Denfeld News

January 6, 2012
Duluth News Tribune

Huge crowd expected at Colalillo funeral
By John Lundy

As many as 1,000 people are expected for the funeral of World War II hero Mike Colalillo.

The funeral Mass for Colalillo, who had been the last living recipient of the Medal of Honor in Minnesota, will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church, 721 N. 57th Ave. Burial will follow at Forest Hill Cemetery with full military honors.

Colalillo, 86, died Dec. 30 at Ecumen Bayshore Care Center.

Jason Skiftun, funeral director for Dougherty Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements, said family members are preparing for as many as 1,000 people.

The sanctuary at St. James holds 400 people, a church official said. Skiftun said there will be a video feed to the adjacent gymnasium and social hall, which holds 300 people.

But the size of the church isn’t a concern, Skiftun said.

“That was his church, and that’s where it’s going to be,” Skiftun said. “This is the family’s choice. … So we’re making accommodations so we can get in as many people as we can.”

Duluth City Councilor Dan Hartman, who also is program curator for Veterans Memorial Hall in the Depot, said he was concerned about the amount of room in the church. But “Mr. Colalillo lived the vast majority of his life in West Duluth. He is a West Duluthian through and through. It does make sense in that respect.”

The funeral home on Thursday released details of the funeral procession’s planned route. It is expected to leave the church at 12:15 p.m. and proceed down Elinor Street and turn right on Central Avenue. The procession will turn left on Bristol Street, make its way to Mike Colalillo Drive and then to 40th Avenue West. It will then enter Interstate 35 and proceed to 21st Avenue East, then on to Woodland Avenue, following it to Forest Hill Cemetery.

Skiftun said the funeral home has been told to expect three military dignitaries for the funeral, but he doesn’t know who they’ll be. He hadn’t received word of any other dignitaries who might be attending.

Rumors circulated earlier this week that Vice President Joe Biden might come. But Amy Dudley, the vice president’s deputy press secretary, said in an e-mail that Biden has no plans to travel to Minnesota this week.

An assistant in former Vice President Walter Mondale’s law office said Mondale would not be able to attend. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also will not be in attendance, his press secretary said.

Representatives for Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-North Branch, did not respond to queries.

Visitation for Colalillo will be from 3-7 p.m. today at Dougherty Funeral Home, 600 E. Second St., and continue beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church.

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