Pat Summerall’s amazing life


I heard Ray Tucker yesterday on 103.7 the buzz talking about Pat Summerall’s funeral in Texas that includes a “who’s who list” of Dallas Cowboy greats.  I got to hear him speak twice and he always had some great stories to tell. Ray also told about Summerall’s close relationship to Mickey Mantle and how they played golf together often.  John Madden gave the eulogy.

John Madden can’t hold back tears while eulogizing Pat Summerall; ex-Cowboys offer tributes

PLANO — John Madden’s emotional tribute runs long.

There is so much to say about Pat Summerall. How can anyone expect Madden to pack 82 years of his dear friend’s life into a few, concise moments?

The irony is not lost on the more talkative member of this iconic broadcast team.

“I know Pat is up there saying, ‘John, brevity, brevity, brevity,’” Madden says from the sanctuary of Prestonwood Baptist Church.

He pauses and glances skyward.

“One more time, Pat, I’m going to talk over you.”

A broadcaster known for an economy of words was celebrated for his generosity of spirit Saturday morning.

Pat Summerall is a broadcast legend. His work graced the NFL, the PGA, professional tennis and other sports in a network career that spanned 40 years.

But Summerall was more than one of the most recognizable voices of his generation. He was a husband and best friend to his wife, Cheri. He was a father to Susan, Jay and Kyle and a grandfather to their 10 children. He overcame a long battle with alcohol and became a devout Christian who flew to the Holy Land to be baptized in the River Jordan.


Grateful liver recipient


Melva and Garland Shelby were among the 1,684 people at Saturday’s memorial service. Nine years ago, their son Adron was in third period when a brain aneurysm no one knew about ruptured, and he died.

The 13-year-old was an organ and tissue donor. His liver went to Summerall.

Adron Shelby gave the gift of life to five people in April 2004. Pat and Cheri Summerall were the only recipients to contact the boy’s parents. The two families became close.

Melva Shelby feels like a part of her son has passed away again with Summerall’s death.

“Right now, our heart and our prayers are with Cheri and the Summerall family,” Melva said as Garland stood by her side. “Nine years ago, we were in the place they are now. We are praying for them, feeling what they are going through.

“Pat was always very humble when we were around him. He always thought he wasn’t worthy to receive our son’s liver. I would tell him, none of us are worthy. It’s the Lord who makes us all worthy. I would tell him not the feel that way.

“He did great work in the nine years he had the liver.”


‘Voice of the NFL’


Summerall worked 16 Super Bowls. He broadcast the U.S. Open in tennis 20 times and was part of the Masters broadcast team for 27 years. But it was his 22-year partnership with Madden that resonates with so many.

When Madden began his remembrance at Saturday’s service, he joked that he needed Summerall to straighten his tie and button his top button. He called the broadcaster a “card-carrying great guy” who treated runners and interns with the same amount of respect and dignity as studio heads and sponsors.

Madden calls Summerall “the toughest, quietest guy I’ve ever known,” a cross between John Wayne and Walter Cronkite. Madden’s voice cracked several times, and he began to cry when he told his friend he loved him.

“There were voices before Pat Summerall, and there will be voices after,” Madden said. “But he is the voice of the NFL.”

Katharine Wiles Luebker, one of 10 grandchildren, spoke of the man they called “Big Pat” and his love of body surfing and all things chocolate.

Kyle Summerall, Pat’s younger son, spoke of how his father defeated his addiction to alcohol after going to the Betty Ford Clinic in the early ’90s.

“He never looked back,” Kyle said. “That’s a testament to his toughness and determination, but most of all the faith he found and the amazing grace which carried him through he rest of his days.”

Jay Summerall spoke of his father becoming an ambassador for the clinic, his charitable causes and his walk in faith.

Pat Summerall began to read the Bible for the first time while he was in the Betty Ford Clinic. His faith took root, flourished and defined the final chapter of his life.

“You know, it’s not how you start in life. It’s how you finish that matters the most,” Dr. Jack Graham, the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist said. “And Pat finished well.”


‘A wonderful man’


The tributes weren’t restricted to those who spoke during the service. Cowboys stars past and present came to honor Summerall and celebrate his life.

“He was a wonderful man,” Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said. “There are so many great things about him.

“Probably his greatest achievement was his sobriety and the number of people he helped through the Betty Ford Clinic. He was a great advocate of that center. That’s something he really got behind.

“To come out and remain sober as long as he did was impactful, certainly for me and all of those he helped.”

Roger Staubach, another Cowboy in the Hall of Fame, said Summerall “was always giving, always doing something” for the community. Tight end Jason Witten was struck by his friend’s humility and how he interacted with people on an every-day basis.

“We lost somebody pretty special,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

“Pat was cherished by the Dallas Cowboys. We certainly know what he meant to the NFL, but he meant a lot to the Cowboys.”

Pat Summerall meant a lot to so many before his death on Tuesday. That doesn’t mean his distinctive voice is quiet.

Ask Melva Shelby.

“My son and Pat are probably in heaven right now, in the presence of the Lord, talking football.”


Follow David Moore on Twitter at @ DavidMooreDMN.

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