Sneed: Remembering Chicago Ald. Bernard Stone
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A Stone’s throw . . .
First of all, let’s get one thing straight.
The late Ald. Bernard Stone, who died Monday following a fall and a bout with double pneumonia, spelled his nickname “Berny,” according to his best friend’s daughter, Mary Ann Roti-Walz.
It’s not Bernie or Berney, thank you very much.
“If you really know me, you know how to spell my name correctly,” Stone told me when he exited City Council after 38 years in elective office in 2011.
Stone, who was a power player during the council’s legendary Council Wars, also was very particular about the man he considered his best friend: the late, legendary 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti, who died in 1999.
The duo were a City Council roadshow. A sitcom. Berny and Freddie. Bud and Lou. Dean and Jerry. Oscar and Felix.
The two were inseparable — the City Council’s odd couple. They had breakfast together; they had lunch together; they vacationed together with their wives. And for the most part, they voted together in the City Council.
“It was an extraordinary friendship; so close, which seemed odd given their religious differences,” said Roti’s daughter, Mary Ann.
Berny was Jewish; Freddie was an Italian Catholic — and both teased each other’s ancestry mercilessly.
Years ago, at a funeral at Holy Name Cathedral for former Mayor Jane Byrne’s husband, Jay McMullen, Roti pointed to a crucifix, poked Stone and blurted: “Look what your people did to our Lord,” according to a Sneed source who witnessed the abrupt but friendly jibe.
Stone quickly retorted: “The soldiers who killed him were Italian.” (They were Roman.)
“Berny won that round,” said a close friend to both men.
“The two were so close, they took daily walks together at City Hall ‘for health reasons,’ ” Roti-Walz said.
“It was ridiculous, because every day they stopped for a hot dog during their walk,” she said. “They also phoned each other nightly after the news to chat about it. And every Sunday they talked on the phone about the football game. They even got lost in the Black Forest in Germany together with Berny at the wheel and dad barking the wrong directions.”
“They fought and they loved each other like brothers,” she said. “When Dad went to prison, Berny always made the long drive to visit him. And after mom passed away, every Saturday night they went to dinner and a movie together. He always had a picture of my father on his desk, which was signed: ‘To Berny, my friend. Tried, true and loyal.’ ”
Shortly after his retirement from office in 2011, Berny shared these observations with Sneed:
1. The city’s best mayor: Mayor Richard J. Daley. “Our No. 1 mayor all the way around.”
2. The city’s most disloyal mayor: Mayor Richard M. Daley. Mayor Daley did not support his bid for re-election.
3. The city’s most eloquent mayor: Mayor Harold Washington.
4. The city’s most unpredictable mayor: Mayor Jane Byrne. “You never knew what to expect.”
5. A highly qualified mayor: Mayor Michael Bilandic. “But he had no personality/presence.”
6. The city’s weakest mayor: Mayor Eugene Sawyer. “But he was a really nice guy and I’m going miss working with his son,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).
7. Berny’s most treasured memory: “Meeting former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was battling breast cancer. She had just resigned from office and had just stepped down from the podium after addressing the Chicago City Council — when she tapped the sergeant-at-arms on the shoulder and asked him if he had a . . . cigarette!”
Bye bye, Berny!
I spy . . .
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan lunching at the Tortoise Club on Wednesday . . . Chicago Bear Charles “Peanut” Tillman at Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch after the Bears game Sunday . . . Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville dining Thursday at Chicago Cut . . . Ditto NBA great Charles Barkley, who was at the steakhouse back-to-back nights last week.
Sneedlings . . .
Congrats to attorney Kristin N. Barnette, the fiancee of top cop Garry McCarthy, on being appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to its Committee on Character and Fitness . . . and congrats to Sarah and Ross Crampton on the birth of their son, Maxwell George Jacob . . . Tuesday’s birthdays: Eddie Vedder, 50; Carla Bruni, 47, and Susan Lucci, 68.