Dozens of roses rest on Muhammad Ali’s grave in Louisville Cave Hill Cemetery Thursday, in honor of “The Greatest” on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his death.
The cemetery invited people to pay their respects to the three-time heavyweight boxing world champion and human rights activist. Even as the rain fell in the early afternoon, admirers came and went, laying roses at Ali’s resting place.
At 74, the boxing legend died on June 3, 2016 of respiratory complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was buried a week later in Cave Hill Cemetery as 100,000 people gathered in his hometown to pay their respects.
Every year since, many people have returned to his grave to pay homage to him on the anniversary of his death.
Louisville mourns Muhammad Ali with rose ceremony five years after his death
Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery invited people to lay roses at the grave of Muhammad Ali on the fifth anniversary of his death.
Alton Strupp, Louisville Courier Journal
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On Thursday, Arthur Hogan, 56, and his daughter, Myranda Hogan, visited Ali’s burial place for the first time, coming from New York for the occasion.
“It’s very moving,” he said. “Growing up, my idols were my father and Muhammad Ali.”
Hogan said he went to Ali’s daughter Laila Ali’s first boxing match in 1999 knowing Ali himself would be there. Hogan’s own daughter was 6 at the time.
“My daughter received a hug and a kiss from Muhammad,” he said. “You know, he was just the greatest sportsman in the world. Unlike sports figures today, Muhammad Ali was very respectful. He loved sports and he loved his fans.”
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Louisville resident Bonita Marshall brought her 13-year-old son and cousin to the cemetery. All three wore roses to be placed on Ali’s grave.
“It’s just a great time to come together and commemorate someone who has loved us all and taught us to love and stand for something,” Marshall said.
Rhonda Mathies, 70, visited Ali’s grave after visiting another nearby belonging to Travis Nagdy, 21, a protest leader from Louisville who died in a shooting in November.
“I think (Nagdy) would have ended up emulating full-fledged Ali,” said Mathies, who was involved in the Louisville protests that began in May 2020 following the death of Breonna Taylor. “His time on earth was too short.”
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Ali stood with the marginalized, said Mathies, and acted as a voice for the voiceless.
He stood up for “those whom society ignores and considers them disposable people in this world,” she said. “This is not the Ali world, this is not the Travis world, this is not the world God would have for us.”
As she stood in front of Ali’s burial place, Mathies read aloud the inscription on her gravestone: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room in Heaven.
As people came and went on Thursday afternoon, a man remained standing near Ali’s grave even after rain started to fall on the cemetery just before 1 p.m.
Butch Zurbriggen said he grew up without a father and considered Ali a father figure for most of his life. Zurbriggen now visits his grave every year on the anniversary of his death and stays there all day.
“He put me on the right track, and what he has done for the world is the least I can do,” he said. “I call it ‘sitting tall’.”