ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Services have begun in the funeral of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who died last week in a plane crash in southwest Alaska and was the longest-serving Republican in senate history.
The funeral Wednesday marks the end of three days of remembrances that began Monday when several hundred people attended a Catholic Mass in Anchorage. Mourners filed past a closed casket Tuesday as Stevens' body lay in repose at an Episcopal church.
Vice President Joe Biden is speaking at the funeral, and more than 20 current and former senators, governors and foreign
representatives also are attending the funeral, which is being broadcast nationally.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Stevens would be remembered not only for all he did for Alaska - bringing billions of dollars to the state - but also for all the lives he touched.
"Ted gave so many the wings to fly," she said.
The funeral is being held at Anchorage Baptist Temple, Anchorage's largest church. It can seat over 2,000 people in its
auditorium, and an additional 2,000 seats have been set up in an overflow area to accommodate mourners.
The 86-year-old Stevens was appointed to the Senate in December 1968 and spent 40 years in office, becoming the longest-serving Republican senator in the nation's history. (The late Strom Thurmond was in the Senate longer than Stevens, but he spent a decade there as a Democrat before switching to the GOP.)
Stevens died along with four others when their plane crashed Aug. 9 north of Dillingham 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.
The others killed in the crash 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.
Kevin O'Keefe also has been released from Providence.
The fourth survivor is lobbyist Jim Morhard, who remained in fair condition Wednesday at the Anchorage hospital. The elder
O'Keefe also was being treated there, but his family has asked that his condition not be released.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.