Thousands pay respects to Bernie Mac

August 16, 2008 8:54:43 PM PDT
Celebrities joined with politicians, family and fans for a public memorial service for actor and comedian Bernie Mac Saturday.The South Side native died last Saturday of complications from pneumonia at the age of 50.

Bernie Mac grew up poor and worked his way up the ladder, first to being a Chicago favorite, and then one of the 'Original Kings of Comedy.'

Saturday, Mac, who was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, was remembered for the joy he brought to other people's lives.

Memorial service attendees remembered the actor and comedian as a man who was dedicated to his family, his craft and to doing the right thing. They also said Mac had a talent for taking the sometimes harsh realities of life and using them to make us laugh.

Busloads of fans and admirers flocked to the afternoon memorial service to pay tribute to the late comedian whose charm touched his hometown and Hollywood.

"I knew he was one of the best comedians. I love Bernie," said fan Satire Henderson-Smith.

"This is just a going home service. God loved him best, more than we did," said comedian Bruce Bruce.

Comedian Bruce Bruce and professional basketball player and fellow CVS high school graduate Juwan Howard were among the many celebrities, like Don Cheadle, Chris Rock, and Samuel L. Jackson, who attended the remembrance of Bernie Mac.

"He's more than just a comedian. He brought a lot of laughter, but more importantly, he was a great man, and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to meet him and call him a friend," said Howard.

"Today is the hardest day of my life, to sing for a friend, a neighbor and a buddy," friend Kim Stratton told ABC7 Chicago.

Saturday, it wasn't jokes and laughter, but song and words of love used to honor the 50-year-old actor.

"He knew the streets. He made us enjoy life," Mayor Daley said.

Mac was raised by a single mother who died of cancer when he was 16 years old. He earned fame the hard way but never forgot his humble beginnings.

"Him and my dad were friends. They worked at Wonder Bread together, and my dad others used to tell me stories about Bernie working the comedy clubs at night and trying to get to work on time. They were some good stories, good memories," said Chicago radio personality Ramonski Luv.

In addition to being one of the Original Kings of Comedy, Bernie Mac also had starring roles in films like Charlie's Angels, Full Throttle and Ocean's Eleven and its sequels. However, he may be known best as the reluctant father figure on his own sitcom, The Bernie Mac Show.

Even with all the accolades, those at the memorial Saturday said they would best remember the 'Mac Man' in what they called his greatest role, friend and teacher.

" He should be remembered as a good all-around human being, a good person. He never forgot where he came from, and that's good. I love him," said fan Steven Downing.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson, who will share the big screen with Bernie Mac in the upcoming movie Soul Men, was scheduled to speak at the service, as well. The movie also stars singer Isaac Hayes, who died Sunday.

The memorial service also included readings of condolence letters from children, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, and Bernie Mac's beloved Chicago White Sox baseball team.

Bernie Mac's family has requested that memorial donations go to the Bernie Mac Foundation for research and education on the inflammatory lung disease sarcoidosis. Mac, who had the disease, started the foundation in 2007. For more information please visit www.berniemacfoundation.org.


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