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 elevate his city to greatness.
A crowd of nearly 1,000 filled St. Brendan Catholic Church, Ferraro’s parish, to hear Mayor Richard Riordan and others praise the 35-year 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 longtime constituents of Ferraro’s 4th Council District, which he served longer than any council member in Los Angeles history.
Those in attendance included his brother, Steve, sisters Mary and Rose, and his son, Gianni Luckey.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, a longtime friend, attended, as did Police Chief Bernard Parks, former Chief Daryl Gates, Sheriff Lee Baca, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, and county Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Yvonne Braithwaite Burke. Numerous past and present City Council members and state legislators were also there, 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, attended.
Robert Baker, a nephew of Ferraro’s by marriage, said the gathering of so many important civic leaders was 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.
The former USC All-American football player was appointed to the council in 1966, elected to the seat a year later and reelected eight times. His council district extended from North Hollywood and Toluca Lake to Los Feliz and his neighborhood of Hancock Park.
He also was the first person elected nine times to serve as president of the council. Many past council members, including Ernani Bernardi, 90, attended the funeral.
Large stands of flowers, including an arrangement patterned into a representation of the city seal, served as a backdrop as family and friends attended a Mass presided over by Mahony and six other priests.
Mahony said it was Ferraro’s persistence and courage that helped him accomplish his greatest achievements, such as helping bring the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles, approving the construction of Staples Center and spearheading 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 said Ferraro 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 in a eulogy as he looked over Ferraro’s white-cloth-draped casket.
“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.
Baker announced during Monday’s funeral that his uncle had requested the creation of an endowment for government studies at his alma mater.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that 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.