In the world of Canadian politics, he was known as the man who led his party to historic wins during the last federal election, but to the hundreds who gathered to honour him a year after he died, he was remembered simply as ``Jack.''
Events were staged across Canada Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Jack Layton's death from cancer, which came just three months after the New Democrats had seized a triumphant electoral breakthrough and gained official Opposition party status - a first in the NDP's 50-year history.
Layton was 61.
The largest gathering to celebrate the late federal NDP leader took place in Nathan Phillips Square.
Layton lived and served as a high-profile city councillor in Toronto before moving to federal politics in 2003.
His wife, Trinity-Spadina NDP MP Olivia Chow, said she was touched by the hundreds of people, including Canadian musicians, actors and politicians, who came out to celebrate her late husband's life.
``Jack would've loved this,'' she said the cheering crowd, many of whom were wearing orange, the colour of the NDP. ``Wow, he would
Throughout the day, numerous chalk messages in Layton's memory - which spoke of hope and inspiration - were scrawled on the walls and the ground at Nathan Phillips Square.
The messages were accompanied by bouquets of flowers, cards and cans of Orange Crush - the nickname given to the NDP's electoral sweep in Quebec in May 2011.
The scene was reminiscent of the outpouring of grief observed following Layton's death a year ago.
Chow added the words ``alive in our hearts'' to the growing chalk tribute, which had spread across the square.
She said her husband believed in the goodness in people, social justice, and the ability to make the world a better place. Chow urged the crowd to carry on his causes.
``He said in his final letters to all of us, 'I believe in you,''' she said. ``He called on all of us to pick up his torch and I know in my heart, that you have and you will.''
Layton's son, Toronto city councillor Mike Layton, said his father would've wanted people to stop grieving and start getting involved in his vision.
``The one thing that a celebration like this has is it can give you that support, and it sort of feels like there's other people in the same position, saying 'You know what, Jack left us, we're sad, but he left us with a vision and such a positive message of love, hope and optimism,' that it makes you feel not so alone,'' he said.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horvath said the turnout at events honouring Jack Layton showed how much his message resonated with
``Jack was somebody who not only shook a person's hand, but pulled them in for a hug and bothered to have a conversation,'' she said. ``He was really about connecting with people. And today that's what he would be doing if he was here.''
Gatherings to remember the popular politician ranged from picnics to pub nights across the country, from Smithers, B.C., to Charlottetown.
Some 15 months after the NDP won 103 seats in the House of Commons, a new poll suggested Canadians believe the party's work continues apace - notwithstanding its change of leadership.
59 per cent of respondents to The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said the NDP of today under leader Tom Mulcair is similar to when Layton led it.
Eight per cent said the party is very similar to when Layton led it, while 51 per cent said it was somewhat similar.
22 per cent of respondents said the NDP is not the same now.
(The Canadian Press)