PHOENIX – Thousands of Arizonans gathered Thursday morning for a memorial service in honor of Senator John McCain, with honors from sports stars, family members, and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to an adoptive son of that state, one of his most famous figures ,
One day, after his family, friends, and fellow lawmakers paid tribute to Mr. McCain while lying in a state in the Rotunda of the Capitol of Arizona, he remembered the late Senator for his 35-year career in Congress in a service steeped in the culture of the Southwest.
A Navajo flutist, Jonah Littlesunday, played a hymn and remembered McCain's relationship with the indigenous tribes of his state; Tommy Espinoza, a leader of the Hispanic community in Arizona, made comments; and the Lardin of Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, also spoke from the pulpit of the sprawling North Phoenix Baptist Church, where Mr. McCain once attended.
With his Vietnam heroism and celebrities in front of him, the rootless son and grandson of the admirals would eventually be identified with this state as the political giants he followed, Representative John Rhodes in the House and Barry Goldwater in the Senate before finally both outshone.
"When we are all here traveling and telling people we were from Arizona, people knew two big things about it: John McCain and the Grand Canyon," Governor Doug Ducey recalled Wednesday in a private ceremony at the State Capitol , "The idea of Arizona without John McCain is like the representation of an Arizona without the Grand Canyon – it just is not natural."
During the service As Thursday was expected to focus on McCain's legacy in his adopted state, Biden should recall his eulogy to his former colleague and close friend, a relationship that was an earlier era of bipartisan community in Washington.
The two sat together in the Senate for over two decades, often engaged in policy disagreements, and faced each other in 2008. The talkative Delaware Democrat and the sardonic Arizona Republican created a deep friendship that was cemented by Mr. Bidens eldest son, Beau, learned he had a brain tumor. He eventually died of the illness in which Mr. McCain succumbed on Saturday.
"I wanted to let him know how much I love him and how much he cares about me and how much I admire his integrity and courage," Mr. Biden said in an interview earlier this year.
Thursday's service started with an honor guard who met Mr. McCain's family and coffin. Hundreds of members of the deceased senator were invited and another thousand seats were made available to the public.
The schedule included readings from the scriptures of two of his seven children; a tribute from a close confidant and former chief of staff, Grant Woods; a bagpiper; and a singing of "Arizona" by an ensemble from the school, who visited two of his sons.
And in an allusion to Mr. McCain's affection for tradition and rebellion, the service began with the singing of "Amazing Grace" and ended with a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
Maggie Astor contributed contributions from New York.