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Family, friends mourn Desi Arnaz

By SUSAN SHRODER-MURRAY

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. -- Desi Arnaz was remembered at his funeral Thursday as an entertainer who brought joy and laughter to millions and died believing that 'I did the best I could.'

His ex-wife, Lucille Ball, with her husband, Gary Morton, at her side, was among the last of about 100 mourners to arrive for the hourlong mass at a hillside church near the home in Del Mar where Arnaz died Tuesday of cancer at age 69.

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'He was a great showman, musician, father and husband,' she told reporters. 'He's been beautifully covered (in the media) in the last two days. Things have finally come out that should have been said a long time ago.'

Besides co-starring in the pioneering television situation comedy 'I Love Lucy,' Arnaz was a talented director and producer who pioneered filming techniques for television series.

In 'I Love Lucy,' Arnaz played Ricky Ricardo, a dashing Cuban bandleader who was constantly bedeviled by his wacky wife, Ball.

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Ball, dressed in a tan suit and blouse, sat in a front pew of St. James Catholic Church along with the couple's two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.

Facing them and the other mourners from a small table in front of the altar was an 8- by 10-inch black and white photo of Arnaz, smiling and wearing a hat, with his chin resting on his hand.

Lucie Arnaz, dressed in a black suit, delivered a tearful eulogy, thanking the doctors and nurses who helped her father in his lengthy battle with cancer. She recalled that in his final days Arnaz 'took a long look at me and said, 'I did the best I could.''

Also delivering eulogies were Danny Thomas, one of few Hollywood celebrities attending the service; Anselmo Rodriguez, Arnaz's companion at his home for the past seven years, and actor Laurence Luckinbill, Lucie's Arnaz's husband.

'We pay tribute to the years of joy and decades of laughter that he, with Lucille, has brought into the homes of millions,' Thomas said. 'The joy and the laughter will continue to overflow into hearts and homes for generations yet to be born.

'We will miss that Cuban accent and that beautiful laugh,' Thomas said. 'Desi Arnaz made room for daddy and I pray that God will make room for him in heaven. God bless him.'

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Thomas's show, 'Make Room for Daddy,' was one of several situation comedies produced by Desilu studios, which was created by Arnaz and Ball.

Rodriguez said Arnaz had told him that he regretted smoking. 'He left a message for smokers -- quit before it's too late,' he said.

Charles Campbell, Arnaz's doctor, earlier said the cancer was caused by 'smoking all those Cuban cigars.'

Luckinbill told reporters that memorial services would be held later in Hollywood and New York, but said times and locations had not been set.

'We're going to have Spanish music and laugh and sing,' he said.

As Ball left the church, several of the dozens of fans standing outside under gray skies shouted, 'We love you, Lucy!'

She waved and thanked them as she got into the back seat of a gold Mercedes-Benz, sniffing a single wilted pink rose that she had carried out of the church.

Arnaz was a 'funny, wonderful, loving man,' she said as she got into the car. 'What else can I say?'

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