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Parents and education. Ferraro was born May 24, 1924, in the working class suburb of Cudahy, California, just south of Los Angeles, "the youngest son of a family of eight children whose Italian immigrant parents ran a macaroni factory before going broke during the Depression." He attended Bell High School in Bell, California, where he graduated in 1942, and he earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Southern California after World War II. Military service. Ferraro enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was commissioned as an ensign in 1945. He served on a tanker with Warren Christopher, later the Secretary of State under Bill Clinton. "Christopher got Ferraro interested in politics during long, early morning discussions when they were stationed in the Bay Area." Football. His excellence on the football field at Bell High—he was a unanimous choice for the All-City team—led to his receiving a scholarship at USC, where he earned All-American honors in 1944 and 1947 and played as a tackle in three Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974. As an adult he stood 6 feet, 4¼ inches tall and weighed 245 pounds, earning him the nickname "Big John." Ferraro was drafted in the sixth round of the 1946 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. Business career. Ferraro was an insurance broker with the John Ferraro Company, beginning in 1951, and he invested shrewdly in stocks and real estate that made him a millionaire. Family. He was married to Julie Marie Luckey, daughter of Democratic State Senator E. George Luckey, and they had a son, Luckeygian, or Lucky, born about 1956. The Ferraros were divorced in 1972. His second wife was Bridget Margaret Hart, widely known as exotic dancer and stripteaser Margie Hart in the 1940s—and then as a legitimate actress who even later made money through real-estate investments. They met at a reception in support of Democrat Pierre Salinger's unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 1964, and they were married in 1982. She died in 2000. Illness and death. Ferraro was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen in August 1999 and underwent chemotherapy. Mayor Richard Riordan was at his side, along with family members, when he died at the age of 76 in Santa Monica on April 17, 2001. A crowd of nearly a thousand filled St. Brendan Catholic Church, Ferraro's parish, for a funeral mass conducted by Cardinal Roger Mahony. Family present included Ferraro's brother, Steve, sisters Mary and Rose and his son, Gianni Luckey.
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