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Published: Friday, 7/24/2009

Cronkite remembered as great journalist, father, friend


NEW YORK - Walter Cronkite was remembered as a great journalist, sailor, friend, and father during services that, despite the grandeur of the setting, felt remarkably comfortable - like the man.

"I was often asked, 'What he's really like?' And I would always answer, 'He's just the way you hope he is,'••" said Mike Ashford, a sailing comrade of more than 30 years and one of the speakers at yesterday's funeral.

Another speaker, longtime CBS newsman and 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney, recalled meeting Mr. Cronkite when they both were in England covering World War II.

"You get to know someone pretty well in a war," said Mr. Rooney, describing Mr. Cronkite as "such a good friend."

"I just feel so terrible about Walter's death that I can hardly say anything," he admitted. He then excused himself and left the pulpit.

The services were witnessed by a near-capacity crowd at the elegant, enormous St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in midtown Manhattan, where the Cronkite family has worshipped for years.

Broadcast journalists - co-workers, competitors, successors - were on hand, including Connie Chung, Bob Schieffer, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Barbara Walters, Charles Gibson, Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw, Morley Safer, and Meredith Vieira. Comedians-actors Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller also were in attendance.

But there also was room for members of the public to pay their respects.

James Huntsburg and his wife, Sylvia, visiting from Canada, had heard about the funeral. Admitted to the sanctuary, they took their place in one of the pews.

Mr. Huntsburg said he grew up watching Mr. Cronkite, who, he said, "touched me."

When he heard of Mr. Cronkite's death last Friday at 92, Mr. Huntsburg and his wife hadn't yet left their home near Toronto for their Manhattan vacation.

"I feel blessed to be here," said Mr. Huntsburg, visibly moved.

For his reporting, Mr. Cronkite came to be called "the most trusted man in America" and was widely considered the premier TV journalist of his time. He anchored The CBS Evening News from 1962 until 1981 - a period that included the Vietnam War, the space race, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy as well as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Watergate.

Chip Cronkite affectionately gave thanks to his father for a host of things - on the water and off.

"Thanks," he said, "for rushing to the side of the boat when a boom knocked me overboard. You stood there ready to jump in after me, and then were glad you didn't have to. Thanks for getting ready to take out my appendix yourself with a sharpened spoon on the African plains, two days' drive from a hospital. That time, I was glad you didn't have to."

A separate memorial will be held within the next few weeks at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Cronkite is to be cremated and his remains buried next to his wife, Betsy, in the family plot at a cemetery in Kansas City, Mo.

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