With two things he loved most - his cowboy hat and his rope - legendary cowboy Montie Montana was given a final farewell by those whose hearts he had lassoed.
Like the smile he so brightly flashed, Tuesday's funeral at Oakwood Memorial Park was full of good humor, and so were the anecdotes about Montana, the movie cowboy and trick roper who died after a series of strokes last week at 87.Against a backdrop of rocky peaks, reminiscent of so many western movies, Montana's pine coffin arrived on a horse-drawn carriage covered with bouquets of the same deep-red roses he often gave his wife, Marilee.
"It will never be the same without him," she said after the service. "I have a lifetime's worth of memories. Like I've said before, 20 years with Montie was worth a lifetime with anybody else."
With his trademark rope, Montana charmed schoolchildren through-out Los Angeles for generations, entertained fans at rodeos and rode in more than 60 Rose parades. It's for this reason that Marilee Montana had her husband's hat and rope placed inside his coffin.
"He has all the things he needs for when he gets up there," she said. "He was just a wonderful, warm and caring man."
In business suits and cowboy suits, hundreds of friends and fans stood solemnly as Montana's coffin arrived, serenaded by the Riders of the Purple Sage with Roy Rogers' theme song, "Happy Trails."
There was standing room only at the Pioneer Church, where the Rev. Charles H. Stacy of St. Mark's in the Valley Episcopal Church spoke for a moment as if talking directly to Montana: "You gave us much more than `the full Montie.' No, you gave us the whole Montie - so much so that our words will not be able to express our complete gratitude."
To others, Stacy said: "Let us not bury who he was or what he stood for. He and his rope are far too decent."
Montana's son asked those gathered to give his father one last gift: "Dad always said he enjoyed a standing ovation." So all stood - some with their cowboy hats under one arm - and applauded.