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Attorney Philip Corboy laid to rest

Mary Dempsey second from left exits Holy Name Cathedral 730 N. Wabash Ave. with relatives after funeral for her late

Mary Dempsey, second from left, exits Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. Wabash Ave., with relatives after the funeral for her late husband, Phil Corboy, Saturday, June 16, 2012, in Chicago. | Chandler West~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 18, 2012 6:43AM

Dignitaries and the doormen filed into Holy Name Cathedral Saturday morning to say good bye to legal giant Philip Corboy.

“I talked with him at the center of his soul and was pleased to see goodness and kindness...” Monsignor Ken Velo said.

Thomas Demetrio described his law partner as “someone you wanted to be with” as both a friend and partner.

Nationally known as a pioneer in the field of personal injury law, Corboy turned the courts into a place where the injured could win big awards against corporations. That did not make him popular with companies.

He was better known at home as a generous donor to worthy causes.

Velo recalled driving the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to Corboy’s office to ask Corboy for a very big donation.

“How do I say ‘no’ to a Cardinal?” Corboy asked.

“You don’t,” Velo said Bernardin told the high powered attorney.

“Phil Corboy was a leader in charity,” Velo said. But while Corboy’s name is inscribed on marble and wood and glass and stone all over the country, “it is inscribed on the hearts of those he has helped.”

Corboy’s wife Mary Dempsey praised her late husband’s human side, down to his love of chocolate and ice cream.

“His fashion could be elegant and sometimes downright loud,” the former city library commissioner said to laughter from the full cathedral.

He wore “those bright blues to bring out the blue of his eyes,” Velo said.

State Supreme Court justices, former presidential chief of staff Bill Daley, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, state House Speaker Mike Madigan and people nobody knew were there, people Corboy would never admit he helped.

Some of Chicago’s best Irish-American musicians serenaded Corboy Saturday morning.

Corboy’s son Flip told stories of his father’s travels to Ireland, and his rough childhood that prompted him to work so hard so his children would have more opportunities.

“He ran away at the age of 16 - he doesn’t talk about it much. He had a complicated relationship with my grandfather ... He broke his back for the five of us. All he wanted to do was make sure we had opportunities he never had growing up,” Corboy’s son said.

Corboy was unapologetic in his liberal politics, his son said: “He hated racism. He hated anti-Semitism. And that was in the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s, a guy who came from a family of tough Irish cops.”

Corboy, 87, died early Tuesday morning after suffering a stroke and seizures at his home in the Water Tower Place Condominiums.

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