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Hoboken Says Goodbye to Sinatra

May 19, 1998 GMT

HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) _ The city that once pelted Frank Sinatra with tomatoes and later transformed him into its favorite son said a tearful goodbye to him Monday at the church where he was baptized.

About 800 people, many standing in the streets outside St. Francis Church, serenaded ``The Voice″ with one of his signature songs, ``My Way.″

Sinatra was the biggest thing to ever happen to Hoboken, said Mayor Anthony Russo.

``Frank Sinatra epitomized the American Dream for all of Hoboken’s residents,″ he said.

Since Sinatra died of a heart attack on Thursday, hundreds of grieving residents and fans have dropped flowers, notes and loaves of Italian bread at a plaque in front of the remains of Sinatra’s first home.

The city lowered flags to half-staff, draped City Hall in black bunting and blared Sinatra music in the streets.

A handful of the people who attended the memorial service once knew Sinatra, like Nancy Capuano, who lived two doors down.

``He was a tough kid, but he was a good kid,″ said Capuano, 85.

Sinatra and Hoboken had a love-hate relationship. In 1947, he was pelted with tomatoes while riding in a parade float, said Ed Shirak, a Sinatra biographer. In 1949, he was heckled at the Union Club.

Sinatra left the club and vowed never to perform in Hoboken again. He called the city a ``sewer″ and spit in an airplane when he learned he was flying over his hometown, Shirak said.

He rarely returned, except to see his mother and godfather. He last visited in 1985 when he was granted an honorary degree by Stevens Institute of Technology.

A private funeral Mass is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles.