Mourners pay final respects to Tom Benson on last day of public visitation

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Mourners will have one more opportunity to say goodbye to Saints owner Tom Benson.

Benson died last Thursday after battling the flu for about a month.

The second public visitation in his honor will start at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and end at 1 p.m.

Mourners filed into the chapel on Carrollton Ave. at the first visitation on Wednesday to pay their last respects.

Gayle Benson stood in the chapel for nine hours greeting everyone who came to say goodbye to her late husband.

All day long mourners came. Young and old, rich and poor, all feeling it was important to bid farewell to Benson.

Many who attended the visitation were Saints fans dressed in black and gold.

Those who attended understood he could've moved the team from the city, but didn't. Many believe that decision was crucial for the city's come back after Katrina and the growth its saw since that storm.

"He's a godsend to think back in '85 when he purchased the team we needed somebody to keep them here and he's done that," says mourner Cal Arabie.

"Mr. Benson did so much for the city my wife still works at the dome and we came to pay our respects," says mourner Craig Preston.

Thousands attended the visitation to remember the full life Benson lived. Several mourners were in line before the doors actually opened. When the doors did open, Saints fans went marching in a style, singing.

"Tom Benson did so much for New Orleans and the Saints I just had to come out and show my support. He's done so much for New Orleans," said mourner Owen Rhea.

He was born in New Orleans and graduated in 1944 from what is now known as Brother Martin High School. He built his business from the ground up, eventually becoming the richest man in Louisiana.

Most people around the world know him for purchasing the New Orleans Saints in the mid 80s.

He bought The Saints to keep the team from leaving the city. He also kept the team in New Orleans after Katrina.

Just a few years after the hurricane he was able to witness his team win their first Super Bowl.

Six years ago, Benson also bought The Pelicans to keep the team from leaving the city as well.

Players from both teams have been reflecting on Benson's life.

Saints punter Thomas Morstead recalled seeing Benson at practice every day, sitting on a little stool and cheering on his players.

Benson's funeral will be held Friday at the St. Louis Cathedral.

Due to space restrictions, the funeral mass will be for invited guests. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Notre Dame Seminary or St. Louis Cathedral are preferred.

The funeral, which is scheduled for noon, is not open to the public but Fox 8 will carry the service on-air and online.

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