Mark Felt's family shares remembrances

December 21, 2008 2:41:07 PM PST
The family of W. Mark Felt, the former associate director of the FBI better known to the world as "Deep Throat" from the Watergate era, paused Saturday morning to remember their famous patriarch in front of the Santa Rosa home where Felt died Thursday.

"We knew dad was cool, but this was off the charts," Felt's daughter Joan said recalling the time the family learned earlier this decade that rumors and speculation that he was Deep Throat were indeed true.

San Francisco attorney John O'Connor, a former prosecutor and a Felt family confidant, said he became certain in 2002 that Felt was Deep Throat, the clandestine source of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's stories about the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The revelations led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

In April 2002, O'Connor asked Joan Felt if he could talk to her father about it. She agreed.

"As soon as I mentioned it, he went from a friendly guy to a guy who gripped the chair until his knuckles were white," O'Connor recalled.

Felt didn't believe it would be good for the FBI if it became known he was indeed Deep Throat, O'Connor said.

"He finally realized he could admit it and by the first part of May he admitted it," O'Connor said.

The world learned it in May 2005 after Felt disclosed he was Deep Throat in a Vanity Fair article. The media immediately gathered at the Felt residence in west Santa Rosa. Felt waved and greeted the awed assembly as he stood and waved while leaning on his walker.

"I appreciate you coming out like this. OK. It's nice to see you. Thanks for coming," Felt said, his memory dimming but his face positively glowing.

"When you mention the truth, his eyes light up. He's an angel. He's radiant," Joan Felt said recalling that moment Saturday morning.

"It was a relief to be known as Deep Throat. It opened him up," she said. "We were proud as could be. We realized we had a lot to live up to and that's what we try to do."

"I think he lived a lot longer because of this," O'Connor said.

Felt realized it would bring honor to the FBI and himself, O'Connor said. He was finally at peace with it.

"For the last three and a half years he's been a tremendously happy man," O'Connor said. "The family is very grateful to the American public for sharing his values."

Yara Tikoilakeba was Felt's 51-year old Fijian around the clock caretaker for the last three years.

"I was blessed and honored to have served him. He was a great man, loving and caring. He was a saint. I miss him," Tikoilakeba said.

The end at age 95 came Thursday around 12:45 p.m. Felt had just finished his lunch in the garage that had been converted to his room at his daughter's house on Redford Place.

"He had a good lunch. We were kidding around up until then. I gave him his medications. He said, 'I'm done with the food' and then he said, 'I'm kind of not feeling good.'

"He was on his recliner and I stretched him back. I just turned by back toward the kitchen and I heard a sound, a gasping for air. I asked, 'Mark, what's the problem?' There was no response. He wasn't blinking. I sat him up and heard his last breaths. Then I called the doctor," Tikoilakeba said.

"He talked the talk and he walked the walk of a saint to the end. He's a great man," he said.

Felt's grandson Nick Jones remembers Felt as "an extremely caring and charismatic man."

"He was always very steady, very wise. He put the needs of others above his own. He stuck his neck out his whole life and whole career. I'm tremendously proud of him," Jones said.

Friends and family are gathering at the Felt home this weekend for a private home funeral. Felt will be cremated at a private ceremony at a cemetery Monday. The family plans a large public memorial service in January.


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