Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gov. Scranton's service

The late Gov. William Scranton wrote the script for his own memorial service, some of which offers insight into the man he was.

Gov. Scranton's service

A memorial service Wednesday for the late Gov. William Scranton in the city that nears his family name, in a church his ancestors built, was prepared in some detail by the long-time public servant who died last month nine days after turning 96.

The late congressman, U.N. ambassador, advisor to presidents, candidate for president and Pennsylvania governor used the service to both send a message and reflect a part of who he was.

It was presided over by a Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a Presbyterian minister. The opening hymn was "Joy to the World." The closing hymn was "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies."

He asked that all present recite the Lord's Prayer but not use the line "thy kingdom come." He wrote, "I don't like kingdoms. I like democracies."

He asked that when the biblical passage Ecclesiastes 3, "there is a time for everything...a time to be born and a time to die," be read that the phrase "a time to hate" be excluded.

"I don't hate," he wrote.

When Presbyterian Rev. Fred Milligan spoke of these instructions, he noted that Scranton also added, "Don't be slavishly bound by these ideas because I obviously won't be there."

The 550-plus people packed inside Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Hill Section of Scranton chuckled in unison.

And when former Lt. Gov. William Scranton began his remarks he said, "If I'm smiling, it's because I'm picturing the conversation" in heaven between his father and the Lord over changing the Lord's Prayer.

The late governor's son also told family stories of how his father, as a younger man, was sometimes absent-minded.

He said in the 1950's, before autos were air-conditioned, his father was driving from upstate New York to Scranton on a sweltering day, stopped for gas and to use the rest room and realized, after walking halfway across the place, that he wasn't wearing any pants.

"My father was a practical man," said younger Scranton, and knew his drive would be considerably cooler without trousers.

The son also said when his father was training WWIII pilots at a base in Reno, Nevada, and logging hours himself by flying over the dessert, another moment of abent-mindedness occured.

He was getting ready to bring his plane in and decided to execute a few rolls, only to realize once he was in the maneuver that his canopy was open, he wasn't strapped in and there was no parachute onboard.

If it hadn't been for some quickly applied pressure with elbows and legs to the interior of the cockpit, along with some fancy flying, said his son, "this service would have been held 70 years ago."

Here's complete coverage of the service by the Scranton Times-Tribune.

 

Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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