A Friendly Visitor
[N.b.: During the years he worked in New York as a Saturday Night Live cast member, Chris Farley attended noon mass at St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church and served as a volunteer with their Encore Friendly Visitors Program, visiting homebound seniors and people with disabilities.]
Sr. Peggy McGill:
We have a residence, a converted hotel, that is now a home for the homeless and the mentally ill, and Chris used to visit a man named Willie. He also spent time with another resident, a woman named Lola, but it was mostly Willie.
Willie was about seventy years old, and he had been homeless before coming to our residence. Chris took Willie out for dinner every week, and to famous restaurants, Chris treated him as an equal, always. He would take him to Broadway shows, take him out to ball games. If Chris was walking down the street on the way to his office, he'd stop in to see how Willie was doing. Whenever he had to go away for a week, he'd send Willie postcards, and whenever he came back he always brought Willie a souvenir. They were friends for over five years.
On the one-year anniversary of Chris's death, St. Malachy's was having a memorial mass for him, and I went with Tommy and Kevin Cleary. There was an elderly black guy there with a Chicago Bulls hat on. He was not quite Homeless, but clearly one step away from it. He stood up to speak. He said his name was Willie, and he talked about Chris and all the things he had done for him, all the time Chris had spent with him. Kevin, Tommy, and I, we just looked at each other—we had no idea.
The man spoke for a little while longer. Then he started to break down crying, He said, "This hat, this is the last thing Chris ever gave me, and I really miss him."
Sr. Peggy McGill:
After Chris passed, Willie became very quiet. Eventually, some time later, he moved back down south to be with his family, to let his family take care of him. Whatever problems had put on the street and made him homeless, he overcame them and went back home.
When you receive love, it releases you from the things that trouble you. Just knowing someone cares about you can give you strength and courage. And I always believed it was Chris's love for Willie, and the things he did for Willie, that finally set him free.
From The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley, Jr. and Tanner Colby