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Mourners pay respects to Stevens in Anchorage

Posted: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Scores of Alaskans personally said goodbye to former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Tuesday, eight days after he was killed in a plane crash.

A steady stream of mourners filed past a closed casket as Stevens' body lay in repose at All Saints Episcopal Church in Anchorage. The daylong procession will be followed by a funeral Wednesday at the Anchorage Baptist Temple.

"He was a great politician and a great man. He's going to be so missed," a teary eyed Jacqueline Wariner said as she left the Episcopal church. She was among the many there who lived in Alaska all 40 years the man known as "Uncle Ted" spent in office.

Stevens, 86, died along with four others when their plane crashed in southwest Alaska last week en route from a corporate-owned lodge to a fishing camp. Four people, including ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin, survived.

Three days of remembrances for Stevens - the Senate's longest serving Republican - began Monday when several hundred people attended a Catholic Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage.

Hundreds were expected to line a procession route taking Stevens' body to the Baptist church on Tuesday evening in preparation for Wednesday's funeral, to be broadcast nationwide by C-SPAN.

Vice President Joe Biden was planning to attend the funeral and expected to speak at it. Also expected to attend were 11 current senators, nine former senators, two representatives, and current and former Alaska governors including Sarah Palin.

Inside the Episcopal church Tuesday, a U.S. flag was draped over Stevens' casket at the front of the sanctuary. As a uniformed member of the military stood watch, people filed past, some pausing to gaze at the casket, some genuflecting, some wiping their eyes.

Some stopped to offer condolences to Stevens' family members sitting in a front pew.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan was among the mourners. He said Stevens and his family were lifelong family friends. He grew up with Stevens' sons and daughters.

"For us, it really is like losing a true uncle," he said.

Another longtime family friend, Jeff Cook of Fairbanks, said Stevens will be remembered for reasons other than the billions of dollars he brought to the state.

"No, we'll remember him for the kindnesses, the handwritten notes we got, the condolences when we had a close family member pass away," Cook said. "His attention to detail, his love of the state. That's what we'll remember."

Sylvester Joubert, a 40-year Anchorage resident, said he wasn't a personal friend of Stevens, but he was still compelled to show up and pay his last respects. He said he stood in front of the casket and thanked Stevens and told him he would be missed.

"People knew him," he said. "They wanted to shake his hand. They wanted to touch him - and this is a good way to say goodbye."

The four others killed in the Aug. 9 crash north of Dillingham were pilot Theron Smith, General Communications Inc. executive Dana Tindall, her 16-year-old daughter, Corey, and William "Bill" Phillips Sr., who had worked with Stevens in Washington.

Phillips' 13-year-old son, William "Willy" Phillips Jr., survived the crash and has been released from Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. A memorial service for his father was scheduled for Friday in Potomac, Md.

The fourth survivor is lobbyist Jim Morhard, who remained in fair condition at Providence. The O'Keefes also were being treated there, but their family has asked that their conditions not be released.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash.



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