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Friends, fans at wake share remembrances of Dennis Farina

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Updated: August 31, 2013 6:36AM



The Hollywood glow of actor Dennis Farina faded to the background Monday as friends and others who attended his Northwest Side wake remembered a high school classmate who was smooth with the ladies, a Chicago cop who served his city with honor and a dad with a sense of humor.

The Rev. Dan McCarthy, Farina’s former Northwest Side parish priest at Our Lady of Victory, recalled with a laugh how Farina used police tactics to help win a father-son basketball game. Farina was up against his eldest son — also named Dennis — and his eighth-grade comrades. The dads were up a few points at halftime, but completely exhausted, McCarthy said.

“I look around and I count and there’s only four kids out on the floor. I look around for the star of the team, who was the one that was missing, and I see that Dennis had handcuffed him to the locker-room door. So, needless to say, we went on to win, because he stayed handcuffed for the whole second half,” said McCarthy, who played with the dads.

Farina, 69, who had lung cancer, died from a blood clot in his lung last week in Arizona. The wake was held at the Montclair-Lucania Funeral Home, 6901 W. Belmont Ave.

Teresa McDonough Duffy, who went to high school at St. Michael’s in Old Town with Farina, said he kept her in stitches, and, consequently, in hot water with the nuns.

“I would get in trouble every day at our daily mass because he’d be across the pews . . . just trying to make me laugh, which he did, and I would get in trouble with the nuns,” she said.

“And Dennis was a coffee drinker. He didn’t take girls out for fries and a coke, you met him for coffee, which I thought was just ahead of his time for being 17 years old.”

Farina, who served as a police officer in Chicago before his acting career took off, appeared in movies such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Get Shorty.” Contrary to his law enforcement background, he often portrayed seedy characters on the screen.

Film producer Steven A. Jones said Farina honed his skills on stage in Chicago.

“Dennis was playing a bad-guy character during a play called ‘Cops’ at the Organic Theater, and I remember he played it so well that several cops who were in the audience felt like they could just get up and waste him right there,” Jones said.

Dozens of active-duty and former police officers attended the wake.

“He was always a gentleman, a nice guy and a great cop,” said retired police officer Anthony Bongiorno, 73. Other retired officers who asked not to be named said Farina was a “what-you-see is-what-you-get” kind of guy who never let his fame go to his head.

The wake was closed to the media, but open to fans like Miriam Bubniak, 54, who traveled from Itasca to pay her respects. “He was just such a cool character,” Bubniak said. “I loved him as the host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries.’

Actor William Petersen attended the wake. John Mahoney of “Frasier” fame also was there.

Farina’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Assumption Catholic Church, 323 W. Illinois St.



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