(Rolker and Royce Gracie pay their last respects to their father. Photos courtesy of Sherdog.)
Less than 10 hours after he passed away at the Beficência Portuguesa Hospital after contracting pneumonia, Helio Gracie was laid to rest in a modest ceremony in Petropolis, Brazil, witnessed by about 70 relatives, close friends and students. As Sherdog writes:
Sons Royce and Rolker led the procession, a kilometer in length, from the chapel to the tomb where Gracie was buried. At the tomb, Royce asked for a round of applause for his father and placed a black belt over his coffin.
Speaking on behalf of Helio’s son Rickson Gracie, who was unable to reach Brazil in time for the funeral, Mario Aielo said:
“Thanks to this man, there are thousands of teachers around the world making a living from jiu-jitsu and thousands of fighters making a living from MMA. Without Helio Gracie, Rorion could not have brought Vale Tudo to the US and MMA would not exist, giving jobs to many fighters, promoters and managers and fun to millions of fans around the world.”
But perhaps the most touching tribute came from Helio’s granddaughter (Rorion’s daughter) Rose, who told Sherdog the following:
“My grandfather was an amazing man. He was like a father to us. He never got out of the Gracie diet, never got out of the lifestyle he told others to live. Nowadays kids don’t have the same respect for their parents and grandparents. My grandfather not only had our respect, but he earned it. He would drive far away to come pick us up, and he would honk his horn like a crazy man. We would get in the car, and it was full of fruit and other goods from the Gracie diet. He made breakfast every morning for us and told stories at night.
One time, he said, ‘One day I was swimming in shark-infested water. I had to get through them somehow, so I grabbed one shark and put him in an arm lock. I grabbed another and put him in a Mata Leon [rear-naked choke].’ I was young, but I believed him.”