WOODBURY, CONN., JULY 30 -- They listened to the organist play "Home on the Range," they recited "A Cowboy's Prayer" and they remembered that Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, who died Saturday in a rodeo accident, was "as comfortable with cowboys as with kings."
"It was honesty and integrity all the way," Vice President Bush told more than 500 friends, family members and state officials who gathered today for Baldrige's funeral at the simple, old North Congregational Church.
More than 200 townspeople gathered on the church's broad lawn, and a smaller crowd watched from across the street. Baldrige was buried afterward in a private ceremony.
Chet Gage, a congregation member who volunteered to help direct traffic into the church's small parking lot, said he was not surprised by the throng. "Mac was right there with the common man," he said.
Bush praised Baldrige, a member of the Reagan Cabinet from the beginning, as an accomplished public servant with an unblemished reputation for honesty. He poked affectionate fun at Baldrige's ungainly jogging style ("It was almost like he was running in place. It was like watching grass grow.") and his preference for baggy pants.
Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), in the second of two eulogies, said Baldrige "carried the great gift of life: how to love and be loved."
A native of Omaha, Baldrige graduated from Yale University in 1944, became chairman and chief executive officer of Scovill Inc., an international manufacturing firm with headquarters in nearby Waterbury and served on the boards of several national corporations before being appointed by Reagan in 1980. He won steer-roping prizes on the rodeo circuit and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1984.
As the funeral ended here, several of Baldrige's friends donned cowboy hats.
Russell Drowne of New Canaan, Conn., said he had known Baldrige for 25 years and had been his riding partner before Baldrige went to Washington. "There were a lot of good Saturday and Sunday afternoons of roping and hoisting a martini or two," Drowne said.
Al Samuels of Spring Valley, N.Y., said he had roped steers with Baldrige at his Woodbury home. He said Baldrige recently had been helping him contact U.S. officials in an effort to send an American rodeo to the Soviet Union.
"When I called him, he said I was crazy," Samuels recalled. "But then he said he'd do what he could." Tipping his hat in a farewell gesture, he added, "I owe Mac Baldrige."