"In pastures green," sang the choir, and thus the capital said farewell to Mamie Eisenhower yesterday in a memorial service as luminous as the November oaks outside the Fort Myer Chapel.
The chapel held only 200 people, and the family (including her old Secret Service friends) took up much of the chapel, and on the other side sat Rosaylnn Carter, wife of the president, and former president and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon.
In the tribute, Mrs. Eisenhower was described as unfailingly gracious and kind, even if others were sometimes rude, and equally at home with the poor and the great.
An hour before the morning service began the chapel was completely full except for the reserved pews. A Kansas farmer and his wife squeezed over to make room for Gen. Maxwell Taylor, but the old hero, leaning on a walking stick, was led by an usher to less crowed seating.
Improbably, in a capital increasingly known for bad weather, the sun was glorious, and the congregation had time before the service to admire whatever stained glass windowns were closet -- the Coast Guard dead were honored in a blaze of color showing old Noah building the Ark, his sons at work with an awl, the animals still waiting.
The Army Chorus sang, in sound superbly balanced to the size of the church, "A Mighty Fortress" and "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" to mark the start and finish of the ceremonies.
It turned out that Dwight Eisenhower had chosen a musical arrangement of the 23rd Psalm from the Scottish Psalter to be sung when the queen of England visited him, and Mamie had it sung for the church service after the president's death, and thus it was chosen for her also.
The organist, Robert Schaaf, turned out to be a Kansas man who as a boy had seen much of Mrs. Eisenhower at Abilene.
His father, Ed Schaaf, and his mother were there, too. They raised wheat and Hereford cattle out from Abilene on the farm next to one of Gen. Eisenhower's cousins.
Sen. and Mrs. Jacob Javits were among the figures of the capital who had come to pay final respects, and Arthur Burns, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, could be seen easily because of his snowy hair. His wife, Helen, had poetry sessions that Mamie Eisenhower liked to attend (another friend said Mrs. Eisenhower especially liked the poet Sara Teasdale).
The Nixons arrived quietly, dressed inconspicuously, and sat quietly in their pew, as did Mrs. Carter. The circumstances of the occasion precluded chatting, and a sense of history filled the place.
The chaplain of the Senate, Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, long the minister of the National Presbyterian Church, was the only speaker. He remarked that both President and Mrs. Eisenhower came from families where there was always "an open Bible" and he told of Eisenhower's request for him to come to Gettysburg to bless and dedicate the farmhouse, which, after 22 dwellings, was the first one the Eisenhowers felt was really home.
Some may have been surprised to learn President Eisenhower took personal interest in the hymns sung at the White House church service, and often requested specific Bible passages to be read.
Yesterday the organist played music he was sure Mamie Eisenhower would have wnated -- Bach chorales ("Hark, a Voice Saith All Is Mortal" and "O Sacred Head Now Wounded") and hymns, "My Faith Looks Up to Thee," "Abide With Me" and others.
Dr. Elson found himself using the word "gracious" several times in speaking of Mamie Eisenhower. Before she was first lady, he said, she was a lady, and while some women achieve greatly in professions or arts, Mamie Eisenhower provided the tone for the house and was one of those women who seem to make a strong man stronger.
The 16 altar lights burned steadily and the polished brass shone. Mrs. Eisenhower would have approved -- she had been member of the Altar Guild of the Fort Meyer Chapel, which saw to such details.
Only 70 people fitted in the chapel, apart from the family and celebrities. They included farmers, reporters, Washington dowagers, but so few in number as to be merely symbolic of the many who loved or respected Mamie Eisenhower.
Delores Moaney, widow of Eisenhower's orderly, was seen leaving the chapel with eyes full but under control. She smiled and said:
"Somebody told me I didn't spell Delores right, but I know one woman who spells it Dolores, who was a friend of Mrs. Eisenhower's. That womn once mentioned to Mrs. Eisenhower that she spelled her name with an "o" but Mrs. Eisenhower just said 'Well, my Delores spells it with an "e,"' and she went to spelling it that way."
Some of the Secret Service men stopped outside to tell the minister they thought the service was beautiful, and one of them said he had often heard Elson before. Elson said he figured he had preached to more Secret Service men than anybody in history.
In just a few minutes the polished limousines and the (in some cases) beat-up old Fords pulled off, heading across the Potomac into the city again. The oaks, brighter this fall than usual, gleamed still in the churchyard where so many military men are buried outside the chapel.
Mrs. Eisenhower, who was 82, was buried Saturday at Abilene. It seemed to some fitting that her memorial service was at a small chapel where she had once worked, and on an Army base, for she always had particular affection for her old friends from the Army, long before the Invasion of Normandy, before the White House.
"The sun shall not smite thee," the minister had read, "nor the moon by night." And for once the skies of the capital were as lovely as the words and the memories.