"Those who knew her best give Clooney a Kentucky send-off"

By Heather Svokos And Rich Copley, HERALD-LEADER, July 6, 2002

MAYSVILLE - As he has so many times, Nick Clooney stepped in front of a large audience to speak yesterday morning.

But unlike those other times, his mellifluous voice occasionally broke under the high vaulted ceilings of St. Patrick's Church, and his eyes sparkled only once or twice.

"I'm going to do something that up until a week ago I had never done before," Clooney told the 800 people in the church. "I'm going to speak for my sister."

The congregation responded with knowing laughter.

Rosemary Clooney, the "girl singer" who put Maysville on the map, was buried yesterday near her mother and grandmother, in the same town where she grew up. She died June 29 in Los Angeles. She was 74.

Before her burial, she was remembered in the same church where she was baptized, took her first communion and married her devoted husband, Dante DiPaolo. During the funeral Mass yesterday, DiPaolo frequently dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.

Nick Clooney said his sister wanted to thank the town that continued to support her when "the imperative of her talent took her away from you."

Opening his three-minute remarks, Clooney said, "There is not a person in here who isn't saying, in a secret corner of his or her heart, 'I knew her best.' And they are all absolutely right.

"Rosemary's gift was to connect with anyone from Maysville to Singapore, and all points in between."

She connected with people in the river towns of Maysville and Augusta particularly well, judging by the sense of loss in the communities and support for the Clooney family.

Rosemary Clooney was memorialized on Wednesday in Los Angeles by stars she shone with in Hollywood, but yesterday's funeral and subsequent celebration were for family, friends and the hometown.

"It's a very somber day for us," said Maysville Mayor David Cartmell, whose grandmother was mayor when Clooney returned in 1953 for the premiere of her first movie, The Stars Are Singing. "It's the end of an era, the end of our legacy. She was kind of a little touchstone: the little girl from a small town who worked hard and made it big."

The congregation included the latest girl from Maysville to make it big, Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry, and her husband, Lt. Gov. Steve Henry.

Henry recalled that two days after she won Miss America, Clooney called her.

"She said whenever I needed her, she'd be there, and she was," said Henry, who always considered Clooney a mentor.

Other notables in attendance were Clooney's nephew, actor George Clooney; her children, including actor Miguel Ferrer; actors Al Pacino and Beverly D'Angelo; and Kathryn Crosby, wife of the late Bing Crosby, who starred with Clooney in White Christmas.

"White Christmas was the first movie I watched on a color TV," said Billie Jo Adkins, 52, a Covington resident who stood outside the church with a few friends during the service.

Celebrity watchers at the funeral were at a minimum.

When one misguided autograph seeker asked George Clooney for his signature at the reception that followed the funeral and graveside service, the actor told her that "now is so not the time."

Nick Clooney did, however, think it was the time to celebrate his sister's life and career. The reception in Augusta, where he lives and Rosemary had maintained a residence, included a band.

While saying she wasn't aiming to perform Rosemary Clooney songs, Cincinnati-based singer Mary Ellen Tanner said, "It's hard to think of a standard she didn't record."

Tanner, who said Clooney was a friend and mentor, admitted it was tough singing at the reception. But Ferrer, currently starring in the NBC series Crossing Jordan, said it was what his mother wanted.

"My mother would have wanted us to have a great ... party," Ferrer said. "And that's the plan."

But even as Tanner and the three-person combo at the reception played It Had to Be You, the sadness of the occasion was not lost on anyone.

Earlier, at the funeral, as Nick Clooney closed his eulogy, he said it was time to say the words everyone had come to St. Patrick's to say.

He took a moment, gazed at her bronze casket and said, "Goodbye, Rosemary."