NEW YORK – Barbara Walters, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre were among the celebrities paying tribute to Dana Reeve at the singer-actress' memorial service Monday.
"She had a light within her that was captured by the way people talked about her today, especially her son and stepchildren," Clinton said after the private service. "She was one of the most exceptional people I have ever known. It was a very fitting tribute."
Reeve died of lung cancer at age 44 on March 6, a year and a half after the death of her husband, "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve. Reeve had devoted herself to her husband's care and became an activist in the search for a cure for spinal-cord injuries after he suffered near-total paralysis in a horse-riding accident in 1995.
CNN anchor Paula Zahn, a longtime friend, said before the service that Reeve "had so many cruel blows yet never gave in to pity."
"We are all sorry and sad she is gone," Zahn said. "She had a positive impact on everyone and everything she touched."
Zahn said Reeve had told another friend that after her cancer diagnosis last August she was focused "on how to create a world" for the Reeves' 13-year-old son, Will, once she was gone.
"She really expected to come home," Zahn said. "She truly believed she had more time."
Will and adult half-siblings Matthew and Alexandra, Christopher Reeve's children, appeared arm in arm outside the New Amsterdam Theatre before the memorial service, which was closed to the press, saying only "Thank you" to the public.
Christopher and Dana Reeve married in 1992. Life changed drastically for the young show-business couple three years later when he suffered the accident and almost died.
For his remaining nine years, Dana Reeve was her husband's constant companion and supporter during the ordeal of his rehabilitation, winning worldwide acclaim and admiration.
After her husband's death in October 2004, she said she planned to return to acting. She had appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway and regional stages and on the TV shows "Law & Order," "Oz" and "All My Children." She had to give up a Broadway role when she was widowed.
Actor Darryl "Chill" Mitchell, paralyzed in a motorcycle accident years ago, said he drew inspiration from the Reeve family.
"I knew then I could maintain my family and my career" after watching Dana and Christopher Reeve, Mitchell said outside the 1,700-seat Manhattan theater.
Others who attended included Robert Kennedy Jr., Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong and Matthew Broderick, who said the service was "very emotional."
"I was glad to be here," Broderick said afterward. "It was beautiful but very, very sad."
Many left the two-hour memorial teary-eyed.