SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Family, friends and former San Francisco 49er teammates gathered at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral Wednesday to remember in song, prayer and words the life of Dwight Clark.
Among the mourners was Joe Montana who will forever be linked with his beloved friend by ‘The Catch’ in the 1981 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys.
With time running out, Montana scrambled and tossed a pass toward the end zone that Clark leaped high into the air to catch and secure the win.
“The one thing he would say to me was — ‘You know, they don’t call it ‘The Throw,'” Montana said to a chuckle from the gathering. “In ending, I will say to you DC — Yes, that’s true my friend and I will catch you on the other side. I love you, I miss you and it was a pleasure having you in my life.”
Montana recalled when at a BBQ, Clark told him he was diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and ends in death.
“He uttered some words to me that I will never forget — he said ‘Will you speak at my funeral?'” Montana told the gathering. “My first reaction was to just smack him as hard as I could. But when I looked into his eyes, I realized he was serious.”
Montana said one of Clark’s most endearing qualities was that he was always there for a friend or fan in need.
“Dwight was always there,” he said. “You didn’t get a chance to see the things that he would do off the field. He never questioned you. Never said ‘What?’ to anyone one. If you needed something, he was always there. As a teammate, he was the consummate blue collar wide receiver. He got all those glamorous routes to run like the hitch, the slant, the quick out…You never heard him complain. He always had that big country smile on his face.”
Montana said Clark also never complained about his fate as his life slipped away and his body betrayed him.
“As I watched my ex-teammate and friend dwindle away and become a shadow of himself, I tried not to think about where he was headed but I thought about all the good times,” Montana said. “When we were together, I tried to make him laugh as much as I possibly could. He never complained about the situation he was in ever.”
Former 49er running back Roger Craig was also among the mourners.
“Dwight Clark is the kind of guy that makes you feel special. And he’s special,” Craig told KPIX 5. “He has this humbleness about him. He’s so humble as a human being, and he just was always there to help me when I needed help.”
Clark died earlier this year at the age of 61. His ashes were buried on a ranch owned by former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. next to the old Candlestick Park goal posts that were on the field at fateful day in 1981.