PEORIA, Ill. – Jerry Girardi was memorialized Monday as a dedicated laborer who built the ranch-style Illinois home where he raised five highly successful children — two doctors, a math professor, an accountant and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
The Yankees manager, who attended the funeral service during an off day in the American League Championship Series, sat quietly alongside his family. None of the Girardis spoke, and they left the church quickly to attend the burial in Tampico, the tiny north-central Illinois town known as the birthplace of Ronald Reagan.
Father Larry Zurek told the roughly 100 mourners at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Peoria that Jerry Girardi's contribution went far beyond his occupations as a bricklayer, restaurant owner and salesman. Foremost, he cherished family, Zurek said.
"Jerry built walls, but he built so much more," the priest said.
Jerry Giradi died Oct. 6 at a residential treatment center in nearby Metamora, Ill., at age 81. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for years.
The funeral came the day after Joe Girardi was ejected for arguing a controversial call during a loss to the Detroit Tigers that left the Yankees down 2-0 in the series. But, a lot like the images baseball fans are accustomed to seeing from the Yankee dugout, Girardi showed little emotion Monday. A few times, he dabbed at tears with a handkerchief.
Joe Girardi, whose mother, Angela, died in 1984, managed his team through much of last week without telling players or the public that his father had died. He told The Associated Press last week that he found out while riding a team bus.
"The one thing that both of them, besides many other things that they taught me, was always to finish the job at hand," Girardi said. "So my thought process was my dad would want me to do everything that we could do to go win a World Series. He had been a part of them with me as a player. 2009 — I don't think he understood what we did at that time. He was at a stage in Alzheimer's that he wasn't talking, so I don't think he understood."
In a statement, the family thanked the community and others for their support.
"Our father would have been touched by all the kindness shown to our family as we mourn his passing. As saddened as we are with his loss, we take solace in knowing that he lives on through the principles he passed down to us and in the many wonderful memories we have of him."
Lee Hall grew up with Joe Girardi and his brother John, and was co-captain of the team one year with Joe.
Hall, now a local TV sportscaster, said after the service that Jerry Girardi was typical of the hard-working, blue-collar Peoria-area people that both Hall and the Girardi children were raised by. Thousands of people in the area work at Caterpillar Inc., the heavy machinery manufacturer based nearby.
Hall played high school baseball with Girardi and his brother John, he said, was a team co-captain with Joe Girardi one season.
"I think it was the kids' parents — Mr. and Mrs. Girardi did an incredible job with them, you know?" Hall said. "They were kind of like my parents: working class parents who wanted better for their kids."
Joe Girardi has talked frequently about his father taking him to Cubs games, and about how Jerry Girardi showed off his son's World Series ring — won as the Yankees catcher in 1996 — around town after his son gave it to him.
The manager frequently spoke about his father's long struggle with Alzheimer's, progressing from occasional forgetfulness and disorientation as far back as the mid-1990s to the point where he was never sure his father knew or understood him when he called or visited.
On Monday, as the service ended, Jerry Giardi's casket was draped with an American flag, a reminder that he was also an Air Force veteran who served during the Korean war.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said outside the church that he played high school football with John Girardi, and recalled Jerry Girardi frequently standing on the sidelines at practices to watch his son.
"Jerry and his wife brought the kids up right," Ardis said.
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