In the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, two brothers chose to commemorate their third brother, who died at relatively early age, by burying his ashes in the place they created a lifetime of memories.
Except the brothers don't call it Qualcomm, to them it's Jack Murphy Stadium, affectionately called “The Murph.” They are old school; loyal to each other and a certain football team that used to play at “The Murph” and before that at Balboa Stadium.
NBC 7 Investigates isn’t revealing their names because in burying his ashes, they violated both City of San Diego and State of California public health laws which require a permit and signing a declaration for disposing of cremated remains. In checking with the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, NBC 7 Investigates learned enforcement of these laws is rare, nevertheless, with the statute of limitations in play their identities have been withheld.
What is known is their love for the Chargers. They are Chargers fans, uber Chargers fans, who have passionately supported the team since the days when Gene Klein was the owner in the mid-1970s. While it appears most Charger fans have turned away from the team these brothers have not, saying they are not "loyal to the soil". No matter where the team plays they will be there. They’ve already gotten their season tickets to watch the Chargers begin to play in Los Angeles at the StubHub Center.
When their brother died, his body was cremated. Devastated by his death, the family wanted a way to honor his life and keep his memory close. So, they placed some of his ashes in a container decorated with stars and stripes and buried it in the same parking lot, in the same section, they had tailgated for years: Section G of the “The Murph” parking lot. The pictures show how the container was placed in an opening in the parking lots surface, then sealed up.
The brothers said, no matter what happens to Jack Murphy Stadium, they want their brother to stay put. The oldest brother said he’s heard of football fans across the country who’ve done the same thing in the memory of a loved one.
While watching the team at “The Murph,” their family sat in the same seats, developing friendships with other fans since the 1970’s.
Their mother, who is legally blind, rode the trolley to the game. They converted a commercial vehicle to a blue and gold fan-mobile for tailgates. One brother from the Los Angeles-area would drive it to games, arriving hours before kick-off, setting-up what might be described as tailgating nirvana. The food would be themed to match the Chargers opponent for the week. If the Chargers were playing against the Miami Dolphins, the food was shrimp and lobster. When playing the Kansas City Chiefs the food was ribs. It was described as an ultimate tailgate, with tents, tables and a supply of beer for the family members who traveled from all over Southern California.
The festivities didn't just stay local. In time, the brothers would follow the Chargers when they went on the road for away games: Seattle, D.C., Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, Kansas City and wherever the Raiders were calling home at the time.
Outside of Sunday football games, two of the brothers served in Vietnam before pursuing careers in law enforcement, including the brother who died at age 59 after a long battle with hepatitis.
Though unable to attend Chargers games near the end of his life, the brothers said he was jazzed about the Charger mobile they were decking-out. The brothers would take photos to show him the progress, but he never had a chance to ride in it to a game. Still, a seat would sit empty in his honor, draped in one of his leather jackets.
They said it was an emotional farewell at “The Murph,” that day, with many of their friends and family joining the ceremony, including football fans they had met in other stadiums and parking lots in their tailgating travels across the country.
As they talk about this moment, the brothers have tears in their eyes. They wanted to honor him, they said, and their loyalty to a football team that has left San Diego.