Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009 | 4:43 p.m.
Station Casinos founder Frank Fertitta Jr. was remembered at a funeral Saturday as a loving man who had a great deal of faith.
A Roman Catholic funeral Mass was celebrated at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, 55 East Reno Ave., near Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue.
The funeral attracted a large gathering of Las Vegans and notables from the arenas of business, sports and government. Palms owner George Maloof, Elaine Wynn of Wynn Las Vegas, UFC President Dana White, Anthony Marnell III of the M Resort, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., were among the nearly 2,000 people who attended the service.
Fertitta was 70 when he died Aug. 21 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was being treated for a long-standing heart condition.
It was nearly 50 years ago that Fertitta borrowed $100 from a friend so that he could move to Las Vegas from Texas with his wife and young daughter, his son Frank Fertitta III said in the eulogy.
Fertitta initially found work as a bellman at the Tropicana while learning how to become a blackjack dealer, his son said.
He worked his way up from there and in 1976 helped opened his own casino, which is now Palace Station, and that grew into a local empire of 10 major properties.
“He loved the casino business,” Frank Fertitta III said. “For him it wasn’t work, it was one of his passions.”
But whatever Fertitta did, he always did it to the best of his ability, his son said.
“No matter what job he was doing -- as a bellman, as a dealer or whatever it was -- he would do it to perfection. He prided himself at always being the best at what he did.”
But it was not his business skills that made his father a great man, the younger Fertitta said.
“When I thought of the words that would best express who my father was, the words that came to mind were: kindness, generosity and integrity,” he said. “He was loyal, affectionate, humble, humorous, never selfish and, more than anything, he was loving.”
The younger Fertitta listed six things that he felt were the most important to his father: faith, family, friends, food, football and fights.
Fertitta attended Mass daily, when his health allowed, said Rev. Bob Stoeckig, who presided over the service.
Stoeckig also said family was the focus of Fertitta’s life.
“It is fitting today to see his grandchildren fill the primary roles in this funeral Mass,” he said after the grandchildren acted as pallbearers, read scriptures and offered prayers.
Bishop Gorman High School was one of the many organizations that benefited from Fertitta’s generosity, and he was the reason the school was able to build a new campus, Stoeckig said.
“That (new) campus -- made possible by the generosity of many -- would not be there without the driving force of leadership and generosity of Frank,” he said.
But Fertitta never was generous because he wanted attention, Stoeckig said.
“Frank was a man who was genuinely humble. Sometime people do a good job of pretending that, but with Frank it was real. He would prefer always to be in the background,” he said.
Frank Fertitta III also spoke of his father’s charity.
“He never sought or wanted recognition for his generosity, he didn’t want to be in the spotlight, he just wanted to help others,” he said.
Football – and especially Bishop Gorman football – was also one of the joy’s of Fertitta’s life, his son said.
When he began to get sick, he told his family that he was sad he would not be able to see his younger grandsons play at Bishop Gorman, where his sons and some of his other grandsons had already played.
He died on the morning of his grandsons’ first scrimmage at the school’s Fertitta Field.
“I told my son, Frank, that ‘he’d never be able to watch you play from that hospital bed, so he just figured out a way that he could watch you from heaven.’ ”
After the funeral, a private burial service was held for the family before they attended a public reception at Red Rock Casino.