TEAM WAS FIRST FOR SEN­A­TOR

Past pitcher, politi­cian cel­e­brated for abil­ity to work with ev­ery­one

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER BY MARK OSWALD

At Iso­topes Park on Satur­day, Pete Domenici was re­mem­bered not only as a U.S. sen­a­tor who worked across the aisle and a de­voted fam­ily man, but also as a base­ball player and fan. About 200 peo­ple who at­tended Domenici’s pub­lic me­mo­rial ser­vice in Al­bu­querque got ball­park treats — peanuts, Baby Ruth candy bars and Cracker Jack — and Domenici base­ball cards. A huge im­age of Domenici, who died Wed­nes­day at age 85, throw­ing a base­ball was pro­jected on the Iso­topes’ score­board. The me­mo­rial was di­vided into nine in­nings and the crowd sang “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” to the sta­dium or­gan.

“Dad was a pitcher for the Dukes and he al­ways loved the game — even to the end of his life, he was watch­ing the (Washington) Na­tion­als,” said Clare Domenici, one of Domenici’s daugh­ters. “And we just wanted to share that as­pect of his life, a hobby that he en­joyed.”

Lisa Domenici, an­other daugh­ter who was wear­ing a Na­tion­als jersey, said her dad was “a pretty hum­ble guy who bought his clothes at Sears Roe­buck” and that base­ball was his pas­sion.

“In a way it was an anal­ogy for his life,” she said. “To al­ways strive to be the best, to be com­pet­i­tive, to en­joy the game, the team­work.”

For­mer U.S. Rep. Heather Wil­son, now Sec­re­tary of the Air Force, was among those who ad­dressed the crowd from be­hind home plate.

Wil­son, who held the Al­bu­querque area’s U.S.

House seat from 1998-2009, said Repub­li­can Domenici was a skilled law­maker who “built bridges and got things done,” part of a short list of sen­a­tors in re­cent decades who could “rise above parochial­ism and the small­ness of any mo­ment in time and choose to bring all of their gifts to the ser­vice of the na­tion.”

He was also a self­de­scribed “sucker for big science” who sup­ported ef­forts such as the hu­man genome project. But the man who served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009 could be “com­pletely clue­less,” she joked, about how to turn off a cell­phone.

Wil­son said Domenici’s role in dereg­u­lat­ing the nat­u­ral gas in­dus­try “changed the land­scape for Amer­i­can en­ergy” and cred­ited him for work­ing with Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton to ne­go­ti­ate the last two fed­eral bal­anced bud­gets, in the 1990s.

Domenici was also lauded for his long­time ef­fort to im­prove health care cov­er­age for peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues. Kathy Finch, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness-Al­bu­querque, thanked the Domenici fam­ily for “car­ing for the rest of Amer­ica as if we were your fam­ily, too.”

For­mer Carlsbad Mayor Robert For­rest talked about an­other Domenici pas­sion — quail hunt­ing. For­rest re­galed the crowd with tales of tak­ing Domenici on hunts — maybe the “most mem­o­rable” was when Dick Cheney was shot ac­ci­den­tally, be­fore he be­came vice pres­i­dent, the for­mer mayor said. The hunt­ing gave For­rest time to bend the sen­a­tor’s ear about fund­ing for projects like the Waste Iso­la­tion Pi­lot Plant. “I’ll sup­port it as long as it’s safe,” For­rest quoted Domenici as say­ing.

“I re­mem­ber the day Elvis died, I re­mem­ber 9/11 and I re­mem­ber the three times Pete Domenici told me he loved me,” For­rest said.

Gov. Su­sana Martinez pre­sented Domenici’s widow, Nancy, with a New Mex­ico flag; for­mer Demo­cratic Sen. Jeff Binga­man re­mem­bered work­ing with Domenici on an en­ergy bill that passed the Senate with ma­jori­ties among both Repub­li­cans and Democrats, “not some­thing we see too of­ten in the U.S. Senate these days,” and Al­bu­querque Mayor Richard Berry said he learned from Domenici both by ex­am­ple and from men­tor­ing, in­clud­ing ad­vice that “to­day’s op­po­nent is to­mor­row’s ally.”

Nella Domenici, an­other daugh­ter, also stressed her fa­ther’s bi­par­ti­san na­ture in a ses­sion with re­porters be­fore the me­mo­rial started.

She said for­mer U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia called af­ter her fa­ther died this week. Nunn re­flected on how he and Domenici, Demo­crat and Repub­li­can, spent “so many years work­ing so well to­gether.”

They were best friends, she said, “and they could craft leg­is­la­tion that was truly bi­par­ti­san.”

Ear­lier in the day, around 800 mourn­ers gath­ered at Al­bu­querque’s Our Lady of Fa­tima for a tra­di­tional Catholic funeral Mass.

Martinez, Wil­son, Berry, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce — who also spoke at the ball­park me­mo­rial — and Al­bu­querque Po­lice Chief Gor­den Eden were among those in at­ten­dance.

Af­ter Mass, dozens of po­lice ve­hi­cles es­corted a hearse con­tain­ing Domenici’s re­mains from the church, pre­sum­ably to his burial place.

JIM THOMP­SON/JOUR­NAL

A pic­ture of Sen. Pete Domenici throw­ing out the first pitch at a base­ball game was on the big screen at Iso­topes Park dur­ing a me­mo­rial ser­vice for Domenici at the ball­park Satur­day.

MARLA BROSE/JOUR­NAL

Pall­bear­ers walk the cas­ket of for­mer U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici to a hearse af­ter a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Fa­tima Church on Satur­day.

JIM THOMP­SON/JOUR­NAL

Sec­re­tary of the Air Force Heather Wil­son, a for­mer U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive from New Mex­ico, speaks at Satur­day’s me­mo­rial ser­vice for for­mer Sen. Pete Domenici.

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