PHOENIX – Family, friends and constituents were gathering Wednesday at Arizona’s Capitol to pay their respects to Sen. John McCain, the first of two days of services here before he departs the state he has represented since the 1980s.
A private ceremony was set for later Wednesday morning at the Arizona state capitol Museum rotunda, where McCain will lie in state. McCain died of brain cancer last Saturday at age 81.
Two hours before that ceremony was set to start, several dozen veterans and active military members had taken spots on the sidewalk to watch the hearse that will bring McCain’s body from a funeral home to the Capitol.
Veteran Judith Hatch handed out flags to those assembled, saying Arizona lost a champion for the military.
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“We definitely have lost a strong advocate, so we’ll need someone who is going to step up to the plate,” Hatch said.
The ceremony will include remarks from Gov. Doug Ducey and former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, plus a benediction from Sen. Jeff Flake. It will also mark the first appearance of McCain’s family members since the longtime Arizona senator died of brain cancer on Saturday at age 81.
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Later in the afternoon, the Capitol will be open to members of the public who want to pay their respects. The viewing will go on as long as people are waiting in line, Rick Davis, McCain’s former presidential campaign manager, said Monday.
For some Arizona residents, McCain has been a political fixture in the state for their entire lives. He took office in Arizona in the early 1980s, first as a congressman and then as a senator in the seat once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Crews spent the past several days preparing the Capitol for the visitors, hauling in chairs, cleaning up the building and assembling dozens of flags. McCain is the third person to lie in state in the rotunda in the last 40 years; others were Arizona State Senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medallist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.
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Thursday morning will see a procession through Phoenix on the way to a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church, with the public invited to line the route along Interstate 17.
The memorial service will see multiple tributes, readings and musical performances, including a tribute from former Vice-President Joe Biden. Musical choices include a performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Brophy Student Ensemble and a recessional to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
From there, McCain will depart Arizona for the last time from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Another viewing will be at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, with a final memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.
A website laying out details for the services says to send any flowers to a local VA hospital.