Chicago cop’s funeral during coronavirus pandemic: masks, no mayor, officers in cars

Officer Marco DiFranco, a 50-year-old undercover narcotics officer, died of complications related to COVID-19.

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No one who’s been to a funeral for a fallen Chicago police officer can forget the heart-wrenching sight of hundreds of officers standing at attention in their dress uniforms and saluting as the hearse pulls up to the church.

Or the throngs of people —from the mayor to neighborhood folks— paying their respects at the service.

But those things didn’t happen Thursday at Officer Marco DiFranco’s funeral.

DiFranco, 50, was an undercover narcotics officer with a wife and two kids, ages 7 and 10. On April 2, he died of complications from the COVID-19 virus, the first such death in the Chicago Police Department. He had a pre-existing condition, cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs, but kept working until he got sick from the coronavirus.

DiFranco, a first generation Italian American whose brother is also on the police force, died in the line of duty, officials determined. That entitled his family to benefits and a funeral with honors.

But because of the pandemic, DiFranco’s funeral was far different than all the other ones for officers who’ve died in the line of duty.

Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco.

Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco.

Chicago Police Department

The family held a private service at a funeral home in Norridge, then led a procession of police cars to All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines. DiFranco’s family stayed in vehicles parked at the entrance to the cemetery. Officers drove past the family in their cars and activated their sirens.

But the only police officials allowed at the cemetery were interim police Supt. Charlie Beck and his executive staff. Only 10 members of DiFranco’s family were at the cemetery, officials say.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasn’t at the funeral home or cemetery, a spokesman said.

“Since last week, she has been in close communication with the DiFranco family, whose lives have been forever changed by this terrible loss,” said Lightfoot spokesman Patrick Mullane.

Rank-and-file officers in the procession wereordered to stay in their cars and not get out. One officer estimated there were at least 1,000 cars in the cortege,possibly because most cars had only one officer inside.

“A lot of the people in the neighborhood were holding American flags when we went by,” said one officer sitting in a car outside the cemetery. “The guys at the Des Plaines Fire Department were saluting.”

Tom Ahern, a spokesman for the police department, said, “We made this as close to a formal wake and burial as we could while still keeping the social distancing in place. It was still very respectful. There were hundreds of officers from all across the state. It was a real tribute. We did the best we could.”

One officer said he understood why officers weren’t allowed to stand outside the funeral home or at the cemetery, but it felt strange.

“At the past funerals, everybody cries when they give the wife the flag —and you listen to the homily on the speakers outside —but here we are parked a mile away,” he said. “We couldn’t see anything or hear anything.”

Beck said, “The sadness is compounded by our inability to give him the sendoff that is typical for a Chicago police officer whose life is taken in the line of duty.”

An ABC7 Chicago pool camera was allowed in the cemetery, but no reporters were, Ahern said.

The camera captured the aching strains of “Amazing Grace” being played on the bagpipesoutside a mausoleum. The red-white-and-blue Chicago flag that was draped over DiFranco’s casket was presented to his family by members of a police honor guard. They all wore protective masks.

The interim superintendent and his staff stayed in their vehicles during the solemn ceremony.

And then, according to one officer there, a few snowflakes fell.

Close friends of Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco, who had to stand outside during the funeral amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, hug each other as the hearse leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward the cemetery, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Close friends of Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco, who had to stand outside during the funeral amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, hug each other as the hearse leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward the cemetery, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A Chicago Police Department sergeant wears a face mask and gets emotional while standing on West Lawrence Avenue, as only family members were permitted inside Cumberland Funeral Chapels for Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco’s funeral, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

A Chicago Police Department sergeant wears a face mask and gets emotional while standing on West Lawrence Avenue, as only family members were permitted inside Cumberland Funeral Chapels for Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco’s funeral, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Led by a procession of hundreds of law enforcement vehicles, the hearse carrying Chicago Police Officer Officer Marco DiFranco leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward All Saints Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Led by a procession of hundreds of law enforcement vehicles, the hearse carrying Chicago Police Officer Officer Marco DiFranco leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward All Saints Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A man salutes as the hearse carrying Chicago Police Officer Officer Marco DiFranco leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward All Saints Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

A man salutes as the hearse carrying Chicago Police Officer Officer Marco DiFranco leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels and heads toward All Saints Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco’s hearse enters All Saints Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines on Thursday.

Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco’s hearse enters All Saints Cemetery & Mausoleum in Des Plaines on Thursday.

Chicago Police Department

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