"'Our love is here to stay' -- Family, friends and fans say goodbye to Rosemary Clooney

By SCOTT WARTMAN, Maysville's Ledger-Independent, July 6, 2002

Friends, fans and neighbors gathered inside and outside St. Patrick Church in Maysville Friday to say goodbye to one of the city’s most famous natives.

As early as 6 a.m., residents began lining up outside the church to attend a funeral Mass for Rosemary Clooney. Maysville resident Debbie Roberts was the first in line to enter the church. Being there early allowed her to get a special perspective on the event, Roberts said. She watched the hearse arrive and the casket being taken into the church in addition to people readying the area for the funeral.

“It is quite a production to do this,” Roberts said. “It was neat to see all the little human things that go into this.”

Roberts said she came to pay tribute to a person who made living in Maysville more special. Clooney’s accomplishments were exciting for Maysville residents as much as they were for her, Roberts said.

“She made life more interesting,” Roberts said. “Everything she did, you felt like you got to be a part of it.”

During the three hours Roberts spent in line, she said she forged friendships with two other people, Dee Dee Denton of Cynthiana and Eileen Krauss of Pleasant Ridge, Ohio, who both arrived shortly after Roberts. The creation of a new friendship is fitting for Clooney’s funeral, Krauss said.

“Rosemary would have liked that,” Krauss said.

Former residents of Maysville also came back to pay tribute to Clooney. John Johnson of New York, who is a writer and used to work on shows like “Jeopardy!,” said he came to the funeral to make up for a missed opportunity as a child. When he was 5 years old and living in Maysville, Johnson said he wanted to see the parade for the premiere of Clooney’s movie, “The Stars are Singing,” but his parents said he was too young.

“I have never forgiven people for that,” Johnson said. “I felt like it was a missed opportunity.”

Johnson said he is a distant cousin of Clooney’s and has met her several times in New York. Clooney should be an inspiration to many, he said.

“Rosemary, she got out of Maysville and she broke a lot of ground,” Johnson said. “I think her music will live forever.”

Many of those in line said they have fond personal memories of Clooney. Clooney treated her fans well, said Lisa Pierce of Cincinnati. Pierce said she traveled to Augusta once to meet Clooney when she was in town for a performance. Pierce knocked on her door and, to her surprise, the singer welcomed her in with open arms, she said. They struck up a cordial conversation, Pierce said.

“She was very trusting,” Pierce said. “She sensed I was shy and she tried to make me feel welcomed.”

Many others in line were simply fans of music. Dr. William A. Dupree of Cincinnati, said few in jazz compare to Clooney.

“She was one of the foremost jazz artists ever,” Dupree said.

Dupree said he is also good friends with Nick Clooney and wanted to show his support.

Other music fans appreciated her character in addition to her music talent. Joe and Marge Schmidt drove from Lima, Ohio, Thursday night to pay their respects to an artist they said is a rarity in the entertainment business.

“It should be remembered that she was a wholesome person,” Joe Schmidt said. “She was a small town girl with loyalty to her family and she wasn’t afraid to say so to the press. We feel it would be good to have more like her.”

While many mourners entered the church for the service still others opted to stay outside and hold more of a community vigil. For some, it was a break from work. For others, they said they wanted to stay out to make room for family and friends. Marilyn Commodore of Maysville was one of those standing outside the church Friday morning. She said she came to show her appreciation for Clooney, but didn’t attend the Mass to allow church and family members more room.

“Maysville meant a lot to her, so we wanted to show her she meant a lot to us,” Commodore said.

Others said they showed up just to be a part of the funeral for someone who was an integral part of the community. Just being around the church was memorable, said Marilyn Johnson of Maysville. The fact that Clooney chose to be buried in her hometown says a great deal about her personality, she said.