John Dingell served in Congress longer than any other person in American history, yet he made the common man feel uncommon, a minister told dignitaries and hundreds of other mourners Tuesday during a funeral for the longtime Michigan congressman.
Dingell, who represented southeast Michigan for 59 years in the House, died Thursday at age 92. Vice President Joe Biden was among his former colleagues attending the service, though a military plane carrying members of Congress was turned back because of bad weather — but not before an impromptu service at 30,000 feet.
Missouri Rep. Billy Long tweeted that the service aboard the plane was led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.
On the ground, the Rev. Terrence Kerner spoke to about 750 people gathered inside a church in suburban Detroit. He said Dingell instructed his staff to be responsive to the needs of his constituents and to help people who were no longer in his district after his district's lines had been redrawn.
Kerner said Dingell told his staff: "Even though they are not in my district any more, take care of them. ... They need me. They need you."
Biden was expected to speak during the funeral. Snow and icy weather briefly delayed the start of the service at the Church of the Divine Child in Dearborn, where police were shoveling snow and helping people inside.
On Monday, hundreds of people passed Dingell's coffin and were personally greeted by members of his family. Former constituents and admirers lined up at a performing arts center in Dearborn to pay their respects. Dingell's casket was in a ballroom while oversized photos of his life were displayed in the lobby.
His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who was elected to her husband's seat in 2014, stayed to greet everyone throughout the day, after some private moments near the casket.
The visitation was the first of many public events this week. There will be a second funeral Mass on Thursday in Washington. A motorcade with Dingell's casket will pass the U.S. Capitol, where he held power for years as a House committee chairman. He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Former President Bill Clinton and former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio will speak at the Washington service.