Hundreds of people mourned entertainer Danny Thomas, remembered as a selfless person who "chose the path of hope" in founding a children's research hospital.

About 1,200 friends, family and admirers gathered Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at a public funeral Mass for Thomas, who said his proudest accomplishment was the founding of St. Jude Children's Hospital."We mourn the loss of a man who showed us how to love children in an age when so many children go unloved and uncared for," said Memphis Bishop Daniel M. Buechlein.

Thomas died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack. He was 79.

His body was entombed in a crypt on the hospital grounds during a private service.

"Danny Thomas chose the path of hope," Buechlein said. "Rather than walk the path of self-destruction . . . in a world that sometimes seems unfair to good people, Danny Thomas chose the path of hope."

Thomas founded the hospital in 1962.

Former opera singer Marguerite Piazza, a friend of Thomas and a frequent performer at benefits for the hospital, sang "Oh Danny Boy" as mourners filed into the cathedral.

"You was the best one," said TV host Phil Donahue, married to Thomas' daughter, Marlo. A fan once approached Thomas after a show and praised him that way, Donahue said.