Frank Lautenberg through the years
June 5th, 2013
04:12 PM ET
5 years ago

Biden, Hillary Clinton speak at Lautenberg funeral

(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who spoke candidly and cracked a few jokes at the funeral of their former friend and colleague Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who passed away this week at the age of 89.

Speaking at the service in Manhattan, Biden reflected on his time serving with the New Jersey Democrat in the Senate and recounted their shared fondness for Amtrak. One time when the then-senator was hustling to catch Amtrak back to Delaware, he ran to the train only to hear a conductor tell him there was no need to rush.

"Don't hurry, we're holding the train for Lautenberg," Biden was told. The vice president talked about how well he treated Amtrak workers over the years.

"They never held the train for me," he joked.

The vice president said Lautenberg had been his best friend in the Senate. "He's the only guy that made me feel I was junior to him, but I was there longer than him."

"I knew Strom Thurmond so well literally I was asked to do his eulogy. I did his eulogy. This is a lot easier," Biden joked.

An influential businessman-turned-legislator, Lautenberg scored big victories in Congress, including a ban on smoking on airplanes, preventing domestic abusers from possessing guns, cracking down on drunken driving, and the "Toxic Right to Know" law about the release of pollutants into communities.

Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran in the Senate, announced in a statement in February that he would not seek re-election next year, but he continued to push for stronger gun control laws.

"As Frank would say, `You know it is not where you sit that counts it is where you stand.' And there was never any doubt where he stood," Clinton said. "He did stand with those families who keep their children safe from toxic chemicals, from smoking, from drunk driving. He stood with the victims of gun violence and HIV AIDS."

While Lautenberg's funeral was attended by big political names from New Jersey and Washington, it was his family members who stole the show. Lautenberg had six children and 13 grandchildren.

His daughter, Lisa, had laryngitis but asked her daughter, Molly, to read remarks for her. She finished the speech with some statistics.

"Two hundred pieces of `Lautenberg for Senate' memorabilia in my closet. Three thousand pieces of his opponents' memorabilia that I took down during campaigns and buried in my backyard, " she said, as the audience laughed. "Six trips to Israel to learn about our Jewish heritage with my dad. Three hundred new friends I lost during my freshman year at college when Dad raised the drinking age."

His son, Josh, also drew some laughs.

"If my father was here he would have really loved this party I tell you. He'd say, `Wow, look at all these people. You couldn't get the Israeli prime minister or the Pope? Oh, that's OK'," he said.

His daughter, Ellen, said her father had been expressing regret that he announced in February he wouldn't seek re-election in 2014.

"On days that were good he would say I never should have made that retirement speech," she said.

Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and won re-election twice. He did not seek re-election in 2000 when his third term expired, but was recruited to run again two years later after Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli quit his re-election bid weeks before the polls opened amid reports of ethical issues. Lautenberg was then re-elected in 2008.

His wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for help with her late husband's upcoming burial. He had wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery but never did the paperwork.

"He couldn't face his own mortality, and figured it would get done," Englebardt Lautenberg said. "It did get done, and thank you Harry."

The only thing that would have made Lautenberg happier, she said, was "if this was a fundraiser for his next campaign."

Lautenberg's casket will be led with an honor guard through the train station named after him Secaucus, New Jersey and travel via Amtrak train to Washington, D.C.

His body will lie in repose in the Capitol on Thursday and buried in Arlington on Friday.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Filed under: Frank Lautenberg • Hillary Clinton • Joe Biden • New Jersey
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. flag

    Too bad Obama never ordered flags at half-staff for Lautenberg.

    June 5, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. rrosetta

    The joke was always on New jersey. He was more a representative for New York than he EVER was for New Jersey.

    June 5, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  3. USA

    RIP SIR.

    June 5, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. yem

    He was a very interesting man. You feel he is still alive. Let his soul rest in peace!!

    June 5, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  5. hannah

    A senator that actually did things for the benefit of the people, what a wonderful person. Now that he is gone and many of the moderates are leaving, what will happen to this country? Will we lose all that we gained over the last hundred years. Looks like that is happening now. All that is happening in the congress at this point is a bunch of tea party right wingers are trying to bring down the president so they can gain power and bring on more wars for the military industrial complex and make a bunch of money while killing off more of our young men and women.

    June 5, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  6. Steve

    Remember going with my girlfriend to a political barbeque and meeting Frank who wanted to be our new Senator. We will soon be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Thanks for your distinguished years of service. R.I.P.

    June 5, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  7. designck1

    Many thanks from a long-time NJ resident to an honorable and dedicated man, for his service to NJ and the whole Country. I join those who bemoan the fact that true Statesmen like Senator Lautenberg and all but gone... now we seem to have only partisan politics ruling at the cost of the Country, with many holding office that don't deserve to! Here's hoping those aforementioned politicians reflect on the Senator's life and decide to make a change in their own attitudes and serve the Country instead of themselves! RIP Senator, and condolences to his family.

    June 5, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. 7th Congressional District, Virginia

    Any dead friend of Shoot-Em-Up Joe and Know-Nothing Hillary is okay with me.

    June 5, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Yakobi

    I want you all to notice how there are not a huge number of right-wing people trouncing on this guy's memory saying "good riddance"...unlike what happens any time a Republican dies.

    June 5, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. Greenspam

    Today Republicans said that a funeral is only funny if it involves the death of a Democrat.

    June 5, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  11. petroskies

    one liberal less not to bad.

    June 5, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  12. Gene2

    When I think of who's left in the Senate after this fine man's passing–the deplorable, embarrassingly partisan McConnell, Cruz, Chambliss, ad nauseam–it makes me cringe. RIP, sir, you were an example of our country's finest, and now we're left with our country's lamest.

    June 5, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  13. Ronnie Harper

    He sounds like he was a good man, who worked as a diligent and effective public servant for his constituents. Now he will be buried in our National cemetery with honors, and I think that is fitting. I hope future politicians strive to make a difference like this man did.

    June 5, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. Pismire

    Why do people post "RIP" type comments when someone dies? I mean, argue if he did a good job. Argue if he didn't. But the rip stuff? Do you think he's reading these comments. Waste.

    June 5, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  15. breater1

    What's the difference between a Senator and an employee of a mega-corporation?
    The employee can get fired, other than that there is none since both work for the same people.

    June 5, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  16. Bob

    I said this when Thatcher died. I'lI say it again. When you do right for the people you are good for the people. This man did things that were good for the people. Not every thing he did was in my best interest or maybe it was. He did, and he accomplished. We should look at both. Most of the writers in these comments, don't bother to look. Most, I will bet, know nothing of this man except what they just read, then write what is only their opinion or Ideals. It becomes one sided. Don't worry. He can't help or hurt you now left or right. He's kinda busy being dead right now. If I were you, Mr. and Mrs. Left or Right in New Jersey, I'd be looking at whom you'll elect in October to replace him. Right or wrong for me and you, please elect someone who will do some thing for the people. For all you other people looking for a platform to spew your opinion and Ideal. about this man, go ahead. He's not going to mind. he's dead.

    June 5, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  17. Big Man

    I find nothing funny about Lautenberg – he was more concerned about interests of Jews and Israel rather those of Americans and America. Goodbye and good riddance to a parasite.

    June 5, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  18. Navy Vet

    @sdafa–She was joking. Y'know, humor?

    Thank you Senator Lautenberg, for your service in and out of the Senate. RIP

    June 5, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  19. davecu

    RIP. He joins the likes of many of an old-fashioned group of elder statesmen from both parties that put country before party. Their likes are gone, and we have to do our riches-to-rags journey again to relearn the lessons of the 1930's that gave them their valuable insight to what does and doesn't make sense in politics and government.

    Sadly true RIP!

    June 5, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  20. Regularguy22

    Thank you for the Biden buffoonery

    June 5, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  21. Kathleen Burgess

    A special thanks from our family to yours if you were the one who made it so that a person involved in domestic violence may not own firearms. My young son actually wrote a letter to Washington regarding his fathers ability to have 7 guns in the trunk of his car even after 3 restraining orders. It was only after the third lifetime restraining order that the police stopped allowing him a concealed weapon permit and made him get rid of his weapons. I never knew who to thank-now I do! Thank you and RIP!

    June 5, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  22. DocHollywood

    VP Biden gave a very moving eulogy. I think many on these boards could learn a lesson in civility and humanity from Biden. Apparently a lot of people missed their mother and father's advice about respect for the dead. That's the beauty and call of the internet for people like these, they can let their hatred out here where they would not dare to in real life.

    June 5, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  23. IpseCogita

    A political memorial for a guy who spent his life in politics. Very fitting.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  24. Nietodarwin

    Last WWII Vet in the Senate
    Right before the anniversary of D-day !!!
    Glorious life and a punctuated death.
    Well done Senator !!!

    June 6, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  25. Barbra K.

    Senator Frank Lautenberg was a true statesman. He served his country well. He served in WWII and Congress. He never shirked his duty. He spoke up for what he believed in. I was proud to have him represent me and the state of New Jersey. RIP Frank, you earned it.

    June 6, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
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