Thursday June 21 07:39 AM EDT
"A funeral Weigel would have loved"
A funeral Weigel would have loved
By Shamus Toomey Daily Herald Staff Writer
His friends and family filed into an Evanston church Wednesday evening, proudly wearing loud neckties only Tim Weigel could love. And he must have loved them. They all came from his closet.
The screaming reds, outlandish oranges and garish greens -- some all in the same tie -- paid tribute to the irreverence of the late sportscaster, who friends insisted stood out in a crowd not because of his trademark, Crayola-like wardrobe but because of his ability to connect with people.
"He was the kind of TV personality who popped through the screen and grabbed you," said WFLD-TV sportscaster Corey McPherrin as he entered the upbeat memorial service remembering Wiegel, who died Sunday after a yearlong battle with a brain tumor.
"You might not always laugh as hard as he laughed at his jokes or his antics, but he was able to make you listen, make you watch, make you remember.
People like to watch people who are having a good time doing what they're doing."
Weigel, 56, spent 30 years covering Chicago sports through newspaper columns and sports reports at the top three network outlets, most recently at WBBM-Channel 2.
His popularity among colleagues, viewers and even the people he covered was clear Wednesday by seeing those who turned out to say goodbye.
There was Bears head coach Dick Jauron and former news anchor Carol Marin. There were grizzled newspaper reporters and an entire charter bus full of Channel 2 on-air personalities and staffers. There were prominent Evanston businessmen proud to call Weigel their close friend. And there were his fans.
Several hundred people who couldn't fit into the church sat quietly in an adjacent park, where loudspeakers piped in the service. Some sat on the curb, others brought lawn chairs or filled park benches.
"We loved him as a person," said Debbie Berta of Chicago, who came an hour early to sit on the curb and listen with her boyfriend John Chalabi.
Neither had ever met Weigel, but for years they followed him around the TV dial because they loved the flair and the fun he brought to the nightly news, they said.
"It was his laughter and his great humor about life," Berta said.
A host of speakers at the service told the crowd it wasn't a gimmick. Weigel approached life the same way he approached his broadcasts, with seriousness but with humor, they said.
"If you had time for Tim, then by God he had time for you," said his friend Jim Bodman. "There wasn't a phony bone in his body."
Weigel's eldest child, son Rafer, told the crowd he resented the people who interrupted his time with his father when he was young, but he later learned as an adult it showed how much people loved him.
"Not many people after losing a loved one to a terrible disease can turn on the television and watch five hours of content filled with reverence, regard, adoration and adulation for the person they are mourning," he said.
Friend David Najarian told a story of how he once persuaded Weigel to donate a short tour of a television studio to the highest bidder at a charity event. Najarian stressed it could be as simple as saying hello, breezing through the studio and then saying goodbye.
"Turns out Tim had picked (the winner) up at his house at 11:30, taken him to lunch, then back to the station," Najarian said as the church roared with laughter. "He sat in the makeup room with him, and behind the cameras for the early shows. (That was) before they had dinner. Tim had spent all day with this man he had just met."
His connection with his fans -- and with friends and family -- helped explain why his relatives wanted to dig Wednesday into a wardrobe that many people have ridiculed. In fact, even the police officers atop motorcycles in the procession leading to the church sported colorful Wiegel ties.
"He would have loved it," said his younger sister, Deni Eads of Warrenville. "It makes me feel that he was so loved. We should all be that blessed."
Funeral: Friends recall genuine personality
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