Aline Chrétien, wife of former PM Jean Chrétien, has died at age 84

(CBC.CA) – By all accounts, Aline Chrétien was the quiet strength behind her husband, Jean.

An astute political partner — the former prime minister called her his most trusted adviser and his “rock of Gibraltar”— Aline Chrétien died peacefully Saturday morning at the age of 84.

“She was surrounded by family as the sun rose at her Lac des Piles residence, near Shawinigan,” said Bruce Hartley, a former executive assistant and long-time adviser to Jean Chrétien.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that Canadians “owe a great debt” to Aline Chrétien for her honesty, perseverance and work championing multiculturalism and bilingualism.

“As one of Mr. Chrétien’s most influential advisers, Aline was known for her tenacity, sharp intellect and acute sense of observation,” his statement read. “The life that she and Jean shared together, including their service to Canadians, was built on a foundation of trust, hard work and equal partnership.”

The couple met on a bus in the summer of 1951, when Jean Chrétien was 17 and Aline was 15.  The two married in 1957 in a ceremony that was squeezed in between Jean’s shifts working at the local mill and his university classes.

From the very beginning, Aline Chrétien said she knew the man who would go on to serve as prime minister for a decade was the one for her. The couple had three children together.