Hundreds of police officers from across the city bid farewell to Toronto’s sixth police chief.
William McCormack, who was the city’s top cop for six years up until 1995, passed away on September 8. He was 83.
His funeral was held at St. Paul’s Basilica on Sept. 12 where the Chief’s Ceremonial Unit, which he founded, acted as pall bearers, marching alongside the hearse and carrying his coffin on their shoulders into the Corktown church.
Mike McCormack, the middle child and Toronto Police Association president, said his father taught him and his siblings to treat people with respect, no matter who they were, where they were from and what their lot in life was.
“Whether they were on the street or the most powerful, he would always say ‘you could be anyone of them’,” he said. “He also always let us know that compassion will always win out over ignorance and arrogance.
Mike McCormack added that his father was his role model.
“I never stopped learning from him, right until the last moments of his life,” he said. “He was a rock, he was in control, he was calm and he made things alright. He was there and we felt secure… My last lesson from him was that he could never be the man he was without my mom.”
McCormack is also survived by 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
The product of a British colonial police colonel, McCormack was born in Mauritius. He served as a radio officer on naval ships and was a Bermuda police officer for four years before coming to Toronto in 1959 and joining the then Metropolitan Toronto Police Force.
He and his wife, Jean, of 58 years produced five children, four of whom went on to become law enforcement officers.
Erin McCormack, the oldest of the grand kids, recalled the fun times growing up with her grandfather.
“There was never a shortage of entertainment or love,” she said. “There was no place I loved more than that house. I especially loved the larger-than-life man who walked through that back door every day with a loud, ‘Alo, Alo, Alo’. You knew that Papa was home. He seldom came through that door without some type of treat. This is something he never stopped and he spoiled all the grand kids with.”
The mother of McCormack’s three great grandchildren recounted driving to school with her grandfather in a black Lincoln, the long drives to Florida and vacationing in Ireland.
“He was one of the most recognized men in the city of Toronto in the 1990s,” she said. “You couldn’t go anywhere with that man without someone shouting ‘Chief’. It drove me crazy and I told him he would have to put a bag over his head when we were out in public.
“When we got to Ireland, I thought no one would know him. We were having a great time in Dublin walking down an alleyway when a police officer shouted ‘Chief’ from across the street. He was a former Toronto officer who had moved back to Ireland… The love our grandfather gave to all of my cousins will never be forgotten. He made us all feel special and he was proud of each of us.”
Hailey Carter, another granddaughter, said her Papa was larger than life.
“He was generous beyond belief, kind, smart and a true family man,” she noted. “He was the epitome of a gentleman. Everyone who had the opportunity to meet him felt special.”
McCormack’s youngest child, Lisa, said her father was her best friend and everything to her.
“I was born blessed,” she said. “I won the lottery the day I came into this world. I know I will never win again because that was my day to have a father like him.”
Mourners included Chief Mark Saunders, Mayor John Tory, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle and many current and retired officers.
Former Chief Bill Blair, who retired as Chief in 2015, also came to pay his respects.
“I had the privilege of working with him for quite a number of years and when I became the Chief, he made himself available to me,” said Blair. “He was a great adviser and role model.”
McCormack spent 18 months on The Mackenzie Institute Board shortly after retiring from the Service.
The institute is an independent think tank, bringing a strategic and pragmatic approach to security matters.
“He was always incredibly positive,” said the institute’s board of governors’ vice-chair D. Brian Hay. “When he sat in on meetings, he brought a plain and simple reality. If we got into anything controversial, he would always boil it down and make it very clear to the point where everyone would have a smile on their faces. He was a great guy and a lot of fun to be around.”