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Dozens of dignitaries attend Stevens' funeral

Former senator Ted Stevens, one of the most powerful congressmen of his generation, was killed Aug. 9 in an airplane crash in a remote part of southwest Alaska.

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The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 10:46 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Vice President Joe Biden recalled that when he was new to the Senate and had just lost his wife and daughter in a car accident, Ted Stevens walked over to him and offered his friendship.

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Stevens always held true to his word, Biden said Wednesday at the funeral for the Senate's longest serving Republican.

"His word was his bond," Biden said. "His personal generosity was surprising in how quickly it was offered."

Biden said he and Stevens supported each other when their first wives died in tragic accidents and celebrated the joys that second marriages brought to both.

Throughout it all, Stevens worked hard for Alaska, Biden said.

"No state has ever had a more fierce defender of that state's way of life than Ted Stevens," the vice president said.

Stevens died last week along with four others in a plane crash in southwest Alaska while doing something he truly loved: fishing for salmon.

Thousands attended the funeral, which marked the end of three days of remembrances that began Monday when several hundred people attended a Catholic Mass in Anchorage. Mourners filed past a closed casket Tuesday as Stevens' body lay in repose at an Episcopal church.

Biden's speech brought laughter to Anchorage's largest church, as he recalled Stevens' success in bringing large amounts of federal money back to Alaska. Biden said "significant" amounts of money that belong to Biden's home state of Delaware and other states is now in Alaska.

More than 20 current and former senators, governors - including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - and foreign representatives also attended the funeral, which was broadcast nationally.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Stevens devoted "every day of his life" to promoting Alaskans, not himself. Stevens came to Washington with a mission - to help build up the state - and never wavered from it, said McConnell, who served with Stevens.

It is hard to imagine any one person meaning more to any one state, he said.

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© 2010 The Associated Press

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