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Mourning a 'Man of Vision'

Funeral: Nearly 1,000 people attend Mass for John Ferraro, the longest-serving council member in city history.

April 24, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles leaders paid their last respects to John Ferraro on Monday at a funeral Mass conducted by Cardinal Roger Mahony, who described the late City Council president as an extraordinary leader who had the vision and courage to help lift his city to greatness.

A crowd of nearly 1,000 filled St. Brendan Catholic Church, Ferraro's home parish, to hear Mayor Richard Riordan and others praise the longtime councilman for his steadying hand at City Hall.

"We come together as a community saddened by the death of a great leader," Mahony said. "Let us remember John as a great man of vision, a marvelous person of fidelity and faithfulness, an extraordinary human being, a man of courage."

Dignitaries and friends from city, county, state and federal government were joined by many constituents of Ferraro's 4th Council District, which he served for 35 years, the longest tenure of any council member in Los Angeles history.

Also in attendance werde his brother, Steve; his sisters, Mary Mercadante and Rose Marie Busciglio; and his son, Gianni Luckey.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, a longtime friend, attended, as did Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, former Chief Daryl F. Gates, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and county Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. Numerous past and present City Council members and state legislators also were at the service, including state Sen. Richard Alarcon and Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, both of whom served on the council with Ferraro.

Former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and City Atty. James K. Hahn, battling each other for mayor, also were present.

Robert Baker, a nephew of Ferraro, said the gathering was a testimony to Ferraro's greatness.

"Today, this father of Los Angeles leaves for another city of angels. Thank God for giving us this most noble man," Baker said.

Ferraro died April 17 after a long battle with cancer. He was 76. An All-American football player at USC, Ferraro was appointed to the City Council in 1966. He was elected to the seat a year later and then reelected eight times. His district extended from North Hollywood and Toluca Lake to Los Feliz and his neighborhood of Hancock Park.

He also was elected by his peers a record nine times as president of the City Council.

Large stands of flowers, including one representing the city seal, served as a backdrop to the Mass presided over by Mahony and six other priests.

Mahony said persistence and courage were behind many of the major achievements that Ferraro helped bring about, such as the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the construction of Staples Center and the refurbishment of the Los Angeles Zoo.

"He was a man who was able to work with everyone and, with a great deal of courage, to say yes to things that seemed impossible," Mahony said.

Riordan eulogized Ferraro as someone who was dedicated to his wife, Margaret, who died last year.

The mayor said Ferraro left his imprint on Los Angeles.

"John, you leave behind a grateful and much better city because of your leadership," Riordan said as he looked over Ferraro's casket, draped in with.

"John Ferraro was a great man, but not in the sense we think of great men. He was soft, yet strong. He was humble, yet inspiring. He was serious, yet had a great sense of humor. His spirit touched the lives of everyone he met," Riordan said.

The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Margaret and John Ferraro Chair in Effective Local Government, School of Policy, Planning and Development, USC, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089.

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