ST. LOUIS – More than 1,200 family members, friends and political leaders attended a funeral Mass in Missouri for former U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton who in a farewell letter criticized the Iraq war as one of the "greatest blunders" in American history.
Eagleton, who resigned as George McGovern's vice presidential nominee in 1972 after it was revealed he had been hospitalized for depression, had written the two-page, single-space, typewritten farewell months ago. He died March 4 at age 77.
In the final line of the letter distributed at the end of Saturday's memorial service, Eagleton posthumously told mourners to "go forth in love and peace — be kind to dogs — and vote Democratic."
The former Navy man said he was most proud of introducing the amendment that ended the Vietnam War, and his original version of theWar Powers Act to re-establish shared war powers of the president and Congress. He later refused to sign the watered-down version.
He said he did not miss the Senate once he left it, except for the debate on the "horrible, disastrous Iraq War that ... will go down in American history as one of our greatest blunders ... and as a curse to our Constitution when Attorney General John Ashcroft attempted to put a democratic face on torture."
A Roman Catholic, he criticized the church's veer to the right, in which "we seem to have merged God's power into political power."
The crowd of dignitaries at St. Francis Xavier College Church at Saint Louis University included Sens. Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Dick Durbin; and former Sens. John Danforth, Walter Mondale and Dale Bumpers.
"I join with everyone here in mourning this loss," Kennedy said. "His was a life well lived. He set the pattern for what a senator should be."
Eagleton was remembered for his hearty belly laugh, his eccentricity and sense of humor, his generosity, and the courage to take an unpopular stand.
Friend Louis Susman said Eagleton easily could have won a fourth term in the Senate, but retired from an institution that had been "ruined by the money chase," and become too partisan.