15 June 2008

Tim Russert rest in peace...

By Wolf Blitzer

It was back in April when Pope Benedict XVI came to Washington. The Rev. David O'Connell, the president of The Catholic University of America, was hosting the pope for a large meeting with bishops.

In April, Tim Russert, right, was a guest of Pope Benedict XVI, along with Wolf Blitzer, at left in blue tie.

Before that meeting, the Vatican said O'Connell could invite 10 guests to a small session with Benedict. Tim Russert and I were the only journalists on that special guest list. We were both thrilled, but Tim, a devout Catholic with deep roots in the Church, was very excited.

While we were waiting for the pope to arrive, he was like a little boy. He had his rosaries in his hand, ready for the pope to bless them. This was not the Tim Russert whom we all saw and admired as he grilled presidents, prime ministers, kings and mere politicians. When the pope finally approached him, he could barely utter a word. This was a special moment, and he knew it.

For those of us who knew him for a long time, we certainly could appreciate what he was enjoying. His roots in Buffalo, New York, were deep and very humble. His dad, "Big Russ," was a sanitation worker who had often worked two shifts to make ends meet. Russert knew where he was coming from, and as a result never complained about his own hard work for NBC News.

The same passion that he brought to covering politics and to his religious faith, he also brought to sports. He loved the Washington Wizards and the Washington Nationals, but he really loved the Buffalo Bills. How often would he end "Meet the Press" with the words "Go Bills." All of us Bills fans had to endure four straight Super Bowl losses in the early 1990s, but few suffered as deeply as Tim. We often spoke about those days. I think he remembered every play of every game.

He was a unique talent and a wonderful man. I feel especially sad that he died during this Father's Day weekend. It was such a special time for him, given his close relationship with Luke, his son, who just graduated from Boston College, and with "Big Russ."

We will miss him. My deepest condolences to Luke, Big Russ, his wife, Marueen, and his entire family.

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