The waiting room on the second floor of Lake Forest Hospital last week was packed with visitors—virtually all of whom had room number 2507 listed on their guest badges.
That was the room where their relative, friend or colleague, John "Moon" Mullin, was receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer.
The longtime Bears beat writer was having a tremendous 2022—vacationing in Naples, Fla., in January and Hilton Head, S.C., in April. But his health took a dramatic downward turn in May. He learned that his chemotherapy treatments had lost their effectiveness and he had to be hospitalized on three different occasions due to difficulty breathing.
Mullin passed away Sunday afternoon, surrounded by loved ones. He was 74.
Mullin left an indelible mark on everyone's life he touched. The well-liked and highly-respected reporter began covering the Bears for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1992, Mike Ditka's final year as coach. Mullin continued to cover the Bears for the Chicago Tribune from 1997-2008 and NBC Sports Chicago from 2009-18. He also wrote two books about the team.
"In a competitive business, for somebody to have the respect of his colleagues and the people he covered was very unusual, and Moon had that," said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. "Moon had a way of carrying himself that was just dignified. He was a class act."
"He really loved what he did," added former Bears defensive end Alex Brown. "He really loved covering the team, and you grow to love somebody like that."
Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, who's now an NFL analyst, recalls that Mullin was a true professional who always could be trusted.
"He was one of my favorites because he was there every day," Miller said. "He really had a good heartbeat and feel of the team and where it was and how to cover it. Players felt comfortable around John. When he said something was on the record or off the record, he stuck to his word. Players trusted him."
Long after his playing career ended, Miller remained friends with Mullin. The two would dine together when Miller visited Bears training camp in Bourbonnais as part of his duties as a host on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Asked to relay a funny story, Miller did not disappoint.
"One time we went out for dinner and he might have been overserved that night," Miller said. "He didn't realize he paid for the bill. The next morning he thanked me for picking up the check at dinner, and I'm like, 'John, what are you talking about? You're the one who paid for it!'"
Mullin's generosity was evident even at the most unexpected times. On his radio show last Friday morning on WSCR 670 AM, David Haugh paid tribute to his former colleague by describing how Mullin mentored him after Haugh had replaced him at the Chicago Tribune.
"When I came to Chicago nearly 20 years ago, I took Moon's job," Haugh said. "John 'Moon' Mullin had every reason to resent me and every reason to ignore me and every reason to be the worst possible teammate to me. And he was the opposite. He treated me better than anybody at the Chicago Tribune I worked with.
"This guy—whose job I took—made it easier for me to do my job. He made me better because of his input. And you don't forget stuff like that. I learned basically the beat from somebody whose job I took. I owe him big-time and I've always felt indebted to him for practically training me, for swallowing his pride, showing me the way and setting an example that I'm still grateful for."
Mullin was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in late 2019. Given a year to live, he outlived that projection by nearly two full years. He battled the disease with grace and dignity, always staying positive. As recently as last Wednesday, he sat in a chair in his hospital room laughing and joking and sharing stories with three longtime friends.
"He was a model of how to deal with a serious illness," said Dan Pompei, a longtime NFL writer and friend of Mullin's. "He never stopped living and growing. Oftentimes when someone has the kind of diagnosis he had, it ends up being a sad, mournful time in their life. With him, it was the opposite. He traveled, grew relationships and grew spiritually. He had great conversations and thoughts with people and really I think he kind of ultimately completed himself as a human being.
"I don't think he ever felt sorry for himself. I don't think he ever said, 'Why me?' When I visited with him about a week ago, he was talking a lot about his blessings and how grateful he was for everything in his life and what a great life he's had."
Even while in the fight of his life, Mullin was determined to help complete strangers. He created a series of inspirational YouTube videos entitled "Attitude over Cancer," sharing them with others suffering from the disease. He encouraged friends to spread the word, writing to one: "If there'd be any way you could tweet out the link, just to boost awareness, would be great—nothing in it for me, just seems to be resonating with folks who've seen them."
During the years he covered the Bears, Mullin was often referred to as "the most interesting man in the world." And it wasn't only because he shared the same white beard and sophisticated look as the actor featured in the Dos Equis beer commercials. Mullin taught journalism at local colleges, played the guitar and sang in a band and loved biking, kayaking, golfing and wine.
Visitation will be held Monday, June 27 from 4-8 p.m. at Donnellen Funeral Home (10045 Skokie Blvd.) in Skokie. Mass will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview Tuesday, June 28 at 10 a.m.
Several of Mullin's friends and colleagues, along with former Bears players and coaches, paid tribute to him on Twitter: