Mob Figures Shun Bocchino's Funeral

Posted: February 02, 1992

In the South Philadelphia church where Felix Bocchino was baptized, three dozen people yesterday mourned his bloody death.

At a funeral Mass, the priest compared the killing to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, calling it "a violent death at the hands of strangers."

Bocchino, 73, was murdered Wednesday morning as he started his car on Mifflin Street. He was shot in the head and neck, gangland-style. Authorities called it a mob hit. A longtime mobster and convicted swindler, Bocchino is believed to have crossed his bosses by refusing to stop collecting "street tax" money from illegal gambling operations.

But the men he allegedly did business with shunned him in death. A law enforcement source who monitored the funeral said no major organized-crime figures had attended Bocchino's viewing, funeral or burial.

As a small cluster of friends and family gathered to bury Bocchino yesterday, they seemed as bitter and bewildered as sad.

"It's a sin," said an old friend and neighbor as she knelt in prayer before the Mass. "Just tragic."

Inside St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church on South Ninth Street, a single basket of flowers sat before the altar, a spray of yellow mums and white lilies. The polished fawn-colored coffin was draped in a long, white cloth.

It was cold inside the stone church. People kept their coats on during the hourlong Mass; some wore scarves and gloves.

The Rev. Marshal Halphen called the killing "a living nightmare" for Bocchino's family. But he urged them not to dwell on the bloodshed or any sins he might have committed.

"Forgive whatever wrong he may have done," the priest said. "Remember the good. . . . Remember how he was with his family and friends."

Law enforcement officials said they were at a loss to explain why no mob men had paid respects to Bocchino's family. But one former organized-crime figure familiar with Mafia protocol said that if Bocchino's murder was a sanctioned hit, mob members and their allies in the neighborhood would stay away from the funeral.

Those who did attend kept to themselves yesterday. Unsmiling men in long wool coats shielded Bocchino family members as they hurried from the church to waiting cars. Six cars - including one that held several elaborate flower arrangements - followed the hearse to Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon.

There, in a clearing between two pine trees with a view of the Philadelphia skyline, Felix Bocchino was laid to rest.

comments powered by Disqus