About 100 people were listed in the memorial program for Senator Ted Stevens as honorary pallbearers. Not all of them were in attendance, and some are national leaders, like former Secretaries of State General Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Olympic gold medal swimmer Donna de Varona. But others were there representing all parts of Alaska.
One of the few women among them was Julie Kitka, the president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She and the other honorary pall bearers in attendance followed Stevens’ casket into the church, and after the service escorted it to a waiting hearse. Kitka says it was meaningful to her personally – and to AFN – to be included.
“It was just a special honor provided by the family, not exactly sure why other than recognition for all of the work that we’ve done with the Senator,” Kitka said. “And all I can say it was a tremendous honor for me and my family.”
Kitka says she’s glad there was such an outpouring of community support and remembering for Stevens.
“We lost someone very special, we’ve very lucky to be living at time when we appreciate someone as special as him and don’t take him for granted,” Kitka said.
Other Alaskan honorary pall bearers included the current and past governors, Territorial Governor Mike Stepovich, Congressman Don Young, former president of Cook Inlet Region Incorporated Carl Marrs and Homer tour company owner Clem Tillion.
One of the dozens of current and former members of Congress in attendance was Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. The Republican was a close friend of Stevens and testified as a character witness at his federal trial in 2008. Hatch says he’s personally still angry about the prosecution of Stevens for allegations of lying on Senate financial forms, and says the feds should pay the family’s legal fees.
“But you know the good lord, I suddenly saw Ted start to relax for a change,” Hatch said. “Like they said in there he started to have more time for his grandchildren, he was always bigger than life, no question, always bigger than life, but that should never had happened.”
“And I was glad he thought enough of me to ask me testify for him. And it was a privilege.”
Hatch says yesterday’s service revealed that Stevens was more than a Senator – he was a husband, father and friend. Hatch says he’ll never forget the political battles they waged together in Washington, but he’s also remembering their personal moments.
“I fished the Kenai River with him, watched him lose his temper a time to time, which I always loved, always got a big kick out of that, so did everyone else to be honest with you,” Hatch said. “He was one of the most respected people in the whole senate. And he should’ve been.”
“He loved this state.”
Other Senators in attendance included Democrats Chris Dodd of Connecticut and former Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina and Republicans Kit Bond of Missouri and former Kansas senator Nancy Kassebaum.
Photos by Patrick Yack, APRN – Anchorage
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