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Malverne Mourns Death of Boxing Legend Gil Clancy

Services will be held in Malverne for the Hall of Fame Boxing trainer.

Malverne is mourning the loss of a great man and world-class coach.

Funeral services will be held this weekend for the late great Gil Clancy, a long-time Malverne resident and Hall of Fame boxing trainer, who passed away Thursday morning

Clancy died on March 31 of natural causes at an assisted living facility in Lynbrook. He was 88.

Clancy was known in the sports world for training world champion boxers including fellow Hall of Famer Emile Griffith, who won both welterweight and middleweight titles in the 1960s.

"They were absolutely like father and son," said Kathleen Burke, Clancy's daughter and a Malvernite herself.

Burke recently spoke to Patch about her memories of her father and his love of Malverne, a place he called home for 56 years. He moved out of Rockaway Beach where he met his wife, Nancy, to Malverne in the mid-1950s and never left. Neither has Burke and her sister, Pat Houlahan, who both continue to call the village home.

By the time Burke was a student at Valley Stream North High School, her father was also working as a sports broadcaster for CBS in addition to training top-notch fighters, announcing alongside Sugar Ray Leonard.

"All their friends had mansions, but they just loved their little house in Malverne," Burke said. "[My dad] would go to the Cork N' Board with my mom every Saturday night...and until 20 years ago, you'd always see them on the Malverne High School tennis courts."

She recalls them spending much of their time sitting in their tiny porch in their home.  "They used it everyday...it was a symbol of my parents and how much they loved this place," she added.

Burke said her father also never missed a mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. His boxing career allowed him to travel the world and meet many celebrities, but Burke says her father considered his visit with the pope to be the greatest of them all.

"My dad was the ultimate father with family values," she said, explaining that he rarely went out partying with the celebrities he met, choosing instead to be home with his wife and six kids. "He was very hands on and church was a big part of his life."

She remembers as a teen, her father making her wake up early every Saturday morning, saying "Feet on the floor. It's 8 a.m. What are you doing constructive today?"

He'd take her to play tennis and assisted with her softball team. Even as she grew up they stayed close, working side-by-side as announcers of the National Golden Gloves tournament each year.

For the past few years, she has appeared on the broadcast without her dad, but she hasn't decided whether or not she will continue to do so this year, since the event will take place just weeks after his passing.

"I have to make a decision after this week," she said.

Since news of her father's death broke late this week, the family has been handling calls from the press and watching stories about their dad appear on HBO, ESPN and all over the Internet.

"We were just overwhelmed," she said.

Clancy's rise to fame is not typical in the boxing world.

"Most people are surprised to learn he has a Masters degree," Burke said.

Clancy started out as a school teacher. He was always a fan of boxing, but didn't get into the ring until he was a young adult serving in the Army during World War II. When he was released, he used his GI Bill to attend New York University to study education, eventually graduating with this Masters.

He taught in a school in a tough area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where he began volunteering as a boxing trainer at a nearby gym. His intention was to help keep the neighborhood kids off the streets and out of trouble, but when one of his pupils went pro Clancy's career plans were dramatically altered.

That young man who changed his life was Ralph "Tiger" Jones, who beat top-level fighters in televised matches throughout the 1950s including defeating Sugar Ray Robinson in a major upset.

From there, Clancy went on to train countless fighters including Johnny Persol, Jorge Ahumada, Harold Weston and Tom Bethea. He also worked with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Buchanan, Jerry Quarry and Gerry Cooney, and came out of retirement in the 1990s to train Oscar De La Hoya.

Burke said that of all of the men her father worked with he always had a special place in his heart for his first world champion, Emile Griffith, sticking with the boxer for the entire length of his 20-year career.

Clancy also inspired two of his sons to box on the amateur level. Burke said her father had a unique style of training.

"He wouldn't use a lot of words...he would just have to look the guy in the eye," she said. "He was not a big guy, but he had a huge presence."

This was the case both in the boxing ring and in the village of Malverne.

Many Malvernites spoke of Clancy as "a great man."

"His life speaks for itself," Malverne resident Don Pupke said.  "Despite the fame and world-wide recognition, you'd always see him around the village. He had no pretense and always had a nice thing to say. He was a treasure in our midst."

Just 20 months ago, Clancy lost his wife, Nancy, the love of his life.

"We never thought he would be able to live a day without her," Burke said.

He is survived by his children, 18 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.

Services will he held at Malverne Funeral Home Anthony J. Walsh & Son in the village from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 2 - 4 p.m. and 7 - 9 p.m. on Sunday.  A funeral mass will be held Monday at 9:45  a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes R.C. Church in Malverne.

In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate contributions sent to Ring 8, The Waterfront Crabhouse, 203 Borden Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101.

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