Senator Frank Lautenberg's journey from a childhood so poor his family couldn't afford his bar mitzvah to his life as a multimillionaire businessman who served for decades in the Senate was remembered Wednesday at a funeral at the Park Avenue Synagogue packed with dignitaries.
"He came out fighting, and he never stopped," Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove told mourners.
Lautenberg's body was in a flag-draped casket at the front of the synagogue as a prayer was read, and his wife and children were standing nearby.
Vice President Joe Biden eulogized his friend and colleague, telling those gathered that Lautenberg was a tireless fighter.
"Even his final days...it wasn't his health he was concerned about," Biden said. "It was the health of the people of New Jersey, the health of the kids in this country."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, several former governors, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also gave a eulogy, and others were at the funeral.
Lautenberg's casket was transferred to an Amtrak train at the rail station in Secaucus named for him, where bag-pipers played a mournful tune and Rabbi Dan Cohen called the senator "a great American, a father, a grandfather, a husband, and a son of New Jersey."
In his career, Lautenberg put a lot of effort into obtaining federal funding for New Jersey transportation projects, not all of which were covered in acclaim. The Frank R. Lautengerg Rail Center in Secaucus, for example, cost more than $450 million to build but serves only 23,000 passengers on an average weekday--far fewer than originally projected.
Lautenberg also championed the ARC Tunnel, which would've added two new tunnels to the state's trans-Hudson rail capacity. But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled the project in 2010, citing potential cost over-runs. The move led to years of acrimonious exchanges between Lautenberg and Christie.
But those arguments are behind the senator now. On Wednesday, his casket continued on to Washington, D.C., where it will lie in repose in the Senate chamber of the US Capitol building on Thursday.
Lautenberg, who was the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate, will be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The program for today's funeral for Senator Frank Lautenberg. twitter.com/ByJessicaGould…— Jessica Gould (@ByJessicaGould) June 5, 2013
With the Associated Press