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Daisy Peterson Sweeney celebrated in Saint-Henri as city changes its tune on honouring her

Jazz pianist Oliver Jones speaks about Daisy Peterson Sweeney at Union United Church. Aug. 12, 2018.
Jazz pianist Oliver Jones speaks about Daisy Peterson Sweeney at Union United Church. Aug. 12, 2018. Dan Spector / Global News

At the historic Union United Church in southwestern Montreal, it was a day to pay tribute to Daisy Peterson Sweeney on the one-year anniversary of her death.

It was also a day of victory for family members upset about the city’s proposal to name a Saint-Henri park after Sweeney.

“It was not acceptable to the family,” Sweeney’s foster son Kenneth Hemmerick told Global News.

A revered figure in Montreal, Sweeney was a matriarch of the Montreal black community who taught hundreds of people how to play piano.

When he was mayor, Denis Coderre promised a Montreal street would be named after her, but current mayor Valerie Plante recently said that would not happen. The city instead pledged to rename Guy-Paxton Park after her, upsetting Sweeney’s family.

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READ MORE: Daisy Peterson Sweeney’s family upset Montreal won’t name street after her

Members of the family, along with star Montreal pianist Oliver Jones, met with Plante on Friday and told the mayor that renaming Guy-Paxton Park was not an option.

“That’s off the table, and they understand why,” said Hemmerick.

He said naming a street after Sweeney is now back on the table as one of three possible scenarios.

“We gave them what we thought were street-naming opportunities so they’re looking at that,” he said.

“It will either be a park or a street,” Jones said outside the church.

READ MORE: Montreal musical great Oliver Jones honoured at Vanier College

Hemmerick described the meeting with the city as “very positive.”

In a statement, the city told Global News the meeting was “productive” and that “discussions are ongoing.”

Inside the church, Jones and Norman Marshall Villeneuve, a fellow Sweeney student who went on to become jazz royalty, were among those who paid tribute to her.

“She meant so much to the family and to this community,” Jones said to worshippers during the service in her honour.

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Sweeney’s family was front and centre at the ceremony. For them, it was another chance to remember and to mourn.

WATCH: Montreal remembers Daisy Sweeney

Montreal remembers Daisy Sweeney
Montreal remembers Daisy Sweeney

“Where she is right now, she’s resting in peace,” said Dr. Alwin Spence, who led the ceremony.

“It’s quite emotional, to tell you the truth,” Hemmerick told Global News. “I’m filling with gratitude that people remember her.”

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Jones, who learned from Sweeney as a young boy, described how he took her teachings with him as he played all over the world.

“The confidence she instilled in me carried me through all these years,” he said.