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'He cared about people his whole life'
STROGER FUNERAL | Colleagues pay tribute to political trailblazer

Thursday, January 24, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

They knew the day would come.
A man John Stroger's age doesn't suffer such a massive stroke and then go on forever.

Funeral service for John Stroger, Jr., at Saint Felicitas Catholic Church in Chicago.
(John H. White/Sun-Times)

Hundreds gather for Stroger funeral

And yet, when the day came last Friday, and the 78-year-old's body finally gave out -- nearly two years after that stroke -- it still came as a shock, and it has left Stroger's family devastated.

"I don't think too many of us are prepared for death, even when we know it's going to come," said Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, son of the political trailblazer who was buried Wednesday. "You know, there comes a time when everybody is going to pass, but you still might not be prepared for it. He hadn't been well for a long time . . . it was just his time to go."

In his first public comments since his father's death, Todd Stroger said the family has been buoyed by the outpouring of support that has come from across the nation: the stories, laughs, reminiscences and even the thanks from those who got a helping hand from John Stroger -- the first African-American Cook County Board president -- whether that meant a job or access to free, quality health care at a county hospital.

"He cared about people his whole life, made sure people got what they needed, and made sure he used government as a tool to do that," his son said.

The public response to his father's death and support for his family has been welcome, given the public battering Todd Stroger has taken since being elected to replace his father in 2006.

"People like to talk about polls and public opinion," Stroger said, accepting yet another hug from another well-wisher he didn't know. "But it's things like this, people who understand, that's the thing no poll will ever show."
Stroger made the remarks as his family headed home at the end of a tiring day, which began at St. Felicitas Catholic Church. That's where a Who's Who of political dignitaries packed the pews by the hundreds -- as hundreds more lined the walls and stood outside -- to honor John Stroger, who rose up from abject poverty in Arkansas and built a political empire over four decades. He held the County Board president seat for 12 years.

'Great heart never failed the poor'

Mayor Daley's voice cracked as he talked of his friendship with the elder Stroger, while his brother John Daley, a county commissioner, recalled his wide smile and called on others to "pass that smile on to someone else in need."
U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin said while John Stroger's heart may have failed last week, "his great heart never failed the poor, the voiceless or the least of our brethren," while the Rev. Jesse Jackson brought the audience to its feet in imploring them to "express your thanks" for "an odds buster who made all of us better."

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