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Andy Rooney Chokes Up, Can’t Say Goodbye to Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite’s funeral at St. Bartholomew’s Church this afternoon was sadder than I thought it would be. He was 92, after all. But Walter was one of the most beloved people in the world, especially in this town.

His oldest friend, Andy Rooney, who’s never at a loss for words, got up to speak. But for once words failed him, he choked back tears, and sat down. I hope one day we get to hear what he had to say.

The audience, as you might imagine, was stocked with the top folks in broadcast journalism. From CBS: Don Hewitt, Les Moonves, Harry Smith, Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Morley Safer, Russ Mitchell, Bill Plante, and Dan Rather. Connie Chung, John Roberts, ex of CBS, now of CNN, and Jeff Greenfield were there. From NBC: Tom Brokaw (with wife Meredith), Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Lester Holt, Brian Williams. From ABC: Diane Sawyer as well as Charlie Gibson and Barbara Walters (pictured). I think Walter would have been amused to see Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara, and former Mayor David Dinkins.

No, I did not see Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft, Bob Simon, or Mike Wallace. They may have been out of town. Nor did I see Jane Pauley, Elizabeth Vargas or about a half-dozen others. But the big stars showed up, and in force.

Walter’s companion of the last few years, Joanna Simon, was front and center, accompanied by Maria Cooper Janis (daughter of Gary Cooper) and Byron Janis, her famous musician husband. Jim Rosenfield Sr., who used to run CBS, as well as his anchorman son Jim Rosenfield Jr. were there, as were dozens of former CBS execs and producers including Fred Rappaport and Shirley Wershba.

A New Orleans marching band played “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Walter’s son Kip and a couple of friends spoke including Sandy Socolow, who produced “The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite,” and Bill Harbach. It was as concise and graceful a service as one of Walter’s broadcasts, sharp and to the point. There was no extra sentiment, but it was heartfelt and moving. You couldn’t ask for much more than that from a funeral. As opposed to some recent memorials, there was no blubbering, Friars Roast or attempts to make money.

Ironically, the network with the most visible mobile van shoved in front of the church was Fox News. Walter would have gotten a chuckle out of that. It was more because of Roger Ailes‘ respect for him, I’m sure, than anything their news broadcast might have had in common with the legendary communicator. God bless Walter Cronkite. A public memorial is planned for Lincoln Center, later this summer.