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3 Services Pay Final Tribute to Lucille Ball

May 09, 1989|Special to The Times

Otto McCain never met Lucille Ball, although his wife, Harriet, was the late comedian's maid for 22 years. When his wife was hospitalized for three years before she died nine years ago, Ball paid the medical bills.

"You hear about (Frank) Sinatra helping people out, but you never hear how kind-hearted Lucille Ball was," said McCain, 82, of South Los Angeles, as he joined an overflow crowd at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica on Monday night for a memorial Mass for Ball.

By 3 p.m., 450 people were in line for the 8 p.m. service. The church quickly filled to its nearly 1,000 capacity, and officials set up loudspeakers at the entrance for the nearly 300 people standing outside.

The Santa Monica service was one of three organized by Ball's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, and her husband, actor Lawrence Luckinbill, to give the public a chance to say goodby to the one-time queen of television.

Television newscaster Diane Sawyer, who never met Ball, led the mass at New York's St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church, and syndicated columnist Irv Kupcinet read at services at Chicago's Old St. Patrick's Church.

"She didn't want a big funeral or memorial service or any of that," said Arnaz, who attended the Santa Monica services. "These services are my idea. I felt that the public needed some closure."

Ball, the co-creator and star of "I Love Lucy," a product of TV's Golden Age that continues to be viewed by millions around the world, was 77 when she died April 26 of a ruptured abdominal aorta.

The Rev. Robert Schuller who delivered the eulogy in Santa Monica said before the services that he and Ball "had a lot in common. We both believed in the tremendous healing power of humor. I always told her we share the same ministry. Only you have a larger audience."

Lloyd Torgerson who celebrated the mass told those gathered that they are "an expression of what she meant to us. In the 1950s, there was a sadness in the nation because of war and hard times. And what did Lucy do? She brought us together because she caused us to laugh."

Helen Vella, 58, of Santa Monica, was in the crowd standing outside.

"I'm here for Lucy," she said. "It was worth standing and waiting all this time. I was sick once, and if it wasn't for her on Monday nights, I never would have made it through. She made me forget a lot of pain."

Cuban immigrant Elisa Maria de Llanos, 53, seconded that.

"In '56 when I came to this country from Cuba, Lucy and Ricky (portrayed by Ball's then husband, the late Desi Arnaz) were the first two that I saw on television," she said. "I was never homesick watching her, because she made me laugh. I don't feel sad because she left something to make people happy forever."

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