The family of Vice President Joe Biden received thousands of people who wanted to pay their respects for Beau Biden.
Dozens of political leaders and Delaware residents mourning Beau Biden stood in a long solemn line stretched from the doors of Legislative Hall to the end of the “Mall” in Dover Thursday afternoon.
The coffin of the late Attorney General lay inside the Senate chambers for loved ones and the public to pay their respects for four hours during the afternoon.
Biden died Saturday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after a fight with brain cancer. He was 46.
“You saw an extraordinary outpouring of affection and love for Beau Biden and the entire Biden family. The Biden family really is Delaware’s family,” said Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, during the memorial.
“This is a huge loss for our state. We grieve with the family and are always eternally grateful to Beau for his contributions to the state and the example he set for rest of us.”
Inside, Vice President Joe Biden stood by the flag-draped casket in front of the Senate dais. White flowers and a portrait of Biden with his wife Hallie and their two children Natalie and Hunter were displayed nearby, according to those inside.
The Vice President embraced those he knew and greeted members of the public while Jill, Hallie, Natalie and Hunter Biden stood by, according to inside reports.
In addition to the dozens of residents who stopped by, almost all of Delaware’s 62 General Assembly lawmakers attended the 1 p.m. service in the Senate.
The public knew him as Beau
Several friends and acquaintances of Biden also came to Legislative Hall to mourn their loss and support the Biden family.
“He was one of the best people I ever knew,” said Richard DiLiberto, chairman of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture.
“I’m here to express my family’s grief and to let the Biden family know how much we admire him and how sorrowful we are for their loss.”
He said his fondest memory of Biden is when he informed him of his decision to run for Attorney General.
“He just said, ‘I think I need to leave this state better than I found it,” DiLiberto said. “And I think he did.”
New Castle County Councilman Tim Sheldon said he has known Biden for several years. Biden helped him run for his seat in 2004, and later they developed a friendship, he said.
“He wasn’t a gigantic figure, but he was so real,” Sheldon said. “He told a story and it was nothing major but something that got you involved and made you understand he’s a regular man deep down inside.”
Several of the visitors were ordinary residents who had never met him or didn’t know him well. They said they respected the Attorney General’s policies and his contributions to the people of Delaware.
“I came out of compassion for the Vice President, for Beau Biden’s family, for the remembrance of Beau and the state of Delaware, which is grieving for him,” said Connie Berry of Dover.
Dover resident Sheila Roche-Cooper said she was compelled to pay her respects to the Biden’s because family has always been of utter importance to them.
“We know how much family meant to Beau Biden, not just his personal family but all families of Delaware, and we wanted to thank him and show our respects,” she said.
Robin Weller of Wyoming said she remembers Biden visiting her house during his last election. She said she attended the memorial because Biden was committed to his constituents, and she wanted to show her appreciation.
“During his last election he came to my house and stood on the front porch for more than half an hour and talked to me and was very sincere,” Weller said. “He felt it was important for me to understand what he wanted to achieve and I really appreciated it.”
Friends of Biden say they’re not surprised by the outpouring of support from the general community. DiLiberto said Biden genuinely cared about everyone he talked to, and would be honored to receive the support.
“That’s just Beau,” he said. “He had this magnetic personality and innate goodness about him, and I think people looked up to him and knew his heart was good heart. He had the heart of an angel.”
Markell said it was Biden’s ability to stay grounded during his success that gave him such loyal supporters.
“I think Beau was really good at everything he did and was also extra humble,” he said. “He was extraordinarily connected and grounded and interested in other people.”
Markell said Biden leaves behind a legacy protecting the residents of Delaware, and cited his efforts to protect children from predators as one of his top successes.
“He has a really strong track record of protecting our kids, our seniors and victims of violence,” he said. “His job, which he took seriously, was protecting the people of our state which he did.”
Media access limited
Security was extremely tight at Legislative Hall. Roads were closed in the area for several hours before the casket arrived. Inside there was a moving ceremony with tributes from several state leaders.
A media pool was set up to provide details of the event. Jonathan Starkey of the News Journal provided updates to local reporters. He reported several times over the the course of the afternoon of how the Vice President seemed to effortlessly greet people as they came to pay their respects.
This was his last pool feed.
At 5 p.m., the vice president moved out of the Senate Chamber and into the lobby of Legislative Hall, greeting the scores of remaining members of the public who came to pay their respects. “Thank you. Thank you for coming,” Biden told members of the crowd in the lobby.
“I’m going to go all the way around,” he told others who reached from the back of the line to shake his hand.
One man said his father knew the vice president. “You look like your dad,” Biden responded.
The day was a somber one, but Biden offered smiles to members of the crowd, shook hands, and hugged those he seemed to recognize.
Biden left Legislative Hall about 5:10 after the four-hour-long viewing service for Beau Biden.
Karen Minner, of Smyrna, greeted the vice president in the lobby. “He’s just a class act, whether you agree with his politics or not,” Minner said. “And it’s Delaware. We’re all family.”
Gina Scanlon, of Rehoboth, shook hands with the vice president. “It was very impressive,” Scanlon said of Biden greeting members of the public in the lobby. “But that’s the way he is.”
Beau Biden’s casket was moved out of the Senate Chamber and out of Legislative Hall at 5:35 p.m.