U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, whose death has sparked a battle over his seat in the Senate, was remembered at his funeral on Wednesday as a tenacious fighter who battled tirelessly for the causes he championed.
Vice President Joe Biden eulogized Lautenberg, a fellow Democrat who died on Monday at age 89, as having “both physical courage and moral courage.”
Lautenberg was the Senate’s oldest member and its last surviving World War Two veteran. He died of complications from viral pneumonia.
“He never gave up. He never gave in,” Biden said. “Frank always had to be in the game.”
Scores of dignitaries filled the Park Avenue Synagogue for the service, including some of the politicians jockeying for position in the power play sparked by Lautenberg’s Senate seat coming vacant.
Among them was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican seeking re-election and a possible White House contender in 2016, who has called a special election on Oct. 16 to fill the seat.
Also on hand was Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party who has expressed interest in the seat.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recalled that Lautenberg fought for veterans, victims of HIV and AIDS, families trying to keep their children safe from toxic chemicals and “stood proudly with the working people of New Jersey trying to provide for their families, to build businesses like Frank and his two friends had, to pursue the American dream.
“As Frank would say, ‘It’s not where you sit that counts. It’s where you stand,’” Clinton said. “There was never any doubt where he stood.”
Family members offered up warm and funny reminiscences, describing him as stubborn, with a ceaseless need to be right and regret over his decision to retire at the end of 2014.
They described how he grew up poor in Paterson, New Jersey, where his immigrant father worked in a silk mill, fought in Europe in World War Two, graduated from Columbia University and co-founded the payroll services company Automatic Data Processing.