Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Hundreds Bid Farewell to Political Consultant Joe Cerrell
By a MetNews Staff Writer
More than 500 mourners paid their last respects yesterday to political consultant Joe Cerrell, who died Friday at the age of 75.
The mourners, who overflowed Christ the King Church in Los Angeles, hailed Cerrell for his contributions to politics, civic improvement, education, and religion. They included a number of current and former officeholders, including some of the hundreds of judges who retained his services over the years in order to obtain or keep their posts.
Among the eulogists was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who noted that he skipped the swearing-in of his cousin, Assembly Speaker John Perez, to be present. He announced that the Assembly, which began its 2011-2012 session yesterday, would adjourn at the end of the day in Cerrell’s memory.
The mayor described Cerrell—whom he first met when Villaraigosa was an organizer for the local teachers’ union—as “not just an icon in California politics, but a friend to so many,” with a passion for politics that was not just a way of building a business, but of improving the community.
Cerrell was trusted, he said, because he was “always honest,” even when he was on the opposite, the mayor said. “He stood out as one of the good guys, as one of our better angels.”
The service was conducted by Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti, but took on an ecumenical tone.
Armenian Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian recalled Cerrell’s kindnesses to him and the Armenian community, including his having handled the arrangements for the local visits of two of the church’s pontiffs. And Hal Dash, the chairman and chief executive officer of Cerrell Associates Inc., honored his “mentor, boss, and friend of 33 years” with a personalized translation of El Malei Rachamim—“O, G-d filled with mercy”—the central prayer recited at Jewish funerals.
The service also included numerous references to Cerrell’s love of the New York Yankees—he grew up in the city—and for his alma mater USC and its sports teams, and especially Cerrell’s Italian heritage. He was an officer of the National Italian American Federation, and a wreath sent by the Italian consulate was displayed prominently at the back of the church.
Corey Busch, a onetime associate of Cerrell who was press secretary to George Moscone—the San Francisco mayor assassinated in his City Hall office 32 years ago—recalled the deep friendship between the two men, and their shared love of politics and Italian, and other, food.
He noted the American flag draped over the casket, explaining that it flew over the U.S. Capitol following Cerrell’s death before being sent to his family by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an old friend.
Stephen Bullock, who is Lee Cerrell’s son from a previous marriage, recalled how Joe Cerrell fell in love with his mother and entered her young son’s life in 1958, “with an energy that scared the hell out of me.”
Joe Cerrell did not need to complete a “bucket list” before he died, because he “completed everything on that list a long time ago,” Bullock said. “He even got a kiss from Sophia Loren”
Joseph W. Cerrell said his father was the ultimate public relations professional, because “he loved people,” even when he didn’t share their worldview. He noted that the lifelong Democrat became a close friend of conservative columnist Robert Novak—whose funeral Cerrell spoke at last year—and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The program for the service described Cerrell as “power broker, campaign consultant, political kingmaker, policy confidant, opinion leader, advisor, professor, mentor, role model, altar boy, ROTC cadet, student activist, advanceman, media guru, businessman, philanthropist, community leader, loving husband, devoted father, awesome grandfather, frequent flyer, friend, inspiration, icon.”
The service, which opened with the traditional organ rendition of “Ave Maria,” concluded with a recording of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company