The late Bernie Mac’s public memorial service was held today at Chicago’s House of Hope church on Chicago’s South Side. Bernie died from complications of pneumonia at only 50 years old.
Many celebrities joined the public, and eulogized Bernie with emotional speeches. Chris Rock, Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Samuel L. Jackson, Mac’s costar in the upcoming flick Soul Men were among them. Eonline reports that Mac’s fellow Original Kings of Comedy : Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey and DL Hughley sat beside each other, breaking down in tears during the service. When they took the stage, however, they mixed their tears with laughter as they remembered Bernie.
Isaac Hayes, who died one day after Bernie at the age of 65 was also honored. A montage of photos and sound clips from Mac’s life and career were set to some of Isaac’s best-known songs.
Many fans arrived by chartered buses and waited hours in line for a spot in the 10,000 seat church; some even camped out overnight. Samuel L. Jackson, co-stars with Bernie and Isaac in “Soul Men,” spoke, saying he knew Mac “was having some health issues, but he always said to me every morning that he was always good.” Isaac Hayes, who died Sunday, also stars in the movie, and Hayes’ music was played during the service.
Jackson said that Bernie didn’t mind the loss of privacy that came with his fame.
“He never turned that kid down for an autograph. He always had time to shake a hand. He was always that kid from Chicago who wanted to make everybody happy and everybody laugh.
The service included the reading of condolence letters from children; from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, an Illinois senator; and from Mac’s beloved White Sox baseball team. Mac’s comedy routines were played on large video screens with off-color words bleeped out.
Outside, traffic was tied up for blocks, vendors sold memorial T-shirts for $10, and Chicago waiter Timothy Strickland manned a makeshift shrine featuring photos, including Mac’s 1971 eighth-grade basketball team picture. A sign read: “Thank you, Bernie, for showing that good people do come from Englewood.”
Mac grew up on the South Side in the Woodlawn and Englewood neighborhoods.
“This shows support … from the whole Chicago area and how much he will be missed,” said Pamela Gordon of Chicago, one of hundreds of people who lined up hours before the memorial started. “He was a good man, a beautiful husband and he was real,” she added. “And he was handsome, honey.” Vera Gordon said she came to pay tribute to the comedian who made her mother, who suffers from dementia, laugh. “She watched the `Bernie Mac Show’ every night,” Vera Gordon said of her mother, Margaret Berston, 79. “She would just sit there and laugh. You could see the sadness when I told her. I came here to represent my mother.”
Inside the church, Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daly, addressed the huge crowd, praising Mac as a man devoted to making Chicago a safer place.
“He wanted to do something personally to get children away from the life of violence. He had a heart and passion… That’s why as the king of comedy, he never lost his soul in Chicago.
The family requests that donations be made at www.berniemacfoundation.org, which aims at finding a cure for sarcoidosis.
Rest In Peace, Bernie Mac.