RUSSELL, Kan. (KSNW) — The town of Russell got a final chance to say its goodbyes to its native son, Senator Bob Dole.
Dole, who died Sunday at the age of 98, always remembered his Kansas roots as he rose to national fame as a politician.
Before the hearse took Dole’s casket to a church service in Russell Saturday morning, it drove by or stopped at several locations that had been important to Dole during his lifetime, including his childhood home.
After the hearse was finished with the tour, it took Dole’s casket to St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Russell. From 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., the public was invited to stop by and sign a guest book.
The service started shortly after 11 a.m., with tribute remarks from Governor Laura Kelly, Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall and former Senator Pat Roberts.
Kelly told the crowd that it is hard to imagine a Kansas without Bob Dole. (Find her comments about 6:30 into the video.)
“While his achievements put him at the pinnacles of public life, it was his unmatched character, integrity, wit, optimism, and work ethic, forged right here in Russell, that won him the hearts of Kansans,” she said.
She ended by saying, “Senator Dole, until your last breath, you never forgot where you were from, and we, your fellow Kansans, will never forget you.”
The same minister who spoke at Dole’s funeral service in Washington, DC, also took part in the Russell service. Rear Admiral Barry Black, USN, Retired, Chaplain, United States Senate, offered the homily. (Find it about 27:30 into the video.)
Pat Roberts, who served alongside Dole in the Senate, told several humorous stories of his ties to Dole. He said that in the last 10 to 15 years, he spoke to Dole a few times each week, and they became even greater friends. Some of his stories made the people in church laugh. Other stories brought tears to their eyes. (Watch his remarks around 46 minutes into the video.)
After Roberts concluded, Senator Jerry Moran spoke about his relationship with Dole. He was visibly distraught several times during his speech.
“Bob Dole is the first United States Senator I ever met. My hometown of Plainville, neighboring county, knew of him, but then the first senator I ever had the chance to shake a hand with,” Moran said, and then his voice broke as he added, “And I have been in awe of Bob Dole for 52 years since then.” (See Moran’s full remarks starting around 59 minutes into the video.)
Senator Roger Marshall was the last speaker at the service. (Watch his comments starting around one hour and 25 minutes into the video.)
The service ended with a benediction from Rear Admiral Black.
The public was invited to pass by the Senator’s casket following the service to pay their respects. Elizabeth Dole stood in the vestibule and greeted the church-goers and exchanged kind words with them.
After that, Dole’s casket was returned to the hearse and taken to Topeka.
At 4:30 p.m. in Topeka, Gov. Laura Kelly and a delegation of Kansas officials will receive Dole’s casket at the Kansas State Capitol. Kansas ROTC cadets will provide an honor cordon as the Kansas National Guard Casket Team carries the casket to its position of repose on the second level.
KSN will live stream the public ceremony that will take place in the Capitol Rotunda and include remarks by Governor Kelly, Senators Roger Marshall, Jerry Moran, former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, and former Congressman James Slattery.
After the service, Dole’s casket and family will return to Washington, D.C. Details of his burial at the Arlington National Cemetery are pending.