Essex County News

Life of Yogi Berra Remembered in Private Ceremony

Former NY Mayor Rudy Guliani and Rev. Michael Spivey attending Yogi Berra's funeral. Credits: Michael Spivey
Berra Family arrives for Yogi Berra's funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Retired Yankee Reggie Jackson (Mr. October) attending Yogi Berra's funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Yogi Berra at his 90th birthday celebration in May 2015. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Comedian Joe Piscopo attending Yogi Berra's funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Yogi Berra Funeral Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Berra family attending Yogi Berra's funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Yogi Berra fan walking outside of funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Motorcade escorting Yogi Berra funeral procession. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
Frank L. and Ruth Perretti at the funeral. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The life of Yogi Berra, was remembered in a private ceremony held at Immaculate Conception Church in Montclair on Tuesday. 

"He was always so good, so honest, so human and so real..." Joe Torre said in his remarks. 

Born Lawrence Peter Berra, in 1925 to Italian immigrants, 'Yogi' came of age in 'The Hill' section of St. Louis, during the Great Depression. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade to help support his family, he later joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and served as a machine gunner on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

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Yogi is known as one of baseball’s greatest catchers and clutch hitters. Throughout his 40-year career, he was a 15-time All-Star, winner of 10 World Championships (the most in baseball history), and a three-time Most Valuable Player award winner (1951, 1954 and 1955.) In 1972, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.  

Although his service to baseball was a notable achievement, Yogi was equally proud of his service to the United States during WWII. 

Dozens of Naval officers lined the streets on Tuesday to honor Yogi's life and service to the nation. They stood along South Fullerton Avenue outside of Immaculate Conception Church, as the family and guests arrived, until the ceremony concluded.

In 1949, Yogi married his wife Carmen, of 65 years, and together they raised three boys: Dale, Larry and Tim, who in turn produced eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

For over 40 years, the Berra family chose Montclair as their home. Yogi was known as a kind, generous and approachable member of the community.

After the news of his passing at the age of 90 on Sept. 22, scores of fans and loved ones demonstrated their outpouring of support for the Berra family with tributes on social media, flowers and cards.

Yogi Berra Funeral Service - Video
The funeral service for Yankees legend Yogi Berra. Courtesy of YES Network/Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.

On Tuesday, across the street from the church, dozens of spectators respectfully gathered to remember the legend that touched so many lives.

Yogi's son Dale opened the ceremony with some humorous points that mirrored his dad's fun-loving spirit. His humorous anecdotes about his dad transtitioned into a loving tribute. Dale then said that God called his father home to join his team in Heaven. He paraphrased what he though God might have said about his dad, "I need this guy to join my team, he can certainly help me in a clutch situation." 

Dale moved from quips and subtle jokes about his dad's legacy to reverence of all his dad had done in this lifetime. He closed adding that Yogi's passing was also two days before the birthday of Yogi's wife Carmen.

"My dad was called up two days before my mom's birthday," Dale explained saying that to him, this symbolized they are together again in heaven.

It was Yogi's spirit and integrity that elevated him from baseball legend to beloved national icon.

Notable figures, such as: Former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani, Comedian Joe Piscopo and Baseball Legend Reggie Jackson were in attendance at the ceremony.

TAP into Montclair caught up with Jackson who said, "Yogi Berra was an icon when I was a baby boy."

Jackson recalled meeting Yogi for the first time and said that he was "honored to have known and worked with him."

"He just came into my life," he said.

"When I got to meet him when he was a coach for the Yankees, we [also] played against him," he said. 

He then recalled working with Yogi and being proud to be part of the Yankees family.

"When I became a Yankee," Jackson said naming Yogi among great Yankees, such as: "Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and DiMaggio was a wonderful experience. It really really was. ... something I'll never forget. I'm proud to be part of that family."

Ruth Perretti, owner Ruthie's in Montclair and the former senior vice president of Polo Ralph Lauren, was a longtime Berra family friend, having grown up near the original Berra family home on Stonebridge Road in Montclair.

She shared fond memories of meeting Yogi and described how kind he always was to her.

"Yogi and Carmen were very close friends with my family," Perretti said. "When I was a little girl, I remember riding my bike to their home and you could knock on the door and they would give you a bottle of Yoo Hoo." 

She also said that when her parents had parties, the Berras would attend.

"He was very charming, kind and gentle--just how you would imagine him to be," she said.

Perretti assed that she wanted to attend the funeral to pay her respects to "a man who gave so much kindness to her family and to others."

"It was his warmth and genuineness that I would want people to remember," she said. "He was approachable and just a regular guy."

She also recalled her fond childhood memories of Yogi.

"He brought me to baseball games," she said.

She added that Yogi had taken her to work with him a few times and that she was overjoyed at the oppotunity.

"I had an opportunity to sit behind the dugout and go into the manager's office and he would ask me my opinion about what I thought about baseball. ...I was a little girl who didn't know much about baseball, but he was being kind and he wanted me to feel comfortable."

She also said she will always remember Yogi with "fondness and for the kindness he showed to her and others."

Father Tim Dolan and longtime pal and former Yankees Manager Torre spoke of Yogi's life full of "unwavering integrity and humility." Dolan also compared Yogi to Pope Francis, saying they "both came from the same town in Italy." He also named what he observed to be several similarities between the two--including wisdom. 

Dolan said, "Where we're from and what we do is hardly as important ...we are God's children."

Dolan closed by saying the eternal life that Yogi worked toward is never ending.

"That life ain't ever over," he said.

A public memorial will be held at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.

You can watch the video of the Yogi Berra Funeral Service HERE

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