They came to honour the memory of the man as well as the politician. For many, it was a chance to express their feelings about someone who embodied their dreams, hopes and aspirations.

At a makeshift memorial outside Jack Layton’s constituency office in Toronto, some had left bouquets of flowers. Others had laid wreaths. A few had lit candles that were still burning brightly on Tuesday morning.

An orange tie hung from one of the flowers. All reminders of the man who feared no one but respected everyone. That was his allure.

The man known simply as Jack. No last name necessary. Everyone knew who you were talking about.

Several people had attached handwritten messages to the office windows. “Jack, you were a star that burned so bright. Your passion and energy is an inspiration to us all,” said one.

Another wrote, “Dear Mr. Layton, You left us like a dew in the morning. But your spirit will stay forever.”

People were still lining up to sign one of the condolence books that rested on the window ledge beneath a banner that read “Thank You Jack.”

Even those who didn’t agree with his politics had great respect and admiration for him. It was hard not to. He oozed class even when fighting with his opponents or taking a tough stand on controversial issues. Never backing down.

Not even against his fiercest opponent of all. The cancer that eventually claimed his life early Monday morning.

During the spring election, Layton swept Quebecers and other Canadians off their feet in a way not seen since Trudeaumania in the late 1960s. He was no longer just the quarterback of the NDP team. He had become their franchise player, a leader that the NDP could build their team around for the foreseeable future.

But fate dealt an unkindly blow when Layton announced at the end of July that he was taking a temporary leave of absence to receive treatment for a new form of cancer.

Near the sidewalk on the shady side of the street, a white bicycle rest against a post. Flowers jammed between the spokes of the front wheel. A photo of Jack attached to the rear wheel.

“In heaven, everyone rides a bike,” written across the down tube.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.