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Rozelle Found Privacy In Rancho Santa Fe

December 8, 1996

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (AP) _ Pete Rozelle spent his final years living quietly in this exclusive community noted for its gated estates and polo fields.

Rozelle, who built the NFL into the nation’s No. 1 spectator sport, craved privacy after he retired as commissioner in 1989. This was the place to get it.

He and his wife Carrie might be seen at Mille Fleurs, the fancy restaurant in the little central village, or at the post office picking up their mail. But their names rarely showed up in the newspaper society pages.

``They kept a low profile,″ said Sheri Okun, a real estate agent who had worked with the Rozelles. ``They were very unassuming.″

Rozelle, the NFL commissioner for 29 years, died of brain cancer Friday evening at his hillside estate. He was 70.

``Everyone always had something good to say about him,″ Okun said Saturday. ``He was a very nice man.″

Rozelle had undergone surgery for brain cancer in 1993, and his wife has had cancer for some time.

``They were just very private,″ Okun said. ``The illness was always there.″

The Rozelles’ names have been on the ``prayer list″ for some time at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in nearby Del Mar, said Susan Bailey Cowan, who also lives in Rancho Santa Fe.

``They were just really beloved as special people, not because he was famous or because of his affiliation with the NFL, but because they were really kind, good friends and neighbors,″ Cowan said.

``They were just like anyone else you might see shopping here today.″

Cowan said she hadn’t seen the Rozelles in some time, likely due to their illnesses.

``You can go for months without seeing people here,″ she said.

That’s one of the attractions of Rancho Santa Fe, where new and old money mix in neighborhoods of multimillion-dollar homes. It’s probably the most private community in the San Diego area.

Celebrities who live here or visit ``get their privacy,″ said George Pinkel, a longtime resident who was heading for a coffee shop Saturday morning.

Pinkel had heard that Rozelle died, but didn’t recognize a newspaper photo of him.

``He was a coach or something, wasn’t he?″ Pinkel said. ``I know the name, but not the face. Even if I saw the guy on TV, I might not know him.″

Rozelle’s gated Italian villa was quiet Saturday, with no one coming or going.

Arrangements for memorial services in New York and Los Angeles were still pending, the NFL commissioner’s office said.

Rozelle will be cremated after a private service, the time and place of which will not be announced.

A moment of silence will be observed at the 14 NFL games Sunday and Monday night, prior to the playing of the national anthem.

Rozelle will also be memorialized at this season’s Super Bowl, Jan. 26 in New Orleans.

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