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Just call me Jack
Mourners gather to pay tribute at Jack Layton and Olivia Chow's home on Huron Street.

(Photo: Matthew Kupfer) Since Jack Layton’s death early Monday morning, the Chinatown home he shared with his wife, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, has become a pilgrimage site. Mourners have visited leaving flowers, personal notes and signing a book of condolences on the front porch. Paying respects was unplanned for some, like Melshean Boardman, who didn’t even know the green-bricked townhouse on Huron was the Layton residence. When she noticed the crowd of reporters and flowers on the front porch while biking to her job at Cobb’s Bakery on Bloor, she decided that leaving a personal message was the right thing to do. “I’m really thinking of Olivia today,” Boardman said, who lives in Chow’s riding. “It’s heartbreaking. It was too soon. It doesn’t feel like the right time for Canada, for Jack.” Before leaving Boardman took a photo of the house, she said she wasn’t sure if she was going to send it to her friends or family. “It’s personal.” James Le met Layton while riding a streetcar. Le said he asked Layton whether the NDP leader preferred to be called Dr. or Mr. because of his Ph.D. “I’ll always remember this, he said: ‘Just call me Jack.’” Patricia Tomasi was a student of Layton’s when he taught at Ryerson in the late nineties. Now 34, she remembers Layton as an inspirational fighter. She wrote a little note and tucked it under a bouquet of yellow flowers. “Raise a little hell in heaven for us, will ya?” her note said. “We can use some angels like you down here.” Seventeen-year-old Tau Lewis brought flowers from her home garden, a couple of blocks away on Beverley Street. She said she was “shocked” when she heard the news this morning. While she never met Layton, she knows Chow, who helped her father immigrate to Canada from Jamaica. “I’m very upset for Olivia,” Lewis said. “I hope there’s lots of family. I hope things are okay for her.” Across the city, notes and flowers were piling up at Layton’s Toronto-Danforth constituency office, meanwhile in Ottawa mourners gathered around the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill. Condolence letters addressed to Olivia and the family are pouring in as mementos of support. Layton has left both a personal and political mark on the country. At the Centennial Flame, someone left a can of Orange Crush, symbolic of the NDP historic rise to Official Opposition in May’s election. And on the family porch in Toronto, Scott MacDonald wrote, “We’re all so impressed and grateful for what he achieved… Let’s hope we can keep it going.” There will be a gathering at Nathan Philips Square in memory of Layton Monday at 4 pm. You can read Layton’s open letter to Canadians at the NDP website.

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