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December 11th, 2010
02:43 PM ET

Update: More than 1,200 at Edwards funeral; protest fizzles

CNN Wire Staff

Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) - More than 1,200 mourners, including hundreds who loved and admired Elizabeth Edwards from a distance, packed a Raleigh church Saturday to pay respects to the activist and estranged wife of a failed aspirant to the presidency.

The mourners included Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who in 2004 picked Edwards' husband, John, to be his vice presidential running mate in an unsuccessful bid for the White House. John and Elizabeth Edwards separated earlier this year after the former North Carolina senator admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock while the couple was married.

John Edwards entered the church just prior to the start of the 1 p.m. service, holding hands with the Edwards' three children, Jack, Emma and Cate.

The funeral opened with a eulogy from Elizabeth Edwards' longtime friend Hargrave McElroy, who made the audience laugh with tales of Elizabeth's competitive nature, particularly with games. She also noted Edwards' love of Christmas, describing how the Edwards family, including John Edwards, decorated their Christmas tree last Saturday, just three days before she died after a long battle with breast cancer at the age of 61.

In addition to McElroy's eulogy, another friend, Glenn Bergenfield, and Edwards' daughter Cate were expected to speak.

Others expected to attend includedNorth Carolina Gov. Ben Perdue; U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina); Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy; John Podesta, a former Clinton administration chief of staff and current head of the Center for American Progress; members of North Carolina's congressional delegation; and more than 100 former campaign staffers.

It was a public ceremony because Edwards was known for insisting, much to the dismay of staffers, that all of her events be open to the public, according to a friend. Supporters say that even though a public funeral might usher some chaos to the event, this is what Edwards would have wanted.

Other public mourners included as many 150 supporters who gathered a few blocks away from the church for a counter-demonstration against a group of picketers from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.

The Kansas-based congregation is known for its extremist opposition against homosexuals, Jews and other groups and regularly holds protests at funerals for fallen U.S. service members, saying the war's dead are God's punishment for the country tolerating gays and lesbians.

In the end, only five Westboro congregants showed for the protest, which took place in a cold, steady rain.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Cynthia

    This man Phelps mentioned Psalm 109–so I looked it up. Perhaps he should have read it all the way thru: "...May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their shame as in a mantle." I like Matthew 7:15–"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." He just forgot the sheep's clothing.

    December 12, 2010 at 3:15 am |
  2. Scott

    I am so saddened by the loss of Mrs. Edwards. She lived a great life and gave Cancer all the fight she had within her. I am SO SORRY that Westboro Baptist Church keeps using such tragic loss to push their hate agenda.

    I am Baptist and have been for 30+ years. They don't represent me or any Baptists I know. They aren't preaching GOD'S LOVE and FORGIVENESS that Christ teaches. God's Word proclaims "JUDGE NOT, OR YOU TO WILL BE JUDGED." Westboro has been a poor example of God to our world by preaching hate. God hates the wrong we do against Him and one another, but He never hates us. They have it all WRONG!!

    I also apologize to Anderson Cooper as well for the words of hate recently spoken against him by Westboro. God Loves You Anderson just like he does me, and anyone who loves his neighbor. Westboro best think twice before pushing their own hate agenda while "claiming" it is God's. The Bible they DISTORT will be the very One God will hold them accountable too. Believe it!! The Edwards family is in my prayers. I am so sorry for their loss...

    December 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  3. Scott

    I am so sorry for the family of Elizabeth. She lived a strong life and gave Cancer the best fight she had in her. I am SO SORRY that Westboro Baptist Church keeps getting in the way of remembering people who lived vialiantly and died tragically. I myself am Baptist and have been for 30+ years. These people DON'T REPRESENT ME or ANY BAPTIST WHO READS THE WORD OF GOD.

    December 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  4. Merle Dunn

    Everyone is sad about the passing of a woman who has had a lot suffering the past few years,
    not just from the cancer she fought,but also in
    her private life. My prayers & thoughts are with her children.
    I am sure she was a brave woman just surviving after the loss of a son proved that,but I doubt that her passing would have been in all the news articles,on TV etc. if she had not been the wife of a man who was known by our
    country as a man in politics, then known as a
    man who cheated on his wife & that all of their
    private life was played out in the public as that is what she wanted & then she wanted her
    death to be seen in the public as well. I in no way am trying to sound cruel or unfeeling,
    but I do hope that the public & media can now
    move on & let her children live in peace.
    As far as John Edwards is concerned if I never
    hear or see his name in the media or in a public way that would be the gift to his now
    deceased wife that all of us can give to her.
    May she rest in peace.

    December 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  5. Russell

    If the Gov't is not going to stop protests against private first class's for their sacirfice for this country, then why should a ordenary citizen like Mrs. Edwards be exempt. She did far less for this country than he did.

    December 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  6. Robert Stroney

    I am most sad for the children; this is a kids' worse nightmare – more so – because it's a daymare as well. I had "abandonment dreams" when my best friend up & died in 1992. It's a natural part of the grieving process, but it's especially painful if you're a kid. I would suggest – keeping good thoughts for the kids. My sympathy to John Edwards too.

    December 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  7. Donna Wood (731)307-1125 Lexington, Tn.

    Yes! I am so glad that hte stupid protest didnt amount to anything. My condolences to the Edwards family and many happy wishes for a happy as can be holiday please.

    December 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm |