Thousands gathered at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Del. for the funeral of 1991 College graduate Joseph R. “Beau” Biden last Saturday.
Biden, who was the former Attorney General of Delaware, died on May 30 after a long battle with brain cancer.
“The reaction has been universal,” said Reverend Leo J. O’Donovan, President Emeritus of Georgetown University, who spoke at the service. “Whether you were a friend of Beau Biden’s or knew him only from the press, how sad. How very very sad.”
The church had room only for those personally invited by the Biden family. Guests included dozens of foreign dignitaries, several Senators and State Representatives, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Obama family. Hundreds more gathered in local gymnasiums and cafeterias nearby, where the service was streamed on TV monitors.
Four eulogies were delivered, including one from United States President Barack Obama.
“Beau Biden was an original,” Obama said. He described the “cruel twist of fate,” — a 1972 car accident that killed Biden’s biological mother and little sister — that forced Biden to “ask God for broader shoulders.”
Obama also joked that Biden took after his father, Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, following a career in politics and even choosing the same law school. “He even looked like Joe, though Joe would be the first to admit that Beau was an upgrade. Joe two-point-oh,” Obama joked.
Obama acknowledged Biden’s political accomplishments as Attorney General, which included protecting women and children in Delaware from domestic violence and sexual assault. Biden ended his second term as Attorney General in January and had announced that he intended to run for Governor of the state.
“He accomplished in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146,” Obama said. “The world noticed, they felt it — his presence was felt. And isn’t that the whole point of our time here?”
Obama’s 25-minute-long eulogy was followed by Biden’s half-sister and 2010 School of Social Policy and Practice graduate Ashley Biden. Ashley described her life as “a collage of memories and moments [of Beau] — Beau was a constant presence in my life.”
Ashley described memories of visiting her older brother while he was a student at Penn “even though the most unpopular thing to do was invite your 8-year-old kid sister to spend the night in your college apartment.”
“I hung around Beau-y so much that his friends nicknamed me ‘flea’,” she laughed.
Though Ashley described many of her own memories of her bond with her brother, including taking him to his chemotherapy appointments, she remembered most his relationship with his brother, Hunter. “Hunter was the wind beneath Beau’s wings,” she said.
Immediately following Ashley, Hunter gave the final eulogy. In his speech, he described his first memory as lying in a hospital bed at age three — a reference to the same car accident that took the lives of their mother and sister, with Beau standing over him, holding his hand and saying “I love you, I love you.”
“In the 42 years since, he never stopped holding my hand. Throughout his career, he held so many hands,” Hunter said. “Beau’s was the hand that was reaching for yours before you even had to ask,” he said.
“He held so many hands in his life. My only claim to my brother is that he held mine first,” Hunter continued. “I held his hand as he took his last breath and I know that I was loved and I know that his hand will never leave mine.”
After Hunter’s eulogy, lead singer of Coldplay Chris Martin performed “‘Till Kingdom Come” and Archbishop Emeritus of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick delivered the final commendation.
Following the service, Biden was laid to rest at his family’s home parish in Greenville, Del. in the same graveyard as his mother and sister.