Politics & Government

Friends, family pay tribute to Sen. Ted Stevens

Ted Stevens' friends and former colleagues, including the vice president, remembered him at his funeral service as a generous, loyal man who went far beyond partisan politics and was a master in delivering vast sums to the state he embodied.

Wednesday's service was a celebration of his life, with fond stories and laughter, adding to the tearful tributes made since Stevens died in a plane crash last week. On either side of the lectern, two pairs of toy "Incredible Hulk" fists stood on tables, between bouquets of flowers, a tribute to the fiery senator's comic book alter-ego.

As many as 2,300 people watched the service from the sanctuary of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, with an estimated 600 more in overflow rooms watching on television. Alaska has seen no memorial like it, with a guest list of 11 U.S. senators and 10 former senators, including Vice President Joe Biden. Most of the state Legislature was there. So were five Alaska governors, including a rare Alaska public appearance by Sarah Palin. There was a princess from Easter Island on the guest list, the postmaster general of the United States and the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee. It was televised statewide and on C-SPAN.

The vice president recalled how the Alaska Republican 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. Biden, lowest in the Senate in seniority, had lost his wife and baby daughter in a car accident a month after he was elected.

"(Stevens) walked across the floor of the Senate to my corner desk ... extended his hand and said, 'I want to get to know you. Ann and I want you to come to dinner," the vice president recalled.

Kevin O'Keefe and Jim Morhard, two survivors of the plane crash that killed Stevens, listened from the front row. Both were in wheelchairs, Morhard wearing a neck brace and a cast, resting his arm on a tray with three small pillows.

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