Son, John, spoke at New York
Giants' football owner Wellington Mara's
funeral at Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York City:
"On behalf of my mother and my
entire family, I want to thank everyone here to celebrate my father's
life. Many of you came from deep distances, and we are very appreciative.
Thank you also to all of you who called, wrote, or visited over the past
"The outpouring of love and
affection displayed to my father has been overwhelming and a source of
comfort to my family. Also, I want to thank Cardinal Egan for his frequent
visits and comforting words; Bishop McCormick who visited my father every
day and brought him Communion; Frank Gifford who was a constant visitor
and who has been a true friend to my family for so many years.
"Thank you also to Sloan Kettering
who took such good care of my father the last six weeks. They treated him
like they were his own father. When he finally decided that he wanted to
go home, and he was being taken out of the hospital, the nurses and the
staff were all in tears. That is how close a bond they formed during that
"There is one person who deserves
special thanks, Ronnie Barnes, who my mother refers to as her 12th
child, spent night after night and many days in my father's hospital room
taking care of him night after night. 'Is Ronnie coming tonight?' My
father would ask. Of course, the answer was always 'yes' and my father's
face would light up when Ronnie's face walked into the room. We joked with
Ronnie that one of the reasons he did this was because so many of the
nurses kept trying to slip him their phone numbers at the hospital but
that really wasn't the reason. My father asked him one night, 'Ronnie why
are you so good to me?' 'Because, Mr. Mara, you've been so good to me,'
Ronnie replied. Nobody took better care of him, and there was no one that
he trusted more. Ronnie, my family can never thank you enough.
"As we made our way over here from
the funeral home this morning, I couldn't help but think he would have
been so embarrassed by all this.
"The police escort, the traffic
being stopped, the bagpipes; he would have just shook his head and tried
to hide somewhere. As painful as it is to say goodbye to someone you love
so much, to someone who has been such an important part of your life, I
could not help but think, when I sat down to try and prepare this, how
fortunate I am, and all my brothers and sisters are, to have Wellington
Mara as our father. He was the finest man that we have ever known or hope
to know, and he was our Dad.
"Many years ago his good friend Tim
Rooney said something to me that I have reflected on many times since.
'You realize don't you that your father is the best example of how we
should all live our lives. You will never find anyone better to emulate.'
Over the years, as I have watched my father live his life, I have come to
realize how true those words were and what a role model he really was.
'What can you expect from an Irishman named Wellington, whose father was a bookmaker?' A
local sportswriter derisively wrote those words about 30 years ago during
a time when we were going through some pretty awful seasons. My father
usually didn't let criticism from the media affect him very much, but
those words stung him in a very personal way. 'I'll tell you what you can
expect,' he said at our kickoff luncheon just a few days later. 'You can
expect anything he says or writes may be repeated aloud in your own home
in front of your own children.'
"You can believe that he was taught
to love and respect all mankind but to fear no man. And you could believe
that his abiding ambitions were to pass onto his family the true richness
of the inheritance he received from his father, the bookmaker: The
knowledge and love and fear of God, and second, to give you, our fans and
our coach, a Super Bowl winner.'
My father's faith was his strength. It
never wavered no matter what happened in his life, no matter how sick he
was. He and my mother went to Mass every day and made sure that we
went every Sunday and on Holy Days. Long after we were married, with
children of our own, he would still call to remind us about an upcoming
Holy Day of Obligation. Each year at Christmas time, the Confession
schedule of our parish was hung on the refrigerator door with a little
handwritten note: 'No confession, no Santa,' he wrote.
"As sick as he was, he still
received Communion every day in the hospital; his rosary beads never left
his hands. His family, of course, was his pride and joy. He was married to
my mother for more than 51 years, and they had as wonderful a marriage as
I have ever seen. I can't ever remember them raising their voices to one
another. They met, of course, in church when a woman fainted, and they
both went to assist her. My father later claimed that the whole thing was
staged by my mother's Aunt Lil in order to get his attention. Well,
after 51 years of marriage, 11 children, 40 grandchildren, soon to be 42,
I would say that she got his attention.
"When my parents celebrated their
50th wedding anniversary about a year-and-a-half-ago, right
here in Saint Patrick's, my mother asked him if they could renew their
vows. He was very reluctant at first. 'The original ones haven't expired
yet have they?' he said. Of course, he went along with it, but when
Cardinal Egan asked him during the ceremony, 'Will you accept children
lovingly from God?' the look on his face seemed to say, 'Your eminence I
think that ship sailed a long time ago.'
"If there was a category in the
Guinness Book of Records for the most Christenings attended, or First
Communions, or graduations, school plays, Little League games, my father
would surely hold the record. He loved watching his grandchildren
compete or act on stage. He always sat or stood in the background, never
wanting to draw attention to himself, always positive, always supportive,
setting yet another example for all of us.
"One of my father's greatest
attributes was his loyalty. It was so much a part of his life whether it
was his friends, former players, coaches, he was always concerned about
their well being. He considered Giants players, coaches, employees, both
past and present, as part of his extended family. If a member of that
family was in need, he or she didn't stay that way for very long whether
it was money, a job, or just a call from a friendly voice as he'd like to
"There was a time years ago when he
was criticized for that loyalty and for it clouding his judgment. 'If
that's the worst thing they can say about you,' he would say, 'Then you
must be doing something right.'
"I remember going on countless road
trips with him over the years, and he would always make it a habit to call
a former player or coach in the town that we were playing in. Many of
these guys were long forgotten by many of these people but not by him. He
never forgot them, and he knew how much it meant to them that he was still
thinking about them.
"Next to his faith and his family,
the thing my father loved most was his team, the team that he spent 80
years of his life around. His father wanted him to go to law school after
his graduation from Fordham in 1937. 'Just give me one year with the
team,' he pleaded. My grandfather agreed and that number turned into 68.
He never went to law school, he went to spend the rest of his life, with
the exception of four years that he served in the Navy during World War
II, around the team and the sport he loved so much. He attended nearly
every practice from mini camp right through the end of the season. It
didn't matter if we were 10-2 or 2-10, he was there wearing that old
floppy hat, carrying that ridiculous stool, and usually wearing a shirt or
a jacket that was almost as old as he was.
"Each year our equipment manager
would give him the new apparel for the season, and it would always wind up
in the same place, stuck in the back of his closet, and out would come the
same old and battered outfits.
"When we changed our logo several
years ago back to the traditional lower case, n y, he actually started
wearing some of the shirts that he had worn the last time we had used that
logo more than 25 years before. 'I knew they would come back,' he said.
"He loved participating in the
draft meetings. It was his favorite time of year. Day after day, he would
sit there as reports were read on every prospect. No matter how remote
they were, he didn't want to miss anything, and he loved interacting with
our scouts. He identified with them because he had been one himself for so
"One of the visions I will always
have of him is sitting on the equipment truck prior to Super Bowl XXXV,
alone in his thoughts, a scene I had witnessed so many times over the
years. No pregame parties or festivities for him, he was where he wanted
to be, with his players and coaches, but off to the background so as not
to interfere. During our road games, he always sat in the press box, never
one for a fancy suite or entertaining people during a game, his focus was
on the game.
"He always maintained his composure
and often tried, with mixed results, to calm his family down, more so his
daughters than his sons. I remember one game years ago when a
particular player was having a tough day and some of us became a little
exacerbated with him. At one point I yelled out, 'What is he doing out
there?' My father put his hand on my shoulder rather firmly and said,
'What he's doing is the best that he can.'
"My father had a special
relationship with Giants fans. It amazed me that he answered nearly every
letter a fan wrote to him no matter how derogatory they got. 'They are our
customers,' he would say. 'They're just demonstrating how much they care
about the team, and they deserve a response.' For years it was a joke
around our office that if someone wanted to have their season tickets
improved all they had to do was write my father a letter that they had
some physical ailment that made it difficult to climb the stairs or see
from such a distance. The tickets were always improved; the fans knew who
the soft touch was.
"My father was very proud of his
contributions and his long time associations with the National Football
League. He believed so deeply in the principles upon which it was founded
and has flourished. He served virtually on every committee imaginable, and
he valued all of them. None of those committees mattered more to him than
a little known one called the NFL Alumni Dire Need Fund which was
established to take care of former players who had fallen on hard times.
"There were so many lessons that my
father taught us over the years, maybe none more important than in the
last few weeks of his life. He never gave up his will to live. He tried so
hard to get out of bed and walk. He fought until the very end, and he
never complained. His faith never waned.
"On his last day in the hospital,
when he came to the realization that the doctors could no longer treat
him, he summoned me to his bedside, he could barely talk. I held his hand
and he looked at me and smiled and said, 'I'll be there when you get
"It was his way of telling us that
he was going to be okay. He was going to a better place. He was
always concerned with how his family was dealing with his condition. 'I
don't want to be a burden' he said just days before his death, 'Go home
and take care of your own families.' Of course we had to be there with
him. He had always been there for us, and when he took his last breath, he
was surrounded by the family he loved so much and taught so well.
"There's a scene from the movie Saving
Private Ryan that is worth recounting here. A then elderly Private
Ryan visits the gravesites of some of the men who died trying to save his
life. Overcome with emotion, he turns to his wife and asks her, 'Have I
been a good husband, a good father, a good person?' Questions I suppose we
will all have to answer at some point. In the case of Wellington Mara, the
answers were so clear. Yes, you were a wonderful husband, you were the
best father and grandfather that anyone could ever have, and you were the
best example of how we should all live our lives. That is what we came to
expect from the Irishman named Wellington whose father was a bookmaker.
"He may be gone from this world,
and we certainly grieve over that. But we also rejoice over our good
fortune in having had him with us for so long, for the extraordinary life
he led, and for his spirit which will live on in his children and
grandchildren for generations to come. When my father's brother died 40
years ago, Arthur Daley, the well-known sportswriter of The New York
Times wrote a column lamenting the loss of his good friend Jack Mara. My father had that column on his desk
for all these years, and the last line from that column is a quote from Hamlet:
"Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight sweet
prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Wellington Mara - Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Three dozen fans were allowed into the Frank Campbell
Funeral Home to pay their respects. Mourner Greg Packer of Huntington,
Long Island, New York, said, "I was in the stands when the Giants
beat the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC chanpionship game, and he came up to me
and said, 'If it wasn't for you fans, we wouldn't be where we are right
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