Sen. Lautenberg Remembered At NYC Funeral [VIDEO]
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s nearly three decades in office and the causes he championed were remembered at a funeral service in New York attended by Governor Chris Christie, much of the New Jersey Congressional delegation as well as former Governors McGreevey and Florio.
3:30 p.m. After the funeral, Lautenberg’s body was taken to Secaucus’ Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station, which Congress voted to name for him in 2000. A brief ceremony in the station’s rotunda honored him, and then an honor guard of police officers, bagpipers and drummers escorted the casket to a platform. Officers stood at attention as his flag-draped coffin was pushed onto the baggage car of a private Amtrak train. Lautenberg’s widow looked into the car where her husband’s casket was loaded, and finally his family boarded two passenger cars.
2:30 p.m.: Lautenberg’s casket was followed out by his family during the quinent’s rendition of “America the Beautiful.” It will be escorted to the Secaucus train station named after Lautenberg by Capitol Police.
3:00 p.m: Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg opend saying she believed Sen. Lautenberg would have been proud of the service, and told those assembled that her husband would be only the second person in history to lie in repose in the Senate chamber.
She thanked Majority Leader Harry Reid for his help in making arragements, apparently including Lautenberg’s burial at Arlington National Cemtetery. She said Lautenberg had spoken about wanting to be buried there so his grandchildren could find his grave and know he served in World War II.
“I said Frank, you’ve got to make plans and fill out the papers,” but he never did.
“He couldn’t face his own mortality, and figured it would get done” Englebardt Lautenberg said. “It did get done, and thank you Harry.”
She said the only thing about the service that wouldd have made Lautenberg happier “was if this was a fund-raiser for his next campaign.”
She said they had been together 25 years and married more than nine, and she had to listen to him repeat many stories and jokes at different gatherings and laugh as though she’d never heard them.
“After a while, I hated introducing him to anyone new,” she said.
She talked about what’s known as the Lautenberg amendment, which gives special immigration treatment to Soviet Jews fleeing religious oppression, and said that during the Democratic convention in Boston they were in a cab and the cabbie had a Russian accent. The Senator asked how he was able to come to the country.
“Lautenberg amendment,” the cabbie said. “I’m Lautenberg,” the senator responded. It took a while for the cabbie to believe it, but when he did, he wanted no fare for the ride, but the senator insisted on paying.
2:00 p.m: Biden: “He’s the only guy that made me feel I was junior to him, but I was there longer than him…. By the way, I saved Amtrak three times before he was elected.”
Biden said Lautenberg was his best friend in the Senate, but when he suggested an express Acela from Washington that only stopped in Philadelphia and New York, they had a disagreement.
Biden reminded Lautenberg he was chairman of the judiciary committee. “Frank, you will not get another judge in New Jersey,” Biden recounted saying.
He praised Lautenberg’s character, saying it showed in everything he did “No one ever doubted … that when Frank told you something, he meant it. … Even if the political circumstances changed.”
The audience applauded as Biden finished his speech summarizing “He was a man. He was a real man.”
1:40 p.m.: Vice Presiden Joe Biden discussed Lautenberg’s anguish over the decision announced in February to retire. “It’s not that he wanted to be a senator,” Biden said as he looked at the senator’s children, “but your dad never quit anything.”
Like Clinton, Biden talked about the moving tributes from children and grandchildren, opening his remarks saying “If there’s a definition of redundant, I’m it.” He looked at the family and said, “You are the definition of what it means to be successful.”
1:15 p.m.: Hillary Clinton said she and Senator Lautenberg often sat together in the back of the Senate chamber. “Frank always had something to say. It was usually a running commentary of what we were doing and what we weren’t doing.You just couldn’t help but have a smile on your face at least one time during the conversation”
Clinton said Laurenberg was a “steadfast champion of women’s rights and opportunities. “He was the one who stopped smoking on airplanes. He was the one who raised the drinking age to 21,” which Clinton said saved thousands of families from having to mourn loved ones. Clinton said that in 1999 she and FRL were greeting refugees from Kosovo at Fort Dix. She said Lautenberg put his arms around some families. “Here he was again representing the best of who we are as Americans.” Concluded Clinton: “He loved and he was loved. And after all, that’s what makes a great life. Thank you, Frank.”
12:45 p.m.: Lautenberg family friend Brian Stokes Mitchell sang two tunes he said were among Frank Lautenberg’s favorites: “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha and “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. He also sang the tunes.
12:30 p.m.: Son Josh Lautenberg said his father “had the best sense of humor. He was goofy, jubilant and a real smart alec.” Josh said he couldn’t keep up with his father because he “would always move at 100 miles per hour. He thrived on being a pest sometimes. He was the worst backseat driver in the history of backseat drivers…. I think that he went through more drivers than coffee.He reminded us to be constantly humble”
Josh said he was “tough on us kids.But in the long run that toughness helped me do the best at whatever I was doing.I cannot express how much I will now my dad.” Josh said if he could ask his father how to go on without him “He would simply say to move forward without hesitation, run the stairs, walk fast and grab a hot dog on the way.”
12:15 p.m.: Sen. Robert Menendez talked about this week’s Democratic caucus, which turned into each member wanting to share Lautenberg stories and jokes. “Frank Lautenberg was a man for his time, one of the greatest generation and the last senator to have served in World War II.” He also talked about Paterson roots. “Anyone who knew Frank knows he was destined to make something of himself and he did.” He talked about battles with chemical industry and gun lobby. “I will remember his life as a testament to what it is possible to achieve in America.”
Lautenberg’s children said he had recently begun to regret announcing in February that he would retire and not seek another term, and discussed whether he could rescind it. “On days that were good he would say I never should have made that retirement speech,” daughter Ellen Lautenberg said. They also joked about his attempts to speak foreign languages badly to waiters in restaurants.
Daughter Nan Lautenberg Morgart joked talked about having opposing opinions from her father but the same trait of believing she was always right.
“We would argue and debate and dig in our heels and never bend,” she said
12:00 p.m.: Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove eulogizes Lautenberg as coming from “the most modest” of backgrounds.”Frank had to learn to take care of himself. He came out fighting and he never stopped.” Cosgrove said Lautenberg was “able to walk with kings while never losing the common touch.” Added Cosgrove: “His jokes, funny even after the 2nd. 3rd and 4th telling.” “He was the consummate man of the arena. Never amongst the souls too timid to fight”
Rabbi Daniel Cohen said Lautenberg called him a few weeks about “the inevitable.” During their convesation Cohen said “he told me he wanted to be remembered as a man from humble beginnings who had done good.” Cohen said Lautenberg wanted others from similar circumstances to be able to do the same.
11:50 a.m.: Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove opened the service describing Lautenberg as a “mensch through and through” who always had an “abiding awareness of his roots” in Paterson, “He came out fighting and he never stopped,” Cosgrove said. He said that while Lautenberg’s commitment to women’s issues came partly from the influence of strong women, but aalso his recollection “of the injustice of seeing his mother laid off following the war.” He also said Lautenberg had a human touch. “His jokes were funny even on the second, third and fourth telling,” Cosgrove said.
11:40 a.m.: Service has begun with a prayer by Lautenberg’s family and customary tearing of fabric.
The service got underway at the Park Avenue Synagogue on the upper Manhattan promptly at 11:30 a.m. as the synagogue filled to the music of a quintet with flute, piano and 3 strings is playing in the corner of the room.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill were among the last to arrive. Among those attending are possible candidates Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt. Newark Mayor Cory Booker does not look to be at the funeral.
Former Senate colleague Hillary Clinton is sitting next to Lautenberg’s widow Bonnie.
The liberal Democrat from New Jersey died Monday after suffering complications from viral pneumonia. At 89, he was the oldest member of the Senate and the last of 115 World War II veterans to serve there.
Vice President Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and members of Lautenberg’s family were set to deliver eulogies.
A color guard ceremony was also scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at the Frank Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus where his casket was to be put on an Amtrak train to Washington.
Former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and a number of U.S Senators will act as honorary pallbearers: Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Benjamin Cardin, Dick Durbin, Diane Feinstein, Al Franken, Kristen Gillibrand, Tom Harkin, Pat Leahy, Carl Levin, Menendez, Mikulski, Patty Murray, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and two Repubilcans: Richard Shelby and Marco Rubio according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lautenberg was an ardent defender of Amtrak and worked to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for mass transit projects.
His casket was set to arrive at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and lie in repose in the Senate chamber, on the Lincoln Catafalque, a bier that was built for the coffin of Abraham Lincoln.
Lautenberg, who served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, will be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
A multimillionaire businessman, he was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and went on to serve nearly 30 years there in two stints.
He won his last race in 2008 at age 84, becoming the first New Jersey politician ever elected to five Senate terms. He had announced earlier this year he would not seek another term in 2014.
Early in his political career, he was a driving force behind the laws that banned smoking on most U.S. flights and made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states.