There was no snow in the forecast last week. But on the morning of Michael J. Feeney’s funeral in Harlem, a small flurry decorated the neighborhood. Just enough to make it an unforgettable day.
And what a beautiful service it was for the late reporter, leader, and loving friend to the many who were present.
The funeral for Feeney, who had worked at the New York Daily News and was preparing for a new job with CNN, reflected the community of people who loved him. Held in the neighborhood he once covered, it was evident by the number of people who attended – around 500 filled First Corinthian Baptist Church – that there was no shortage of people that he touched during his short life.
Many of his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers were present. Singer Kimberly Nicole performed ‘Blessed Assurance’ and ‘Troubles Over The World.’ A message was read from the WWE and one of his favorite wrestlers, Mark Henry. The funeral program showed some of the many tweets from friends and people who he had worked with, including praise from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. There was no shortage in the outpouring of grief over Feeney’s death.
Plenty of the seats were filled by journalists and media members alike. Colleagues and alumni of the Daily News were there to say goodbye to one of their own, and many members of the New York Association of Black Journalists, which Feeney led for five years, as well as national NABJ representatives filled the church Monday morning. Journalists including WNBC anchor David Ushery spoke about Feeney, heartbroken by his passing but honored to have known him.
The Reverend Al Sharpton was among those who shared a few words about Feeney. He praised Feeney’s devotion to his work, and revealed that they were working on a project together.
NABJ President Sarah Glover reflected on Feeney’s qualities, highlighting what made him a superb journalist. She also echoed one of the many things he stood for — challenging the journalism industry to hire more reporters of color.
“Michael was a great journalist because he didn’t judge,” said Glover. “He was friends with everyone. Look around this room. You can see that he engaged with people from all walks of life and different experiences.”
“To the journalism industry, do right by what Michael fought so hard for. Diversify your newsrooms. It’s sorely needed.”
Josh Barker of the New York Amsterdam News read a letter from President Barack Obama, who sent his condolences to Feeney’s family. The Amsterdam News ran the story of Feeney’s passing on the front page of the paper, and Barker said they would do it again with an article on Feeney’s funeral.
Feeney’s alma mater, Delaware State University, bestowed him with one of the greatest honors. In addition to a plaque commemorating him, the school announced a $10,000 student scholarship in Feeney’s honor. At one point, when it was asked how many people from the university were present, nearly 100 people stood up.
A slideshow from his family showed Feeney’s life as he lived it, with joy and doing what he did best. Photos of the many celebrities he interviewed, from Rihanna to Jay-Z to Drake, were evidence of this. But it was the little moments in the slideshow that showed how genuine he was. Candid moments from being around friends and family were filled with warmth.
It was made clear during the memorial service that nobody who knew Feeney would ever forget about him. When the Reverend Michael A. Walrond Jr. eulogized Feeney, one of the several lessons he offered was how Feeney impacted many through his work and character. “When God checks Michael Feeney’s fingerprints, he will see that he left his prints on so many others.”