President Clinton and his family said their final goodbyes Saturday to his mother, Virginia Clinton Kelley, at a large and emotional funeral held in the downtown convention center of the town where Clinton grew up.
The "service of celebration and resurrection," as it was called, lasted an hour and included gospel, classical and traditional music, including the hymn "Amazing Grace."The president did not speak, but mourners who did praised Mrs. Kelley as a woman who loved her husband, Richard, her sons, Bill and Roger, and the friends with whom she surrounded herself.
The Rev. John Miles reminisced about Mrs. Kelley's life, telling stories of her fierce devotion and pride in her two sons and the spirit that led her to live a full life until she lost her battle against cancer early Thursday at the age of 70.
"She loved her sons," he said. "You could really see how fearless this woman was if you messed with her kids. She loved them unconditionally, and she needed to at times."
The Rev. Joe Wilkerson, of First United Methodist Church in nearby Malvern, also said that Chelsea Clinton, Mrs. Kelley's only grandchild, was "the apple of her eye."
The services for Mrs. Kelley virtually shut down the normally bustling downtown area and friends filled most of the 3,000 seats.
Mourners included Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper; Thomas McLarty III, the White House chief of staff; Webster Hubbell, the associate attorney general; Rodney Slater, the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; Harry Thomason, a television producer and family friend, and Barbra Streisand, the singer and Clinton supporter who had become friendly with Mrs. Kelley in the past year.
After the service, the Clintons drove in a solemn 90-mile motorcade to Hope, Ark., where Clinton was born and where Mrs. Kelley was buried in Rose Hill cemetery near the graves of other family members, including William Blythe, Clinton's father.