Seelye: Vera Clemente, flame-keeping widow of baseball great Roberto, dies at 78

From Katharine Q. Seelye at the New York Times on November 18, 2019:

On New Year’s Eve 1972, an old cargo plane was taking off from Puerto Rico with relief supplies for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. On board were five people, including Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ charismatic star outfielder.

His wife, Vera Clemente, went to see him off. She didn’t like the look of the plane and thought it was overloaded. In addition, the pilot was late, which annoyed her. She thought her husband should wait until the next day.

But Clemente insisted on flying that night. He was worried that relief supplies were falling into the hands of profiteers.

Shortly after takeoff, the plane plunged into the ocean, killing everyone on board. The sudden death of the 38-year-old Clemente, who was not just one of Major League Baseball’s best players but also its most famous humanitarian, shocked the world. His native Puerto Rico declared three days of mourning.

For the rest of her life, Ms. Clemente, who was 30 at the time, dedicated herself to keeping her husband’s memory alive and carrying on his humanitarian legacy.

She died on Saturday at 78 after being hospitalized in San Juan. The Pirates announced on Nov. 1 that she was in delicate health and had been hospitalized. The Pirates and Major League Baseball, for which she was a good-will ambassador, announced her death.

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Originally published: November 19, 2019. Last Updated: November 19, 2019.