NARBERTH, Pa. — Friends and former colleagues, including Vice President Joe Biden, two former Pennsylvania governors, judges and others on Tuesday mourned the loss of former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, calling him an “irreplaceable” man who was so determined to beat a string of illnesses that he managed to teach one last law class less than two weeks before his death.
Biden, former Govs. Ed Rendell and Dick Thornburgh, and other power brokers from various walks of life were among hundreds attending the funeral in a Philadelphia suburb to pay their respects. Specter died at his suburban home on Sunday at 82 after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois, a law school friend of Specter’s, recalled how Specter approached everything in life “with intensity, determination and grit,” managing to teach one last law class on Oct. 4 at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on the relationship between Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Biden said he’d never seen someone with as much “undaunted courage” as Specter. He said his former Senate colleague’s fights with cancer should give hope to all families battling the disease.
“He believed he could change the world, if he just worked hard enough at it,” Biden said.
Specter, a political moderate who switched parties twice in his career but mostly served as a Republican, was also recalled for his independent streak.
“He really set the standard for working across party lines and we’re going to miss that,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said, adding that Specter taught him a lot when he joined the Senate.
Anthony J. Scirica, the chief judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, called Specter “irreplaceable.”
“He touched so many lives,” Scirica said. “He had some tough times, but he always thought that he was working for the public good.”
“He was a staunch friend of judiciary and of keeping the judges free from political influence,” he said.
Specter had won his Senate seat in the Reagan landslide of 1980 and, as one of the Senate’s sharpest legal minds, took part in 14 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Earlier in his career, he had served as counsel to the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy’s death, and prosecuted Teamsters officials in Philadelphia as an assistant district attorney.
He fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, and also overcame a brain tumor and cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.
Specter is survived by his wife, Joan, sons Shanin and Steve, and four granddaughters.