ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Mourners filled an Anchorage Catholic church to remember former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens Monday, launching a three-day tribute to the Alaska Republican a week after he died in a plane crash.
Several hundred people attended the memorial Mass for Stevens, who was among five people killed in the crash north of Dillingham. Four others, including ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin, survived.
Former Archbishop of Anchorage Francis Hurley noted in his homily that the 86-year-old Stevens was a man of hope and "a man of getting things done."
Vice President Joe Biden is planning to attend the funeral, scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at an Anchorage Baptist church, which will be broadcast statewide. A separate memorial will take place Tuesday at an Episcopal church.
In his four decades in office, Stevens became known for bringing billions of dollars to Alaska, prompting both praise for "Uncle Ted," as well as criticism of wasteful pork. The Senate's longest-serving Republican in U.S. history, Stevens was motivated by his deep concerns for the people he served, Hurley said.
"For him, the essence of anything was not what he passed in Congress," Hurley said. "It is what he provided for the people."
Many of the mourners said they were friends of Stevens. After the hour-long service, Cathy Rasmuson of Anchorage said he was one of the first people she met when she moved to Alaska 41 years ago.
"I saw him as a politician, and he was tough. I saw him with children, and he was a big softy," she said. "He was a man who could walk with kings and he kept the common touch."
Edith Sequak, an Inupiat Eskimo originally from Point Hope in northwest Alaska, remembered Stevens as a lawmaker who worked hard for Alaska Natives.
"He ran our state good and strong," she said. "We will always be with him. He's in our hearts."
Memorial services also were being held Monday in Anchorage for two others killed in the Aug. 9 crash en route to a fishing camp — General Communications Inc. executive Dana Tindall and her 16-year-old daughter, Corey.
The two others killed were pilot Theron Smith 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. Janet Phillips, the elder Phillips' widow, has said the family is returning to Maryland, where a memorial service for Bill Phillips is scheduled for Friday in Potomac.
The fourth survivor is lobbyist Jim Morhard, who remained in fair condition at Providence.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.