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Farewell, Wiarton Willie: Ontario's popular prognosticating groundhog has died

Last Updated Sep 21, 2017 at 3:24 pm EDT

File photo of Wiarton Willie. Photo credit: the Town of South Bruce Peninsula

Wiarton Willie has always been greeted by cheers – whether he saw his shadow or not. Earlier this year, he did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring, much to everyone’s delight. As it turns out, that was his last forecast.

On Wednesday, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula announced that the prognosticating groundhog died. He was 13 years old.

“Willie was 13 years young and served our town, province and country with immense pride each and every Groundhog Day,” Janice Jackson, the town’s mayor, said in a statement.

The town will host a memorial service for Willie on Sept. 30. It will be held at 1 p.m. at Wiarton’s Bluewater Park – the same park where thousands have been gathering every Groundhog Day to find out if Willie saw his shadow.

A funeral procession will travel through the park where “Willie will be honoured behind the statue of his likeness.”

Mourners can also sign a memory book at the town hall.

Most groundhogs in the wild live to be around four years old. Albino groundhogs, like Willie, have shorter lifespans. But Jackson said daily care and living in a “safe and protected environment” helped Willie to live longer.

Willie’s two-year-old understudy “Wee Willie” will take over. Sorry, Dundas Donna.