Sun | May 19, 2019

John McCain remembered as hero, fighter and wiseacre

Published:Friday | August 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Cindy McCain, escorted by sons Jack (right) and Jimmy, entering the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service for their husband and father yesterday.


Senator John McCain was eulogised yesterday as a "true American hero" and a terrible driver with a wicked sense of humour and love of a good battle at a crowded church service for the maverick politician that ended with the playing of Frank Sinatra's My Way.

Addressing an estimated 3,500 mourners, former Vice President Joe Biden recalled "the sheer joy that crossed his face when he knew he was about to take the stage of the Senate floor and start a fight".

Biden, a Democrat who was among the fast friends the Republican senator made across the aisle, said he thought of McCain as a brother "with a lot of family fights".

The service for the statesman, former prisoner of war and two-time presidential candidate, unfolded at North Phoenix Baptist Church after a motorcade bearing McCain's body made its way from the state Capitol past Arizonans waving American flags and campaign-style McCain signs.

Family members watched in silence as uniformed military members removed the flag-draped casket from a black hearse and carried it into the church. McCain died last Saturday of brain cancer at 81.

McCain's long-time chief of staff, Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general, drew laughs with a eulogy in which he talked about McCain's "terribly bad driving" and his sense of humour, which included calling the Leisure World retirement community "Seizure World".

Woods also recalled the way McCain would introduce him to new staff members by saying, "You'll have to fire half of them."

The church's senior pastor, Noe Garcia, pronounced McCain "a true American hero".

The service brought to a close two days of mourning for the six-term senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee in his home state.

A motorcade then took McCain's body to the airport, where it was put aboard a military plane that took off for Washington for lying-in-state at the US Capitol today, a service at the Washington National Cathedral tomorrow, and burial at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Sunday.