YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A public tribute was held Sunday to honor former Valley congressman Jim Traficant. The tribute highlighted his life contributions as a public servant.
The crowd started lining up outside Powers Auditorium around noon, when the doors finally opened. They then flocked inside to sign remembrances of the man they knew as Congressman and friend, as well as looking over a collection of some of his belongings.
“Our families were friends since we were in high school and we went to the University of Pittsburgh together, and he was just a wonderful human being,” said Regis Coustillac of Strongsville.
“I loved what he did for a lot of companies, and he went in and stopped arguments. And his voice just went through everybody,” added Nanette Dillion of Youngstown.
The service, which lasted more than two hours, was filled with photos and video clips, including many of those now-famous one-minute speeches in Congress.
“The computers do not need a ‘V-Chip.’ Internet needs a chastity chip. I would say ‘beam me up,’ but that may be a new delivery system for email,” said Jim Traficant in a clip.
The tributes included a Who’s Who of local and national celebrities, such as former NFL coach Mike Ditka, who played football with Traficant at the University of Pittsburgh.
“He was very strong-minded. You weren’t gonna take him off what he believed. What he believed, he believed, and I admire people who do that,” said Ditka.
“When it came to Jim, nobody would be indifferent. He made sure you had an opinion. He made sure that you remember him,” added former boxing champion and Valley native, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
Longtime friend and former Youngstown mayor, Pat Ungaro, called the relationship with his former football rival and politician “athletic.”
“Every time we saw each other, we shook hands and I would try to pull him off-balance, and, knowing him, he would try to pull me off balance. It was 50/50,” said Ungaro.
However, most in the crowd remembered Jim Traficant for what he left behind; both good and bad.
“He was just a great guy. All the way around. I mean, he stood up for what he believed, and he got persecuted for it,” said Dottie Drake of Youngstown.
“He did a lot of good stuff. I think that surpasses the mistake that he made in his life. But, what a man,” added Lou Yaworski of Austintown.
To read more about Traficant’s life and legacy, click here.