Family, Friends Mourn Elizabeth Edwards

Hundreds gathered for the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday. Her estranged husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards, attended with their three surviving children. Leoneda Inge of North Carolina Public Radio reports.

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Elizabeth Edwards was laid to rest today in Raleigh, North Carolina. The wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards was eulogized as hundreds gathered outside a historic downtown church to celebrate her life.

North Carolina Public Radio's Leoneda Inge has the story.

(Soundbite of music)

LEONEDA INGE: Family, friends and former campaign workers from across the country poured into Edenton Street United Methodist Church to remember the life of Elizabeth Edwards.

Longtime friend Hargrave McElroy told the congregation about Edwards' gracious hospitality, her ability to get by on just four hours' sleep and of course, her intense competitive streak.

Ms. HARGRAVE McELROY: Once when I was traveling with her as a sort of sidekick, on a political campaign in 2004, she brought along two copies of the same crossword puzzle book and greeted me with, wouldn't it be fun, Hargrave, to have crossword speed competitions?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. McELROY: Great.

INGE: Cate Edwards, the oldest daughter of Elizabeth and John Edwards, was the only family member to speak at the service.

Ms. CATE EDWARDS: Our family was in this church almost 15 years ago to say goodbye to my brother Wade. When I talked to my mom about what she wanted for her service, the first thing she said was that she wanted it to be here, at Edenton Street.

INGE: Wade Edwards died in a car crash in 1996. A part of the healing process for Elizabeth Edwards was to write a book connecting with other families. Tragedy would strike again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her husband's first presidential campaign ended, in 2004.

Many of the people on the sidewalk near Edenton Street tied pink crepe paper around their necks and arms to show their support for Edwards, including Carol Jenkins(ph).

Ms. CAROL JENKINS: My aunt has breast cancer, and my friend's mom has had breast cancer, and Elizabeth Edwards is just a pillar of strength for all those breast cancer survivors.

INGE: People came out with posters and banners to create a line of love, to block an anti-gay group from Kansas picketing the Edwards memorial service. The Westboro Baptist Church is known for protesting outside military funerals. But there was far more love than hate at this gathering. Cate Edwards wanted her mother to know that.

Ms. EDWARDS: As some of you may know, Emma, Jack and I ended every conversation with our mom by saying, I love you more. And she always responded no, I love you more. And as you can imagine, none of us ever won that battle. But today, I have the honor of being the last to say Mom, I really, really love you more.

INGE: Edwards is survived by three children and her estranged husband. She was 61 years old.

For NPR News, I'm Leoneda Inge.

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