WASHINGTON - President Bush led a poignant tribute yesterday to his friend and former spokesman, Tony Snow, who lost his public fight with cancer but never surrendered the spirit that defined his life.
The somber President spoke of Mr. Snow as he would a member of his family, and to many of those who work at the White House, that's what Mr. Snow was.
He served a 16-month stint as Mr. Bush's press secretary, but he made friends fast and earned respect for handling his disease with grace and hope.
"Everyone who worked with him quickly grew to love him," the President said. "We will always remember his wry sense of humor and abundant goodness. We'll also remember he was just a lot of fun."
Mr. Bush stood beneath the soaring arches of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a cavernous church on the campus of Catholic University.
More than a thousand people came to honor Mr. Snow, a collection of family friends, Washington journalists, and White House colleagues.
A single portrait of Mr. Snow stood near the altar. It showed him in his element, holding forth at a podium and smiling.
Mr. Snow died Saturday of colon cancer. He was 53.
The President said Mr. Snow, in a brief life, amassed a record of accomplishment. Long before he went to work at the White House, Mr. Snow was an editorial writer, a columnist, and a radio host.
Ever comfortable in front of the camera, he was a nationally recognizable face as a TV anchor and conservative commentator.
Mr. Snow also worked for President Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush. The current president used this bit of history to inject a little levity into the funeral service.
"As a speechwriter in my dad's administration, Tony tried to translate the president's policies into English," Mr. Bush said. "As a spokesman in my administration, Tony tried to translate my English into English."
Mr. Snow is survived by his wife, Jill, and their three children: Kendall, 16; Robbie, 12, and Kristi, 10.
Mr. Snow had survived one bout of cancer before he became press secretary in 2006. But the cancer returned in 2007, requiring more surgery and treatment. He described his experience last year to graduating students at Catholic University, imploring them to "Live boldly. Live a whole life."
In his homily, the Rev. David M. O'Connell said Mr. Snow's life was measured by his character, courage, and optimism.