For 35 years, Francis R. Slay held court every Wednesday at the banquet hall at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral, just south of downtown.
On Monday, hundreds gathered in the Cathedral's pews to pay honor to a man the Cathedral's bishop, Robert Shaheen, called the "fabric" of St. Raymond's.
Slay died March 16th of congestive heart failure. He was 83.
In a letter from Lebanon, where he was participating in the election of a new Maronite patriarch, Bishop Shaheen recalled Francis R. Slay's petitions for a permanent priest at St. Raymond's.
"He then continued to help build these walls into a vibrant community," Shaheen wrote in the letter, which St. Raymond's priest, Gary George, read to the mourners. "I can never thank him enough for the sacrifice and the hours he endured to help us maintain the hall. For many years, we did it with nothing and he continued to give without taking."
Many of the mourners at Monday's Mass were politicians that Slay, a former state Representative, city Recorder of Deeds and Democratic committeeman from the 23rd Ward on the city's southwest side, advised - often at those Wednesday lunches.
His son, Francis G. Slay, the city's mayor, was one of them.
"Not surprisingly, Francis R. was my inspiration in seeking public office," the mayor said. "He told me it would give me exposure and help me with my law career. Well, so much for my law career," he said as the audience laughed. (Francis G. Slay has been in public office since 1985).
Slay then read from a letter he and his 10 siblings had written:
"It is difficult to put into words the joy and love you brought into our lives. It is hard to describe the pride all of us share as your sons and daughters. As busy as you were working to support all of us and helping others, you were an outstanding father. You amazed us with the strength of your character, the respect others had for you, and the number of people you had touched and the lives you have changed."
In addition to his 11 children, Francis R. Slay is survived by his wife of 59 years, Anna, 17 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.