By: Mark Fitzgerald
Chicago said goodbye to Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet with a memorial service Wednesday morning that combined traditional Jewish ritual with emotional eulogies from family, friends, colleagues and city officials.
“Chicago has been home to many great writers … and journalists, but only one of them was called ‘Mr. Chicago,'” Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said during the service at Temple Sholom, where the columnist known universally as “Kup” was a member.
The casket containing Kupcinet, who died Monday at age 91, was wheeled into the service to the tune of “Chicago” played on a piano.
“So what are we going to tell young journalists who come to the Sun-Times about Kup?” John Cruickshank, the paper’s vice president of editorial, said during the service. “Well, we’ll tell them we once had a man here who was larger than life, who was taller than the rest of us, had wider shoulders and a firmer grip.”
Kupcinet’s grandson, David Kupcinet, reminisced about the regular Tuesday night dinners when the two would compare their columns: Kup’s, which ran Tuesdays and Thursday s in the Sun-Times, and David’s which runs Tuesdays in the Sun-Times youth paper Red Streak. “I’d say, ‘Wow, how did you get this item on the president?’ And he’d say, ‘How did you spell the wrong?’ I wasn’t quite in his league,” David Kupcinet said with a laugh.
Long-time assistant Stella Foster, who recently had been writing most of the column as Kupcinet’s health faltered, was especially emotional in her remarks at the service. “He used his pen for good. He was never vicious — when he could have been,” she said in a hoarse and often wavering voice. “That guy, he was really something. He was like a gentle giant with a pen.”
The memorial service was carried live by local ABC, CBS and NBC owned-and-operated television stations, as well as by Tribune Co.’s local all-news cable channel CLTV.