Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Memorialization Of Senator Ted Stevens Formally Capped With Official Funeral Service At Anchorage Baptist Temple; Joe Biden Headlines Speakers

The memorialization of former Senator Ted Stevens was formally concluded on August 18th, 2010 with an official funeral service at Anchorage Baptist Temple. Because ABT is the largest church facility in Anchorage, Pastor Jerry Prevo offered it for the service to accommodate the estimated 3,000 well-wishers. This concludes a series of memorials for Senator Stevens, which began with a Catholic mass at Holy Family Cathedral on August 16th, and continued with a public viewing at All Saints Episcopal Church on August 17th.

If you missed the service and want to watch it, you're in luck. C-Span has a video of the two-hour service; written transcript available HERE.

Media links:

-- "Alaskans, VIPs gather for Stevens funeral service", Anchorage Daily News
-- "List of attendees expected for Stevens memorial", Anchorage Daily News. Note that this was just a list of the most prominent VIPs.
-- "Biden, Inouye speak at Stevens funeral", Anchorage Daily News
-- "Ted Stevens was Alaska", KTUU Channel 2
-- "Biden: Ted Stevens was a 'fierce defender' of Alaska", Alaska Dispatch
-- "More than 4,000 expected to attend Stevens' funeral", Alaska Dispatch
-- "Alaska Dispatch gallery of 15 photos"
-- "Anchorage Daily News gallery of 31 photos"
-- "Facebook gallery of numerous photos"
-- Mudflats personally attended and has an account and numerous photos HERE

Vice-President Joe Biden headlined the event. Biden recalled how Ted Stevens reached out to him when Biden, at the time a 30-year-old Democrat from Delaware, was first elected to the U.S. Senate. He had just lost his wife and daughter in an auto accident. Biden said Stevens walked across the floor of the Senate to his corner desk, extended his hand and said, "I want to get to know you. Ann and I want you to come to dinner." Biden said Stevens always kept his word, was quick with generosity, and embodied his state like no other senator.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had called on Stevens to resign from the Senate at the time, also spoke and did not mention the trial. McConnell said Stevens was respected and revered in Washington and throughout the Lower 48 for his service to his country, his many legislative achievements, and his legendary grit.

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Dan Inouye said Stevens was a master of "congressional initiatives," otherwise known as earmarks. He lauded Stevens as man of trust, a good friend who went beyond ideology. Inouye did speak of Stevens' trial, saying "We knew, we all knew it that he was not guilty."

And of course, since it is his church he volunteered, Pastor Jerry Prevo put in his two cents worth. Prevo said he wouldn't be surprised if the wiry, compact Stevens was six feet, 10 inches tall in his new life. "He's going to be the Hulk we all knew he was," Prevo said. This is in reference to the Incredible Hulk tie Sen. Stevens wore occasionally on the Senate floor. The Roman Catholic Archbishop Francis Hurley, who officiated at the August 16th mass at Holy Family, actually led off the service with his own speech.

Stevens' funeral ended with his flag-draped casket carried out of the Anchorage Baptist Temple by an honor guard. Thousands stayed and watched a screen showing photos of his life, and then filed out to attend a reception. The final resting place of Stevens' body has not been revealed, but one reporter was told his body might end up being interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Other noteworthy attendees included U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller and his wife, as well as one of the survivors of the Stevens plane crash, Jim Morhard, who was temporarily released from Providence Hospital long enough to attend. The latest status report on the four survivors is documented HERE; Willy Phillips Jr. was released last week and Kevin O'Keefe was just released today.

Security was tight. When driving down Boniface Parkway, about a mile south of ABT, I noticed APD cruisers stationed on side streets about 3-4 blocks apart.

Other scribes continue to weigh in with their perspectives. In an article entitled "Why Ted Stevens' Death Has Hit Alaska So Hard" posted on The Alaska Standard, Cliff Groh not only discusses the outpouring of tributes to Stevens from all sides, but observes that there are "several strands of mourning". The Anchorage Daily Planet characterized Ted Stevens as "a giant among Alaskans, a man who, perhaps more than any other, changed an impoverished, backward territory into a vibrant economic giant. It will be years before the true measure of his greatness fully is understood, but Alaskans already know one thing: His passing left a hole in our hearts". And Alaska Dispatch published an amusing tribute entitled "Heads up, Heaven -- Ted Stevens is on his way".

Ted Stevens was one of a kind. You don't replace a legend.

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