Ben Kane, 97, one of a few Jewish students and football players at Notre Dame University in the Knute Rockne era, died Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, in suburban Chicago. If he got a late-in-life wish, he was buried with a Notre Dame football in his casket.
Kane was a running back on the Fighting Irish’s 1930 freshman football team, Rockne’s last season before he was killed in a March 1931 plane crash.
“Coach Rockne was well liked. He used to talk a lot. He’d talk about what went wrong at games. It was interesting. That’s why everybody wanted to go there,” he told the Tribune of South Bend, Indiana in a 2006 interview.
Kane, who was born April 15, 1910, and grew up in Chicago, said in the interview he knew of Notre Dame because of its famous “Four Horsemen” backfield of the 1920s.
Kane attended a Notre Dame game against Stanford University in South Bend in 2006. He had last attended a Notre Dame football game in 1932 as an undergraduate.
Kane told the newspaper he remembered four or five other Jews playing Notre Dame football at the time.
He attended Catholic Mass a few times, but was made to feel welcome on campus, he said.
Kane left Notre Dame after his sophomore year to take a football scholarship at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.
He later owned a barbecue restaurant and a camera store in Chicago. Kane is survived by two sons, Larry and Scott, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He and his wife, the late Bernice Obolsky, were married 69 years.
In the 2006 interview, Kane said he told his family that when he died, he wanted to be buried with a Notre Dame football in his casket.