he had a vision, and we were really lucky that we brought him in [to office] and he saw his vision created."

Lougheed, premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985, died last week of natural causes at age 84.

Tributes have been flooding in from all leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for a man chosen earlier this year by one public policy think-tank as the greatest premier of his generation.

Lougheed took a fledgling Progressive Conservative party in 1971 and defeated a Social Credit dynasty to launch one of his own that continues to this day.

As premier, he expanded funding for the arts and culture and invested in oilsands research that today brings billions of dollars into the treasury.

He was best known for his legendary fights with the federal government over oil wealth. Lougheed proved himself a relentless adversary and defender of the principle of provincial control of resources.

His body was brought to the legislature Sunday night in a white limousine and was to lie in state until late Tuesday.

The family will hold a private service and a public memorial is scheduled for Friday in Calgary.

Before members of the public were allowed in Monday, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, politicians of all stripes and other dignitaries paid their respects.

Redford returned early from a trade mission in China upon hearing of Lougheed's death.

She entered the rotunda with Lt.-Gov. Don Ethell and his wife. Lougheed had been a mentor to Redford dating back to her earliest days in politics.