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Examiner
  • Althaus: DiPardo’s funeral draws many fans, friends and family

  • There must not be a photo on the walls of the Tony DiPardo household this week, because they were all on display at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the site of the longtime Kansas City Chiefs bandleader’s visitation.

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  • There must not be a photo on the walls of the Tony DiPardo household this week, because they were all on display at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the site of the longtime Kansas City Chiefs bandleader’s visitation.
    Despite blizzard-like conditions, that turned my usually 35-minute drive in a 2-hour marathon, there were many DiPardo fans on hand at the Hyatt when the family opened the doors of the Chicago Room at noon.
    A splendid video presentation of DiPardo’s life greeted visitors, along with photos of DiPardo, his wife Doddie, his family and a cast of luminaries that ranged from President Harry Truman to American Football League founder and Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.
    One of the first individuals to greet Doddie and her family in the reception line was Hall of Fame quarterback and longtime DiPardo friend and confidant, Len Dawson.
    “A lot of people loved Tony, just like I did,” said Dawson, as he glanced out the huge third-story picture window as the snow danced and blew across the Kansas City landscape.
    “It’s just a shame the weather’s so nasty today. It’s going to keep a lot of people from coming down and paying tribute to Tony.”
    When asked for a special memory of the 98-year-old bandleader, who was as much a part of the Chiefs as Dawson and his fellow teammates, Dawson grinned.
    “When we first got here, back in 1963, you could tell Tony was enthusiastic and loved being a part of the team,” Dawson said. “But the guy didn’t know a thing about football.
    “I’d be in the huddle, trying to call a play, and there’s Tony blowing his horn, ‘Da-da-da-da-da-da – charge!’ and everyone is yelling ‘Charge!’ and I can’t hear myself think - and I know the guys in the huddle can’t hear me.
    “So I go up to Hank (Stram) and said, “Listen, you have to do something about Tony. Have him blow that horn when (former San Diego quarterback John) Hadl’s in his huddle.”
    Mission accomplished, as DiPardo got the message and then Municipal Stadium and later Arrowhead Stadium became the loudest arenas in the AFL and NFL.
    Dawson then glanced at a large photo of DiPardo holding on for his life, as team mascot Bob Johnson grabbed the team bandleader and pulled him up onto Warpaint, the stallion that would race across the field after a Chiefs touchdown.
    “Tony was scared to death in that picture,” Dawson said, chuckling. “It was the first time he was ever on a horse.”
    For more than 40 years, DiPardo never missed a Chiefs home game. He worked on a handshake – not a contract – with Hunt, who loved the impish DiPardo as much as Dawson.
    Page 2 of 2 - Hunt would say that TD stands for Tony DiPardo, who was then and will always be a part of the Chiefs family.
    I don’t know why, but I felt no sadness when I saw the nattily attired DiPardo lay at rest at the visitation. I just honored to call him my friend.
    Like so many people in the Kansas City area and across the nation, we were blessed to be touched by the man who loved to call himself, “a little Italian kid from St. Louis,” who did pretty well for himself.
    “I’ve never known anyone who loved life as much as Tony,” Dawson said, as he prepared to brave the blizzard to get back home. “He was just a one-of-a-kind guy who made you feel good to be around.”
    He was smiling when he left.
    We all were.
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