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Gil Clancy and Emile Griffith, until the very end

Boxing coach Gil Clancy advises Emile Griffith before

Boxing coach Gil Clancy advises Emile Griffith before he heads out into the ring. Photo Credit: Malverne Historical Society

Here is our obituary of Gil Clancy that ran in Newsday's print edition today. There was a story that Gil's daughter related while I was reporting last night. It could not fit into the newspaper, but it's worth telling. So here it is.

In the last days of Gil's life, he was under hospice care. Gil's very large family -- five surviving children, 18 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren -- was constantly by his side. According to Kathy Burke, Gil's daughter, they were with him every day and said their goodbyes. Yet Gil was hanging on. A nurse at the hospice told Kathy, "He's still waiting for someone."

Kathy assured the nurse, "There is no one else. We've all said our goodbyes. We told him it was OK to go now."

The nurse, again, said, "He's waiting for someone."

On Wednesday evening, Gil's cell phone rang. Kathy answered the phone and on the other was Keith Stechtman, an avid boxing fan. He was with Emile Griffith. Stechtman said that it was the anniversary of one of Emile's welterweight title fights (Jose Stable, at Madison Square Garden) and that Emile wanted to speak to his "Dad."

A veteran of 112 pro fights, Emile Griffith is in declining health. But the bond between fighter and trainer is not one that easily fades. In this case, it is stronger than the accumulation of all the punches Emile has taken.

Kathy told Emile that her father was sleeping but that she would put the phone up to his ear. Kathy put the phone to Gil's ear and on the other end, Emile Griffth spoke to Gil Clancy, relaying his unyielding loyalty to the man who worked the corner for all of his fights.

Gil Clancy died at 5:30 the next morning.

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