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Koch's tombstone bears slain journalist's words

John Minchillo / AP

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch's tombstone at Trinity Church Cemetery.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch will be buried beneath a tombstone bearing the last words of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.

“My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish,” reads the inscription on Koch’s tombstone. The words were among the last uttered by Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, shortly before he was beheaded by Islamic militants in Pakistan in early 2002.

Koch passed away Friday morning of congestive heart failure at the age of 88. His health had flagged in recent weeks, with hospital visits to help combat fluid buildup around his lungs.

The tombstone adorning the burial plot Koch purchased for $20,000 in Trinity Church Cemetery will bear other markers of his Jewish faith. Pearl’s word are joined by a Star of David and the Hebrew confession of faith known as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, The Lord Our God, The Lord is One.”

While Pearl’s words were spoken with death near, they have come to be understood as a proud affirmation of his Judaism.

“To Daniel Pearl, ‘I am Jewish’ was more than just an affirmation of a simple fact,” the Daniel Pearl Foundation says in material on its website. “To Daniel Pearl, ‘I am Jewish’ meant, ‘My life has meaning, and nothing you do will strip that away from me. Even if my life ends now, I have served a purpose.”

'Irrepressible icon': Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch dies at 88

Koch’s tombstone also bears an epitaph Koch wrote himself, emphasizing his faith and the city he served as mayor.

“He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith,” the inscription reads. “He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”

Former New York City Mayor Edward Irving Koch, a man as colorful as the city he helped save from financial ruin, died Friday of congestive heart failure. He was 88. NBC's Brian Williams reports.