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That was all it took to lift him off toward the distant storm.
No one knows what eventually happened to the $40,000 that Mary Anne recovered from the theater seat that night in New York, just as it is hard to imagine what might have happened to all the rest of the cash, perhaps more than $2 million, he loaned out and stashed away. Most of Marciano's friends and family believe that the bulk of his savings ended up in the bomb shelter on the Ocala, Fla., estate of Bernie Castro, who died two years ago. Mary Anne used to go there with her father, and she vividly recalls him placing his hand on a pipe that ran through the shelter: "He told me, 'Remember this spot, Mary Anne. A great place to hide money. Remember this pipe.' "
A year after the accident, Mary Anne says, she and her mother went to Castro's estate to ask him if they could search the shelter. "He told us, 'Don't be silly,' " she says. They never got inside. Mary Anne figured that some of the money was in safe deposit boxes, under assumed names, and she found doodlings of Rocky's that suggested he might have used two names: Mr. Rocco and Mr. March. She tried to make sense of code words he used to write down, such as powerless and insecure, but got nowhere. "For many years I tried to put it together," she says. "I even had a CIA friend who helped me search Swiss bank accounts. Nothing."
Believing himself to be immortal, Marciano had no use for life insurance, and wills were only for people who foresaw an end he simply could not imagine. He died intestate, and his family had a terrible struggle at first. The taxes and expenses to maintain the oceanfront house were "so astronomical." Mary Anne says, that the family had to move two miles inland in Fort Lauderdale, to a more modest, four-bedroom ranch house. "It was rough," Mary Anne says. "My mother sold her diamonds for us to live. There were all sorts of liens on the estate: it wasn't settled for five years."
Mary Anne lives in the ranch house with her grandmother Betty Cousins, whom she calls Nana, and Rocco Kevin, 25, who goes by Rocky Jr. An electrical engineering student at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, Rocky Jr. bears a resemblance to his father, and Mary Anne thinks that he was born out of a relationship that her father had with a Florida woman. Barbara had had live miscarriages after having Mary Anne, and she had become "desperate to adopt." Magically, a lawyer who was close to Marciano found a mother willing to give her child up for adoption.
"I think it was all arranged," Mary Anne says.
"I have my suspicions," Rocky Jr. says. "My one regret in life is that I didn't get to know my father."
Mary Anne has nothing but fond memories of him and the time they spent together. "To me he was gentle and caring," she says. "He'd pick me up and spin me on his knee. He'd come in off trips and he'd yell, 'Barb, can you get me a glass of water?' And then he'd walk into little Rocco's room and pick him up and say, 'My son! My son!' " His death shattered the family. "When he died, a piece of my mother died," Mary Anne says. In her last days Barbara lay in bed and hallucinated, seeing her husband beckoning to her. "Rocky, Fm not ready to go yet," she would say. "I have to take care of Mary Anne and Rocky." Barbara died in 1974 and was entombed next to her husband in a Fort Lauderdale mausoleum.
Mary Anne is sitting at the kitchen counter in her home, sipping iced tea and smoking a cigarette. She has not had an easy few years. On Aug. 4, 1992, she was released from the Broward Correctional Institution after serving eight months of a 22-month sentence for her part in a robbery at a club in Fort Lauderdale. "I made a few mistakes," she says. "I just got mixed up with the wrong people. It's been rough for me, very rough. I never hurt anybody. The only people I ever hurt were myself and my family. I was brought up very well. I had a good family background. The mistakes I made are my own. I went the easy way instead of toughing it out. I felt so bad when those articles came out about me. I didn't want his name to be tarnished: Rocky's daughter. What a nightmare. I'm still on probation, but I've come a long way. I was made to look at myself and make some serious changes."
Marciano left a large and lasting legacy as a prizefighter, as a historic force and presence in the game, but that was not all he left in Fort Lauderdale. Nana Cousins, 89, feels angry and bitter toward him for the kind of life he lived, for his long absences as a husband and father, for what he put his family through. In a living room scattered with photographs, in a house where his son and daughter live, there are no photos of the former undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. Twenty-four years after his death, he is still old business, unresolved. Mary Anne is telling that story about how Rocky loaded her and her friend into that freebie cargo plane bound for Hawaii when she was 12, and how the window blew in and the plane went into a dive. Mary Anne laughs.