Some arrived in Mercedes, and some in old, crumpled Volkswagens. Many wore designer dresses, diamonds and thick furs. Others were dressed in blue denim jeans and faded blue work shirts.
Senators sat next to hospital busboys. Tears flowed down the familiar faces of television reporters who had covered wars and trickled down the cheeks of veteran emergency room nurses who tended the injured in Washington area hospitals.
They had come to say goodbye to Dr. Michael Halberstam -- physician, author, television commentator and, most of all, their friend. He was a man consumed with living, they recalled. He was the type of man, said Milton Gwirtzman, who "said come with me and see the world's wonders."
More than 1,800 persons attended the one-hour memorial service yesterday at the Washington Hebrew Synagogue for Halberstam, who was killed Friday when he surprised a burglar at his Northwest Washington home.
Some of them spoke bitterly about Bernard C. Welch, the 40-year-old escaped convict accused of killing Halberstam. "I am outraged that a criminal took away our friend," said television correspondent Fred Graham, choking back tears. "He [Halberstam] was one of the nicest men I've ever known."
Graham was one of six speakers, including Halberstam's brother, David, who eulogized the noted cardiologist and internist.
All of them described a man who was constantly on the run, continually late, forever thrusting himself into projects that ranged from television commentaries to fishing to rowing his shell on the Potomac.
Halberstam was the sort of man "who never bored you," recalled Dr. Charles Thompson, who considered Halberstam a protege. One Halberstam spent an hour showing an 8-year-old boy how to use a microscope, Thompson said, and became as excited and elated as the child when the boy figured out how to use the instrument.
He was the type of person, said longtime friend Stephen Banker, who "used to sneak on public school grounds at night to put nets on basketball hoops so that neighborhood boys could enjoy the thrill of hearing a swish when they made a perfect shot." At 48, Halberstam still played basketball and dreamed, his brother said, of being the NBA's rookie of the year.
He loved to joke, said Banker. "He had an immense appetite for life and a competitive drive that produced a rivalry with direction," which Banker said led Halberstam to want to be everything from "the best white dancer in Washington" to winning cups at rowing contests.
"He was a dreamer," his Pulitzer prize-winning brother explained, "who believed that the more you were given the more obligated you were to give something back" to society.
In the audience, Muriel Morisey nodded her head in agreement. "Once I got sick at 3 a.m.," she had said before the service."He met me at the emergency room in his blue jeans and he got everyone acting like I was a queen. He knew it wasn't serious but he stayed with me until I was better. That man really cared."
Nan Robertson told a similar tale. When her husband Stanley Levey was dying from heart trouble in 1971, Halberstam "moved in" the house. "He cared. He was there every day helping me."
During his eulogy, Graham recalled how when "life was crashing around me," he called Halberstam, who immediately abandoned his schedule to "talk to me, to be with me."
Halberstam was not only one who cared, said his secretary-nurse Carolyn Brady, he also was a joker. Once, when she told him his ruffled hair made him look like the comic character Dagwood, Halberstam rushed out of the office, returning later with his hair neatly trimmed, wearing a fur coat, three-piece suit and tennis shoes with holes in them.
"When you rode with him, he was constantly swerving, honking his horn, waving hello to everyone he recognized," said William Lanouette, a writer who used to row on the Potomac with Halberstam twice a week. "Once we drove two blocks when he suddenly slammed his hands on the wheel and said, 'Goddammit, I haven't seen anyone I recognize!"
"He just loved people."
His brother called their relationship a "rare sibling relationship, a marathon of love, affection and rivalry."
"We were so close, I could read his thoughts and he could speak my words," said David Halberstam, who described his older brother as a man who was constantly competing, who always wanted something more out of life.
"Please, please all of you," Halberstam told the crowd, "remember that Michael was more confident of tomorrow than today. . . That was his gift to all of us."