NARBERTH, Pa. - Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator, was remembered Tuesday as a great American statesman, a champion of fairness and justice, and a man who fought with inspiring courage and will against the cancer that finally claimed him.
More than 1,000 people, from the nation's top officials to the "average Americans" who were always Specter's first concern, filled the sanctuary at Har Zion Temple in this Philadelphia suburb for a nearly two-hour funeral.
Among those on hand was Specter's longtime Senate colleague, Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced himself in the way he thought was most important: "I was Arlen's friend."
Other speakers included an emotional former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, whom Specter had hired when he was Philadelphia's Republican district attorney.
Rendell's voice broke as he recalled seeing a feisty Specter only weeks before his death on Sunday, at 82, of complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
"There are some things that even the most robust human spirit can't conquer," Rendell said, "but he conquered everything he could."
Some mourners began arriving two hours early, forming long lines to pay their respects to Specter's family and pass by his American flag-draped coffin. Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Politicians of both parties attended, a testament to Specter's position - more and more
Biden said he and Specter often rode the train together from Washington to their home states.
"It's amazing how long I worked for Arlen," he joked, saying that Specter would tell his Delaware neighbor: "Remember, you're Pennsylvania's third senator."
More seriously, Biden recalled serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Specter, where the latter believed "there was no single endeavor the president undertook other than war that was more important than the nomination" of Supreme Court justices.
What many women saw as the Pennsylvania senator's grilling of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings was just one of the occasions when he risked the ire of parts of the electorate. But Specter was never one to shy away from hard decisions and political risks, several speakers said.
"He paid a very high price for how often he went his own way," one said.
Years before the Thomas hearings, Specter gained some national attention as counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the death of President John F Kennedy.
Specter was remember by family members as a loving husband to his wife of 59 years, Joan, father to sons Shanin and Steve, and grandfather of four. Sylvie Specter, now a freshman at Specter's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, recalled that when she was in school, whenever she was asked to write a report on a role model, she always chose her grandfather.
"He was focused yet funny, serious yet sensitive, commanding yet giving," said Shanin Specter.
His son also spoke about Specter's repeated struggles against a devastating disease. His father approached those struggles in much the same way he did his not-always-successful runs for office; Specter, earlier in his career had also run for mayor of Philadelphia, governor and, briefly, president.
"He paid essentially no attention to poor prognoses. He said, 'I don't discourage,'" his son said.
But speakers said because of his courage in the face of cancer, many others may someday win that fight. With Specter's push to include $10 billion in funding for medical research to the National Institutes of Health, he has given hope to American families, they said.
"The good he did, the people he touched - that will go on for years and years," Rendell said.
As pallbearers carried Specter's coffin out of the hall, there was a final reminder of another of the late senator's passions: the music of Frank Sinatra.
The appropriate lyric choice: "I did it my way."