Former VP Bi­den, Si­na­tra’s ‘My Way’ set tone of ser­vice.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa Daniels

PHOENIX — Sen. John McCain was eu­lo­gized as a “true Amer­i­can hero” — and a ter­ri­ble driver with a wicked sense of hu­mor and love of a good fight — at a crowded church ser­vice for the mav­er­ick politi­cian Thurs­day that ended with the play­ing of Frank Si­na­tra’s “My Way.”

Ad­dress­ing an es­ti­mated 3,500 mourn­ers, former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den re­called “the sheer joy that crossed his face when he knew he was about to take the stage of the Se­nate floor and start a fight.”

Bi­den, a Demo­crat who was among the fast friends the Repub­li­can sen­a­tor made across the aisle, said he thought of McCain as a brother, “with a lot of fam­ily fights.”

The ser­vice for the states­man, former pris­oner of war and two-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date un­folded at North Bap­tist Church af­ter a mo­tor­cade bear­ing McCain’s body made its way from the state Capi­tol past Ari­zo­nans wav­ing Amer­i­can flags and cam­paign-style McCain signs.

Fam­ily mem­bers then watched in si­lence as uni­formed mil­i­tary mem­bers re­moved the flag-draped cas­ket from a black hearse and car­ried it into the church. McCain died Satur­day of brain can­cer at 81.

At the church, a choir from the Je­suit-run Bro­phy Col­lege Prepara­tory school that two of McCain’s sons at­tended sang “Amaz­ing Grace.”

McCain’s long­time chief of staff, Grant Woods, a former Ari­zona at­tor­ney gen­eral, drew laughs with a eu­logy in which he talked about McCain’s “ter­ri­bly bad driv­ing” and his sense of hu­mor, which in­cluded call­ing the Leisure World re­tire­ment com­mu­nity “Seizure World.”

Woods also re­called the way McCain would in­tro­duce him to new staff mem­bers by say­ing, “You’ll have to fire half of them.”

An­other friend, Tommy Espinoza, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Raza De­vel­op­ment Fund, called McCain “one of the great­est Amer­i­can heroes in our life­time.” The church’s se­nior pas­tor Noe Gar­cia pro­nounced McCain “a true Amer­i­can hero.”

Dab­bing his eyes as he re­called his friend, Bi­den said McCain “could not stand the abuse of power wher­ever he saw it, in what­ever form, in what­ever coun­try.” He said McCain em­bod­ied ba­sic val­ues in­clud­ing fair­ness, hon­esty and re­spect, and fought for ci­vil­ity be­tween politi­cians even if they dis­agreed on the is­sues.

Bi­den also re­ferred to his own son’s death from can­cer, say­ing of the dis­ease, “It’s bru­tal, it’s re­lent­less, it’s un­for­giv­ing.” And he spoke di­rectly to McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, seated in the front row: “You were his bal­last.”

Si­na­tra’s “My Way” paid trib­ute to a politi­cian who be­came known for fol­low­ing his own path based on his per­sonal prin­ci­ples. McCain clashed openly with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who mocked McCain for get­ting cap­tured dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

Two White House of­fi­cials said McCain’s fam­ily had asked, be­fore the sen­a­tor’s death, that Trump not at­tend the fu­neral ser­vices. Twenty-four sit­ting U.S. sen­a­tors, four former sen­a­tors and other lead­ers were among those ex­pected at Thurs­day’s me­mo­rial.

The church ser­vice brought to a close two days of mourn­ing for McCain in his home state.

Later in the day, a mil­i­tary air­craft was sched­uled to take McCain’s body back east for a ly­ing-in-state at the U.S. Capi­tol on Fri­day, a ser­vice at the Washington Na­tional Cathe­dral on Satur­day and burial at the U.S. Naval Academy in An­napo­lis, Mary­land.

As the 11-ve­hi­cle mo­tor­cade with a 17-mo­tor­cy­cle po­lice es­cort made its way to­ward the church, peo­ple along the 8-mile route held signs that read sim­ply “McCain,” and cars on the other side of the high­way stopped or slowed to a crawl in ap­par­ent trib­ute.

A few fire­fight­ers saluted from atop a fire en­gine parked on an over­pass as the mo­tor­cade passed un­der­neath on In­ter­state 17.

One man shouted, “We love you!”

An es­ti­mated 15,000 peo­ple filed past the sen­a­tor’s cas­ket to pay their fi­nal re­spects, and McCain sons Doug, Jack and Jimmy, daugh­ter Sid­ney and daugh­ter-in­law Re­nee shook hands with some of them.

On Thurs­day, Michael Fel­lars was among those await­ing the mo­tor­cade out­side the church. The Marines vet­eran said he was also the fourth per­son in line Wed­nes­day to at­tend the view­ing at the Capi­tol for the Navy pi­lot held pris­oner by the North Viet­namese for 5½ years af­ter be­ing shot down over Hanoi.


Veter­ans walk past the cas­ket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dur­ing a me­mo­rial ser­vice at the Ari­zona Capi­tol on Thurs­day in Phoenix.

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