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The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist was mourned Wednesday at an emotional funeral service in which his longtime friend and colleague Justice Sandra Day O’Connor described him as a man with “no pretenses at all” who became a “great chief justice.” O’Connor, who first met Rehnquist as a Stanford University undergraduate nearly 60 years ago, said that from conversations she had with him in recent months, he fully expected to live out the coming term of the Court. “He lost that bet,” she said sadly. Rehnquist, 80, died Sept. 3 after a 10-month fight against thyroid cancer. He served on the Court for 33 years, 19 of them as chief justice. The funeral, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest Washington, drew nearly 2,000 mourners, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, all eight associate justices, and several members of Congress, as well as John Roberts Jr., the man nominated to replace Rehnquist. In a private ceremony afterward, Rehnquist was buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife, Nan, who died in 1991. On Tuesday, thousands of people viewed his coffin in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. The two-hour Lutheran service was held at the Roman Catholic cathedral because of its ability to seat so many people. Rehnquist was also familiar with the cathedral because he attended the annual Catholic Red Mass that marks the beginning of each term of the Court. The service was filled with reminiscences and music, with several speakers recalling Rehnquist’s lifelong love of song. “The man loved to sing,” said Bush, who told the gathering that he had once stood next to Rehnquist as the justice sang the national anthem. In fact, said his pastor, the Rev. George Evans Jr., it was while Rehnquist was singing that he first felt ill. Evans said that Rehnquist told him, “I could not achieve a range. I knew something was wrong.” Yet Rehnquist was optimistic, Evans said, telling him only days earlier that he fully expected to start the Court’s fall term with his colleagues. Bush said that Rehnquist epitomized “how a wise man looks at the law and a good man lives his life.” Several other speakers spoke of Rehnquist’s balanced life, which was filled with love of family, travel, hobbies, physical activity, and not taking himself too seriously. Rehnquist’s son, James, a partner at Goodwin Procter in Boston, took pride in the fact that his father always took all of his vacation time. Rehnquist also loved to read and talk about history. “I would say he had forgotten more history than any of us knew, but he never forgot any history, so that wouldn’t be accurate,” said James Rehnquist. His father also tolerated “my diatribes about practicing criminal defense under the law as he built it.” The chief justice was competitive in tennis and other pursuits, said daughter Nancy Rehnquist Spears, a university teacher. “Once I started beating him, I became his doubles partner,” she said with a laugh. After her mother died, Spears said, she and her sister Janet would accompany their father to events. “Dating your father is underrated,” she said warmly. Janet Rehnquist, a partner at the law firm Venable in Washington, was in attendance but did not speak. One of Rehnquist’s granddaughters also spoke about him, reading from a letter she wrote to him in June. Rehnquist had life tenure as chief justice, said Natalie Ann Rehnquist Lynch, but he had also given her “a lifetime of happiness.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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