PHOENIX – Hundreds of loved ones donning “WVB” pins filed into St. Xavier Francis Catholic Church on Tuesday to celebrate the life of Cardinals owner William Vogel “Bill” Bidwill, who had been a part of the organization for eight decades. Bidwill passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88.
Before the ceremony, several buses loaded with former and current players and family members emptied into the parking lot, with many of the mourners wearing bowties, a Bidwill trademark.
Among those who attended were Gov. Doug Ducey, New York Giants President John Mara, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray.
Bidwill’s casket, traditionally draped in the American flag, was carried by four grandsons, Thomas and William V. Bidwill III, Charles and James Pike; Mike Bush, who served as Bidwill’s game-day security assistant; Rick Knight, the former Cardinals vice-president of security; and Cardinals Ring of Honor members Roy Green and Adrian Wilson.
Silence overtook the waiting area as a six-person Navy funeral detail saluted Bidwill, who served in the Navy shortly after college. He began working for the Cardinals in 1960.
Father Jim Van Dyke, the president of Georgetown Preparatory School, the school he formerly attended, presided over the Mass and addressed the impact of the man known to those closest to him as “Mr. B.”
“Bill’s life was about faith, family and football. Not separately, but intermingled,” Van Dyke said.
Bidwill’s balance of those three elements were present throughout the entirety of the ceremony.
He was eulogized by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Bidwill’s son, Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. Goodell said he was happy to see the massive turnout but wasn’t surprised because of Bidwill’s positive influence on the community and the NFL.
“Bill left us with more than we could ever give him,” Goodell said, “We will all miss you greatly.”
Bidwill will be remembered for the initiative he took to improve diversity in the NFL.
Bidwill took pride in the fact that the Cardinals became the first organization in NFL history to employ an African-American head coach and general manager at the same time, when Dennis Green was the coach under GM Rod Graves, Goodell said.
Hiring that duo is just one example of the steps Bidwill took to help facilitate equality and diversity.
“Mr. B. didn’t just talk about diversity as a distant ideal. He made it so,” Goodell said.
The NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and Goodell said Bidwill, who was the longest-tenured owner in the NFL at the time of his death, set the standard for the league.