LAKEWOOD — In a powerful show of support for one of the Cavaliers’ most beloved and respected former players, five-decade team general managers attended Saturday’s funeral for Jennifer Ilgauskas, wife of the former Zydrunas Ilgauskas center.
Jennifer Ilgauskas, who adopted sons Deividas and Povilas with Zydrunas, died on September 11 at age 50.
A large group of mourners at St. James’s Church in Lakewood included five of the Cavs’ current or former top basketball executives, led by Hall of Famer Wayne Embry, who served from 1986 to 1999 as manager General of Cleveland. Embry was joined by Danny Ferry, who played for the Cavs from 1999-2000 and was general manager from 2005-2010, Chris Grant (2010-14), president of basketball operations Koby Altman, named general manager in 2017 and brought up in January, and Mike Gansey, promoted to general manager in February.
Former players in attendance included Anthony Parker, who played for the Cavs from 2009-12, and Anderson Varejao, who spent 13 seasons with Cleveland from 2004-16 and in 2020-21. Varejao, who once said that Zydrunas Ilgauskas was like a big brother to him, served as the porter.
The Cavs legend loses his wife:Jennifer Ilgauskas, wife of Cleveland Cavaliers legend Zydrunas Ilgauskas, dies at 50
Mike Mancias, the longtime coach of LeBron James, who is now an athletic trainer and athletic performance liaison with the Los Angeles Lakers, also paid tribute. When Ilgauskas had his No. 11 jersey retired by the Cavs on March 8, 2014, James, then with the Miami Heat, chartered a jet from Chicago to attend the ceremony honoring his close friend.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas was drafted by the Cavs 20e overall in 1996 and overcame serious foot injuries to become a two-time All-Star. Spending 12 seasons in Cleveland, Ilguaskas and James, drafted in 2003, led the Cavs to the NBA Finals in 2007. Ilgauskas followed James to the Miami Heat in 2010 and played one season before retiring.
Jennifer Ilgauskas owned several businesses in northeast Ohio – including Rebound Physical Therapy, North Olmsted Urgent Care, Lakewood Urgent Care and medical billing company Darbo – and was a strong supporter of numerous charities.
Reverend Deogratias Ruwaainenyi, priest-in-residence at St. Clement Parish, based his homily around the memorable phrase, “You are kind. You are intelligent. You are important”, from the movie “The Help”.
Ruwaainenyi referred to the words of Jennifer Ilgauskas mother, Justine Weiss, who told her she was “a girl roll up your sleeves and unravel.”
“Jennifer, as I was told, was very kind and loving. She nurtured and cherished her friendships and always led by example,” he said, also noting her devotion to her husband and sons. .
There were no accolades. Towards the end of the Mass, Ruwaainenyi asked Zydrunas, Deividas and Povilas Ilgauskas and Weiss to turn around and face the mourners to thank them. Always discreet, Zydrunas Ilgauskas greeted the crowd with a small wave.
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Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.