Family has unique viewing at funeral home

Updated: July 6, 2005, 2:27 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life, and even death could not keep him from his favorite spot: in a recliner, in front of a TV showing his beloved team in action.

Smith, 55, of Pittsburgh, died of prostate cancer Thursday. Because his death wasn't unexpected, his family was able to plan for an unusual viewing Tuesday night.

The Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home erected a small stage in a viewing room, and arranged furniture on it much as it was in Smith's home on game day Sundays.

Smith's body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote in his hand. He wore black and gold silk pajamas, slippers and a robe. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side, while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steelers highlights.

"I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," said his sister, MaryAnn Nails, 58. "He loved football and nobody did [anything] until the game went off. It was just like he was at home."

Longtime friend Mary Jones called the viewing "a celebration."

"I saw it and I couldn't even cry," she said. "People will see him the way he was."

Smith's burial plans were more traditional; he'll be laid to rest in a casket.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press