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Falls Church, Va. • Even in death, former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett brought warring parties together.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid shared the stage. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sat on the same side of the aisle. So did former Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind.
Bennett, who died last week at age 82 from complications of cancer and a stroke, was respected by Democrats and Republicans as a statesman who put his state and country first, well-wishers said Tuesday in a service honoring his life spent in politics and business but rooted in family and faith.
Bennett earned the trust and esteem of his fellow senators, "and you see that here today," McConnell said, noting more than a dozen current or former members of Congress in attendance.
"Bob worked hard to develop relationships in both parties, and he approached everything he did with creativity, substance and, most importantly, with honor," McConnell continued. "We remember him today as a smart, level-headed senator who viewed public service as a noble undertaking and always shared kindness and thoughtfulness with colleagues."
"I will miss our dear friend greatly," McConnell added.
The Senate remained in recess on Tuesday morning, a day after its members voted unanimously to pay tribute to their fallen colleague.
Bennett, who lost his re-election bid in 2010 after serving three terms in a seat once held by his father, Wallace Bennett, left behind a legacy that can easily be seen, Sen. Orrin Hatch said on the Senate floor Monday night.
"It is no exaggeration to say that every Utahn has benefited from Bob's public service," Hatch said. "You cannot ride the train, take public transportation or drive on the freeway in our state without seeing the fruits of Bob's labor in the Senate."
Bennett, who had served on the Appropriations Committee, was proud of the federal funding and earmarks he wrangled, including hundreds of millions for light rail and reconstruction of Interstate 15 among scores of public projects.
Reid, who is also a fellow Mormon, said at Tuesday's service that he will always love his Senate friend.
"I testify to all of you, Bob and I will meet again and continue our conversations," Reid said. "So, Bob, Godspeed until we meet again."
Days before Bennett suffered a stroke last month, he gave a chat at an LDS Church, defending the faith's Book of Mormon, a topic that Bennett wrote about in his 2009 book, "Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon."
It was a poignant and sharp presentation, recalled Ralph Hardy Jr., a former area authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"He never lost his fastball," Hardy said.
In his waning days, Bennett called his son Jim over to his hospital bedside to pose a question: Were there any Muslims in the building?
Yes, his son replied, why?
"Well, I want to go to each and every one of them and thank them for being in this country and apologize on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump," his son said he told him.
His body may have failed him in the end, but his mind never did, Jim Bennett said. His father served his country with distinction and never regretted anything.
"His was a life of integrity, and a life well-lived," his son said.
Another viewing is slated for Friday in Salt Lake City at Larkin Mortuary, 260 E. South Temple, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a separate viewing Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Federal Heights Ward Chapel, 1300 E. Fairfax Road, with a service to begin at 11 a.m.
Bennett will be interred at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.