Mourners honor Walter Cronkite

The Rev. William McD. Tully watches Thursday as pallbearers carry the casket containing the body of CBS newsman Walter Cronkite down the steps after his funeral at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York.

NEW YORK — Walter Cronkite was remembered as a great newsman, sailor, friend and father during Thursday's funeral for the CBS anchor.

"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 Cronkite friend of more than 30 years and one of the speakers.

Another speaker, longtime CBS newsman and "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney, recalled meeting Cronkite when they both were in England covering World War II. "You get to know someone pretty well in a war," Rooney said.

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

The remarkably intimate, even homey ceremony was witnessed by a near-capacity crowd at the enormous St. Bartholomew's 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 was room for members of the public to pay their respects.

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

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

When he heard of Cronkite's death Friday at 92, Huntsburg and his wife hadn't yet left from their home near Toronto for their Manhattan vacation. "I feel blessed to be here," he said, visibly moved.

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