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Musial remembered as man of faith by friends, family in Donora service

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Louis 'Bimbo' Cecconi and Steve Russell, right, pose for photos after a funeral mass for Stan Musial on Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Churchin Musial's hometown of Donora. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Steve Russell delivers the eulogy at the funeral mass for Stan Musial on Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Musial's hometown of Donora. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Stan Musial might have been best known for his accomplished Major League Baseball career and numerous records, but friends and family who spoke at a memorial Mass on Saturday in Musial's native Donora remembered another side of “The Man.”

“His faith was deep. His love of church was deep,” said Steve Russell, the recently retired superintendent of Belle Vernon Area School District whose father, Jimmy Russell, played Major League Baseball and was a friend of Musial's. “He chose good work over celebrity,” Russell said.

Musial died Jan. 19 at his home in suburban St. Louis at age 92.

Over a 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, he established himself as one of the best hitters of all time. He had 3,630 hits and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

While he spent most of his life in the Midwest, Musial never forgot his hometown, often returning to pay dues to the local American Legion post and keep the Donora Smog Museum and Historical Society stocked with memorabilia.

“All the people I've talked to told me the same thing: (He was) an awesome person, an awesome example of how to live,” said the Rev. Pierre Falkenhan, who presided over the service at Our Lady of the Valley Church. “Ultimately, as we continue our celebration (of his life), let us share in the faith that Stan had.”

Many of Musial's family members attended, including brother Edward Musial, nephew Ron Wagner and niece Laurel Grimes.

Wagner, wearing a red “6” on his lapel as a tribute to Musial's baseball number, recounted his uncle's warm personality.

Grimes recalled her godfather's easygoing disposition. Her memories include him making “rings” out of dollar bills — on which he positioned his signature in place of a gem — for the kids in the family.

The service, planned by Donora mayor John Lignelli, replicated the memorial Mass for Musial that was celebrated in St. Louis.

Lignelli remembered Musial fondly and reassured that Donora's native son will be remembered as “one of the greatest individuals of all time, one of the greatest athletes of all time.”

Miranda Startare is a freelance writer.

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