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July 25, 2016

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Celine Dion says final farewell to husband Rene Angelil

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Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press / AP

Singer Celine Dion arrives at the funeral for her husband Rene Angelil at Notre Dame Basilica on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Montreal. Angelil died of cancer Jan. 14 in Las Vegas. He was 73.

Celine Dion Mourns Husband

Celine Dion greets mourners at Basilica of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Montreal, Quebec. Launch slideshow »
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The funeral program for Rene Angelil at Basilica of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Montreal, Quebec.

Funeral of Rene Angelil

The funeral for Rene Angelil, husband of singer Celine Dion, at Basilica of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Montreal, Quebec. Launch slideshow »
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The funeral for Rene Angelil, husband of singer Celine Dion, at Basilica of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Montreal, Quebec.

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The funeral for Rene Angelil, husband of singer Celine Dion, at Basilica of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Montreal, Quebec.

A sobbing Celine Dion braved cold Canadian temperatures to stand with her three sons, Rene-Charles and twins Nelson and Eddy, as the casket of her late husband and longtime manager Rene Angelil was loaded into a hearse after a 90-minute funeral service at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal this afternoon.

Celine gave it one final kiss with her arms outstretched over the casket. Rene-Charles had served as a pallbearer to carry it from the front of the cathedral to waiting cars. It was an elegant, respectful service with touches of show business amid outpourings of love and admiration.

Rene planned the funeral details weeks before his death Thursday, Jan. 14, of cancer in Las Vegas at age 73. He chose the four Celine songs that he wanted played during the service conducted by the Archbishop of Montreal:

Celine’s duet with Frank Sinatra on “All the Way”; “L’Amour Existes (“Love Lasts Forever”),” “Trois Heures 20” and “Pour Que Tu M’aimes.” A New Testament reading from the 1st Book of John was his choice for the service.

Barbra Streisand sent Celine a touching message in advance of the service: “Dear Celine. Every time you look at your children’s faces, you will see Rene with love and strength.”

Celine’s Las Vegas best friend, French-Canadian TV host and producer Julie Snyder, whose two young children have Celine as their godmother, told my Vegas Deluxe observer Jamie Bainum in Montreal:

“He loved Las Vegas so much. I’m very happy and proud that his dream to have Celine in concert in Las Vegas came true. He’d made that decision when he first met Col. Tom Parker, who managed Elvis Presley. Even before the Colosseum, he was so proud he made a big Celine show at Caesars Palace. I was there with them, and he was so proud to see the billboards with her on them.

“I think it was more a dream for him than for her. Now she’s the Queen of the Strip. He was as excited as a little kid gets. He cried in front of the billboard asking Celine to look at it. He told me a lot of stories about what he wanted for Celine’s career and that he wouldn’t let what happened to Elvis happen to her.

“I’m sure he would be very proud that people came from Las Vegas for the services here in Quebec, including the Las Vegas press. He would be very honored. He was always excited when something special happened for Celine and him — being in the first row watching Oprah Winfrey, being in the third row for the AMAs. His lucky number was 5, so being in the fifth row at the Grammys was very special.

“In that sense, he was an ordinary, humble man. I remember the last time he was at the Colosseum to see Celine there in person. He was so impressed and proud of her talent.”

Celine and Rene-Charles took communion toward the end of the service from the archbishop. Celine untied the ribbon knot around the final resting cushion, then tied it around her finger. She cried during the service and held her hand out into the second row where her mother, Therese Dion, sat.

Celine was extraordinarily brave, courageous and stoic during the highly emotional service. How she walked out hand-in-hand with the young twins behind the coffin without breaking down will always amaze me.

Rene-Charles told the congregation in French and English: “Fifteen years was far too short a time to spend with this wonderful man. But I’ve made him a promise to tell the stories and memories I do have of him with my twin brothers. I can only hope to measure up to being half the man he was and will get them to keep to his standards.”

The 15-year-old now becomes head of the household in Lake Las Vegas. He has grown up and matured so fast during the past eight days that you know he will care deeply for his mother, protect, comfort and care for her and his twin brothers.

The final memory of seeing Celine kiss Rene’s coffin goodbye, au revoir, under the darkening skies outside the basilica will be remembered forever. She will host a “Celebration of Life” event at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Feb. 3 before resuming her residency Feb. 23, again keeping with Rene’s wishes.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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