MCCAIN FUNERAL | John McCain memorialized as hero, fighter, imperfect friend

PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain was eulogized today as a "true American hero" – and a terrible driver with a wicked sense of humor and love of a good fight – as 3,500 mourners crowded into an Arizona church to pay their final respects to the maverick politician.

Former Vice President Joe Biden recalled "the sheer joy that crossed his face when he knew he was about to take the stage of the senate floor and start a fight."

Biden, a Democrat who was among the fast friends the Republican senator made across the aisle, said he thought of McCain as a brother, "with a lot of family fights."

The service unfolded at North Baptist Church after a motorcade bearing McCain's body made its way from the state Capitol past Arizonans waving American flags and campaign-style signs for the lawmaker.

Family members then watched in silence as uniformed military members removed the flag-draped casket from a black hearse and carried it into the church.

McCain died last Saturday of brain cancer at 81.

At the church, a choir from the Jesuit-run Brophy College Preparatory school that two of McCain's sons attended sang "Amazing Grace."

McCain's longtime chief of staff Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general, drew laughs with a eulogy in which he talked about McCain's "terribly bad driving" and his sense of humor, which included calling the Leisure World retirement community "Seizure World."

Woods also recalled the way McCain would introduce him to new staff members by saying, "You'll have to fire half of them."

Another friend, Tommy Espinoza, president and CEO of the Raza Development Fund, called McCain "one of the greatest American heroes in our lifetime." The church's senior pastor Noe Garcia pronounced McCain "a true American hero."

Dabbing his eyes as he recalled his friend, Biden said McCain "could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country." He said McCain embodied basic values including fairness, honesty and respect, and fought for civility between politicians even if they disagreed on the issues.

Biden also referred to his own son's death from cancer, saying, "It's brutal, it's relentless, it's unforgiving." And he spoke directly to McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, seated in the front row: "You were his ballast."

1:36 p.m.

PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain's longtime chief of staff says the Arizona senator believed that "this Republican-Democrat thing is not that important."

Grant Woods said today at McCain's memorial service in Phoenix that the senator believed that in the end, we're all Americans.

He drew laughs with stories about McCain, including a time he got in hot water for calling retirement communities that he needed to woo when he first ran for office "seizure world."

Woods said everyone would miss McCain's humor. He called McCain "America's hero" and said the senator believed in the Constitution and worked to defend it.

McCain's daughter Bridget read a Bible verse at her father's memorial service in Phoenix before the longtime Arizona senator's chief of staff started the speeches.

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