CHEYENNE - Teno Roncalio, Wyoming's first five-term U.S. representative, was remembered Saturday for his warmth, dedication to public service and sense of humor.
"I think his greatest quality was his friendship," Father John Waters, of Denver, told about 500 mourners during a Mass celebrated for Roncalio at St. Mary's Cathedral. "It didn't make any difference who you were.
"In his friendship for everyone, there was no fanfare. He did not need a drum roll. He just enjoyed life and people."
Roncalio died from congestive heart failure in Cheyenne last Sunday at age 87. The Rock Springs native served in the House from 1965-67 and 1971-79. Since his retirement, no Democrat has held congressional office for Wyoming. He was succeeded by Dick Cheney.
At the funeral, Waters read a letter from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who served with Roncalio.
"I wish I could be with you all to say goodbye to Teno," the letter stated.
Kennedy wrote that he will always remember Roncalio and the 10 years they served together, his caring family and the enthusiastic help Teno gave to Kennedy and his brother, Bobby, on the campaign trail.
Kennedy also recalled their ski trips to Copper Mountain and Roncalio's stories about working as a bootjack in Rock Springs to make ends meet, his golden voice and "above all, his great and enduring friendship."
"We loved him. We will never forget him. For all of us in our family, it was heaven to be on Earth with Teno," the letter concluded.
Retired Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Hart joked about how Roncalio once slipped him a note with a check in it after they had worked out at a local fitness club.
The note said, "Get yourself something nice to wear."
"He didn't want his bishop to look tacky," Hart said, to laughter.
He said Roncalio's faith never wavered and it helped him deal with his wife Cecilia's death six years ago.
"Even when he couldn't see to walk to church, he could very clearly see the Lord at church," Hart said.
Although they had a few disagreements over political matters, Hart said, "I found him to be a man of great gentleness, understanding and charity."
Noting Roncalio's tenure in office and the many dignitaries in attendance, Hart said, "It's not easy today being in the realm of public service and we appreciate what our public servants do."
Among those who attended the funeral were Gov. Dave Freudenthal, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., Wyoming Chief Justice William Hill, former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan, state lawmakers Jayne Mockler, John Hanes and Floyd Esquibel and longtime sportscaster Larry Birleffi.
Burial was held at Olivet Cemetery with military honors by the American Legion Honor Guard.