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Ever the spitfire, Deedee Corradini, a minister's daughter, was eulogized in a church funeral Monday as "a small bad-ass woman," one who led her husband John on "one helluva ride" that, even in this time of sadness, leaves him feeling "my life has been fulfilled. I have loved and have been loved in return."
Tears and laughter mixed with the solemnity of a traditional religious service as mourners filled three-quarters of Wasatch Presbyterian Church to say good-bye to Corradini, 70, Salt Lake City's first female mayor and an ambassador for women's rights on a worldwide stage.
She died March 1 of non-smoking lung cancer.
As Corradini's service began on a lovely springlike day suited to ski jumping, her adopted sport, the bells at Salt Lake City Hall tolled eight times, one for each of the eight years she served as the capital's mayor (1992-2000).
Inside the church, Rev. Scott Dalgarno said he was proud to officiate over the service for Corradini, whose late father, Rev. Horace McMullen, had helped out there for a dozen years after retiring from his work at Holladay United Church of Christ. "May we all go away with some of her boundless optimism," he intoned.
While Corradini's accomplishments as mayor were duly noted getting light-rail and Gateway going, helping secure the 2002 Winter Olympics most of Monday's accolades focused on her irrepressible character and her devotion to advancing women's causes, no matter the field, but especially in the world of Olympic sport, where her tenacity helped persuade the International Olympic Committee to include women's ski jumping in the Games.
"This small, bad-ass woman showed us how ski jumping can be a metaphor for life," said Lindsey Van, who was a teen-age jumping prodigy in Park City in 2004 when Corradini took up her cause, leading a fight that came to a successful fruition at the 2014 Sochi Games.
"If you push the boundaries, you can go far in life," is what Van learned from her years with Corradini. "On the global journey for equality, she showed us we could be more and do more."
In recognition of Corradini's lobbying efforts and her role with Salt Lake City's Olympics, the IOC was represented at the funeral by American Anita DeFrantz, also an advocate for gender equity in sports.
Corradini's global influence was not confined to the world of athletic competition.
Esther Silva-Parker of the International Women's Forum, which Corradini led from 2011 to 2013, called the late mayor a "champion of humanity … relentless in her quest to advance opportunities for women."
She noted how Corradini led the organization into a partnership with the accounting firm Ernst & Young to build connections between elite female athletes and female business leaders in hopes of building the next generation of women leaders. She was opening doors into China, too, understanding the need to bring diverse voices to the table.
"Deedee radiated laid-back ease, moved tectonic plates for our organization, drove us to new heights on the world stage," Silva-Parker said of her 6,000-member group. "We're proud that her legacy lives on on the world stage."
It lives on, as well, in a more personal realm.
Andrew Corradini said his mother always stood up for what she believed in her heart to be right.
"She was a good person who tried and fought even when the wind was against her," he said. And if the criticism she received was unfair, he added, "she took the high road."
For the last 16 years, Corradini was married to John Huebner, who got a big laugh when he came to the microphone and said "my name is husband of Deedee."
He apologized for being a little profane, but just had to say that "16 years of living with and loving Deedee has been one helluva ride," enriching his life and surrounding him with a loving family who adopted him, even the dog. "They didn't know how profoundly that affected me," he said. "I had family."
Corradini's grown-up granddaughter, Savannah, had the crowd laughing at her description of Deedee unreservedly belting out a Christmas Song in Arabic even though she didn't have a good singing voice. Moments later, Savannah had people fighting back tears describing how her grandmother had taught her so much, from skiing black-diamond runs to table etiquette.
The message she'll carry forth from her grandmother is clear in her mind: "Always set a proper dinner table, never give up your dreams and sing your heart out."