The wife of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein dabbed at her tears Tuesday as she accepted an Order of Canada medal on her ailing husband's behalf.
But Colleen Klein also managed to add a dash of levity to the bittersweet occasion.
As she posed for photos with Gov. Gen. David Johnston, she opened her blazer to reveal a 1992 Progressive Conservative leadership campaign pin with her husband's grinning face on it. The gesture was met with laughter and applause from the small group of guests.
"It surprised me. You could see it surprised the Governor General," Klein adviser and longtime family friend Rod Love said afterwards.
Klein was also given a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, something Love said had not been expected.
Colleen Klein put her hand to her chest as Johnston presented the second medal to her.
The former premier, who now holds the rank of officer of the Order, has a form of dementia and no longer makes public appearances.
"He's struggling, but he's comfortable," said Love, who added that Colleen Klein would be visiting her husband after the ceremony to show him the medals.
"I think Colleen believes he'll know," Love said, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Order of Canada medals normally are given out at a big ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Love said it was a "great gesture" to bring the event to Calgary in this particular case.