EDMONTON - As the sunset sweetened the sky of a gorgeous late-summer day, a motorcade accompanying the body of former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed rolled into Edmonton and up to the front of the provincial legislature Sunday.
The coffin, draped in a Canadian flag, was removed from a white hearse and carried on the shoulders of eight RCMP officers up a red carpeted staircase that Lougheed himself walked many times in his day.
Lougheed's sons, Stephen and Joe, followed behind the solemn procession.
Then with Alberta sheriffs keeping watch, the casket was placed in the legislature rotunda, where it will remain for two days, to give people a chance to pay their last respects.
Lougheed, who is widely credited as being one of the most influential leaders in Alberta's history, died Thursday in the Calgary hospital that bears his name. He was 84.
Even though the time of the motorcade's arrival at the legislature wasn't publicly announced until just before it got there, a few dozen people were on hand to watch.
Braden O'Neill, 25, wasn't even born when Lougheed stepped down as premier in 1985, but he lives near the legislature and felt compelled to attend.
"I grew up knowing that the reason Alberta has such a strong place in Confederation, and in many ways Alberta's great coming out on the national stage, was due to Peter Lougheed's leadership," O'Neill said.
Other observers were simply enjoying an evening stroll around the legislature grounds when they noticed something was up.
Karl Oelke, from St. Albert, just north of Edmonton, came to the grounds Sunday evening with his wife to take scenery pictures, but was pleased to have stumbled upon the event.
"I really appreciated the man. He did a lot for the province. He was sort of a pioneer in a lot of instances. I was very saddened to hear that he'd passed away," Oelke said.
The motorcade accompanied the hearse all the way from Calgary Sunday afternoon arriving at the legislature with six officers on motorcycles in front.
As they waited for the hearse to arrive, Mounties in red serge rehearsed their steps while the sheriffs kept the route clear of pedestrians and cyclists.
O'Neill said the carrying of Lougheed's coffin into the legislature felt sombre.
"He's so profoundly respected in Alberta and is held as such a champion of the province that you can't help but be saddened," O'Neill said.
The province says members of Lougheed's family will be available in the rotunda to accept condolences from the public while the closed coffin is on display.
Lougheed led the Progressive Conservatives to victory over the governing Social Credit party in 1971. He remained premier until 1985, and the Tory party has been in power ever since.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced last week she would return home early from a trade mission to China because of Lougheed's death. Redford knew Lougheed from her earliest days in politics and has often spoken of him as a mentor.
Lougheed's accomplishments while in office were many.
He became a hero at home and a nationally recognized figure during his battles with Ottawa over control of Alberta's oil resources. And he nurtured the oilsands development which has become an economic driver of the country.
During the debates over patriating the Constitution, Lougheed fought for a role for the provinces and helped engineer a notwithstanding clause to ensure their rights.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called him a giant of both Alberta and Canadian history.
Lougheed remained politically active after leaving the legislature in 1986.
He spoke out against the Kyoto accord to control greenhouse gases, but urged caution over the environmental effects from unbridled growth of the oilsands.
His endorsement of Redford in the final days of the Alberta election campaign last spring has been cited as one of the key factors in her win.
Lougheed's family has said it will hold a private funeral, but a public memorial service is being planned.