Los Angeles Mourns, but Honors the Legacy of Former Mayor Richard Riordan

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who guided the city through the aftermath of the Rodney King riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, was remembered Friday as a man with an indomitable spirit who understood leadership and took action to address the needs of the city and of its people.

In a packed memorial Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, family, friends, elected officials and Angelenos remembered Riordan's life and legacy.

"I'm truly amazed. Although many of you here are strangers to each other and to us, we're all here for the same reason to honor a man whose life touched so many people in different and wonderful ways," said Mary Beth, Riordan's daughter.

"Our family is sincerely honored and touched by this outpouring of love."

Riordan, who was mayor from 1993-2001, died April 19 at age 92, with his family announcing he "passed peacefully ... at his home in Brentwood, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth, family, friends and precious pet dogs."

Archbishop José H. Gomez presided over Friday's Mass, and the homily was delivered by Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, pastor at St. Monica Catholic Church, which was Riordan's parish, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Dozens of officials past and present attended the service, including Mayor Karen Bass. Bass entered the cathedral side-by-side with former L.A. mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and James Hahn.

She then delivered a welcome during a pre-liturgical program.

"Doing the daily work of City Hall, and especially during some of city's most trying times, mayor Riordan acted with impatience," Bass said. "That is not to say that he acted without compassion. No, mayor Riordan acted with a healthy and heartfelt impatience because he felt that the people of Los Angeles deserved swift decisions and urgent action to confront their greatest challenges."

Torgerson recalled Riordan as a man who had done so much and gave his huge heart to his family.

"He would seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission. His spirit was alive. His humanity was full, and because of that came his great gift of helping, especially those young people who have less," Torgerson said.

The L.A. City Council canceled its regularly scheduled Friday meeting to enable council members and other city officials to pay their respects to Riordan.

The Mass took take place in the cathedral whose construction Riordan helped expedite following the severe damage incurred by its predecessor, the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, in the Northridge quake. Construction on the new cathedral began in 1998, and it opened in 2002.

"He not only rallied the private sector to assist in rebuilding the I- 10 freeway and other buildings, but he also assisted us when the city red- tagged the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral in downtown," Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, recalled last week. "He was instrumental in working with County Supervisor Gloria Molina in acquiring the property on Temple Street between Grand Avenue and Hill Street. As he did with all major construction in the city during his eight years, he streamlined the process for permits and inspections which shortened the construction time."

Riordan's death produced an outpouring of tributes, including the illumination in city colors of City Hall, the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, the LAX pylons, the L.A. Zoo and the Sixth Street Bridge.

A venture capitalist and L.A. restaurant owner, Riordan was the only Republican to hold the nonpartisan mayor's position since 1961, when Norris Poulson lost a bid for a third term. Riordan succeeded Tom Bradley, who held the position for a record 20 years.

Riordan took office slightly more than a year after the rioting that followed the verdict in the state trial of the Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the beating of motorist Rodney King, then had another challenge to face in his first year in office -- the Northridge quake.

"Mayor Richard Riordan loved Los Angeles, and devoted so much of himself to bettering our city," Bass said in a statement last week.

"Mayor Riordan's legacy includes our city's iconic Central Library, which he saved and rebuilt, and which today carries his name. In the wake of the Northridge earthquake, Mayor Riordan set the standard for emergency action. He reassured us and delivered a response with an intensity that still pushes us all to be faster and stronger amidst crisis. Though born in New York, Mayor Riordan will be remembered as an L.A. original."

Riordan's administration was also marked by the infamous Rampart police scandal, in which dozens of LAPD officers were implicated in a range of misconduct -- including perjury, unprovoked shootings, beatings, evidence planting and drug theft. Ultimately, the U.S. Justice Department, though a consent decree, stepped in to oversee the LAPD for five years beginning in 2000, staving off a Justice Department civil rights lawsuit against the city. Riordan opposed the consent decree, but the City Council prevailed over the mayor and it took effect.

Riordan was born May 1, 1930, and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He attended Santa Clara University, where he played on the football team, and after two years transferred to Princeton.

Following his time at Princeton, he served in the Army in Korea and eventually moved to Southern California with his first wife, Eugenia "Genie" Warady. They had five children and he built a law practice, eventually founding Riordan & McKinzie.

Riordan is survived by his fourth wife, Elizabeth Gregory; three children; three grandchildren; and a sister.

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