The crowd surrounding the Frank L. Rizzo statue Saturday afternoon seemed to be in a time warp, as the former Philadelphia mayor's entourage and admirers came out to pay their respects.
The Quaker City String Band played as dignitaries arrived on foot and in cars, some following the motorcade that came down Broad Street from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham to the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall.
Saturday marked 20 years since Rizzo died of a heart attack while campaigning for a third term as mayor, a job he had held from 1972 to 1980.
Even in death, the former police commissioner, who would have been 90, has continued to inspire many Philadelphians. Those who knew him and worked for and with him remain loyal to this day.
"I loved him," said Jody DellaBarba, Rizzo's secretary and aide during his last campaign, handing out old memorial cards.
Then there were those such as Dominique Nguyen, a Lancaster native who moved to Philadelphia several years ago and is a devout Rizzo fan without having ever met the man. In a pink silk shirt, she smiled and took photos of almost every speaker.
"Just hearing about his history . . . if you hang around everyone that knew him, you can't help but be inspired," said Nguyen, 37, who lives in the Northeast and is involved with the local Republican Party. She rode in the motorcade with the GOP Riders motorcycle club.
Nguyen said she admired Rizzo for "not being afraid of doing what's needed," and quickly added: "We need more doers."
The old-timers, who could have been at the Jersey Shore on this hot afternoon, dressed casually - in contrast to the politicians, decked out in suits and fancy shoes. Those aspiring for office schmoozed and were poised to hand out business cards and make statements to reporters.
Karen Brown, a Republican running for mayor, said she had grown up in South Philly loving Rizzo like the rest of her family. She hopes to bring the South Philly charm to the mayor's office.
"He was a legacy, and I'm hoping to keep that legacy alive," Brown said, wearing her father's Rizzo campaign pin. "He could have gone to a barbecue and could have blended with everyone."
Among those who addressed the crowd were former Police Commissioner Joseph O'Neill, former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, and Rizzo's brother, Joe, and son, Frank Jr.
"He guided and protected the City of Brotherly Love in some of its most difficult times," the Rev. Edward Brady said as he opened the ceremony with a prayer. Some dignitaries got up simply to say they missed him; others made the crowd laugh with quotes and anecdotes.
"He roared like a lion, but he had a heart like a soft marshmallow," said Joe Rizzo, a former fire commissioner.
Abraham read from the book The Sayings of Chairman Frank: Or, I Never Saw My Mother Naked. Rizzo, known for a blunt persona that rallied some and riled others, often used violent imagery in his statements.
Of his challenge from political rival Tom Foglietta, he said: "Listen, Foglietta couldn't beat me in South Philly if I gave him the voting machines tonight. Councilman Foglietta, if you had any sense, you could take a reading of the crowd here today and go home and slit your throat," Abraham read, drawing much laughter.
Rizzo's son and brother placed a wreath at the steps of the Rizzo statue, whose hand forever waves at City Hall's passersby. His wife, Carmella, 94, did not attend.
"Fabulous man," said Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, as he looked up at the giant Rizzo. "That's how he waved to folks."