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Image: Walter Cronkite funeral
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Pallbearers carry the casket of newsman Walter Cronkite after his funeral service at St. Bartholomew's Church in midtown Manhattan on Thursday in New York.
updated 7/23/2009 5:41:33 PM ET 2009-07-23T21:41:33

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," said Rooney.

"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 were also in attendance.

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

‘The most trusted man in America’
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."

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When he heard of Cronkite's death last 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.

Before the service, admirers lingered outside the church where news vans lined the curb.

Flowers arrived from Yoko Ono, who wrote: "Walter, my son Sean and I will always remember you! for your kind word to us. You will be missed. With love, Yoko Ono Lennon."

Family, friends share memories
During the service, St. Bartholomew's Choir sang. A jazz band played "When the Saints Go Marching In."

And Cronkite friend (and veteran TV producer) Bill Harbach read the John Masefield poem, addressing it to Cronkite: "YOU must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky ..."

Sanford Socolow shared anecdotes from his many years working with Cronkite as a producer.

"Once, he had this bizarre idea that he would ad-lib the newscast without a script," Socolow recalled. As Cronkite's cue to roll each film clip, he would gently brush his nose with his hand.

"It was utter chaos," said Socolow. "It lasted for two days."

Chip Cronkite affectionately gave thanks to his father for many things.

"Thanks 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 for 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. 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.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

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  1. 'And that's the way it is'

    Bill Leonard, left, executive producer of the CBS News Election Unit talks with CBS News correspondent Walter Cronkite, who was the anchorman for the network's coverage of the New Hampshire Primary Election, in Manchester, N.H., in 1965. Cronkite joined the CBS News team in 1950 and was recruited by Edward R. Murrow. He became the anchor on April, 16, 1962, and used the phrase, "... and that's the way it is" followed by the date to end most of his broadcasts. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The news crew

    Cronkite is framed against a bank of CBS News correspondents in 1961. As a newsman, Cronkite had an unflappable calmness. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. From the war zone

    Cronkite, in Vietnam in 1968, left the anchor desk to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive. Upon his return, he departed from his usual objectivity, declaring that the war could end only in protracted stalemate. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told his staff, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." (CBS via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Not all serious business

    Cronkite, right, makes an appearance with Bob Keeshan on the "Captain Kangaroo" television program on Nov. 3, 1970. After Keeshan's death in 2004, Cronkite recalled his CBS colleague as "always cheerful" and "a kind of joy to man." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. America's news anchor

    Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News for 19 years and was often called "the most trusted man in America." He reported on the most traumatic and triumphant moments in American life in the 1960s, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the Apollo moon landing in 1969. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Standing up for free speech

    Cronkite believed government control over broadcasting was like a threatening ax hanging over the industry. On Sept. 30, 1971, Cronkite went before a Senate sub-committee to testify on freedom of the press. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The king in his castle

    Cronkite is interviewed in his CBS office at the broadcast center in New York on Feb. 3, 1981, the year he retired. President Jimmy Carter awarded the anchorman with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Marty Lederhandler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 65 years of marriage

    Accompanied by his wife Betsey, Cronkite leaves London's Heathrow Airport for New York via Concorde on May 26, 1983. Betsey and Walter were married on March 30, 1940 and remained together until her death on March 16, 2005. The couple had three children: Nancy, Kathy and Walter III. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. That's entertainment

    Cronkite, right, meets with anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) and producer Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) as he makes an appearance at the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 1974. In the episode, Baxter tries to convince Cronkite that he's as good a newsman as Eric Sevareid. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Never one to back down

    Cronkite testifies Feb. 20, 1991, in Washington before the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs concerning the Pentagon rules on media access to the Persian Gulf War. Cronkite said military escorts in the gulf were having a chilling effect on reporters' work. (Luke Frazza / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. President and pal

    President Bill Clinton, left, and Cronkite walk along the dock toward Cronkite's boat in Edgartown, Mass. The Clintons sailed on Cronkite's boat during their vacation as the first family. In 1998, Cronkite voiced his support for Clinton during his impeachment trial. (Stephen Jaffe / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Never stopped working

    Cronkite attended the Vanity Fair Tribeca Film Festival party at The State Supreme Courthouse on April 24, 2007, in New York. Even after his retirement, he never stopped speaking out on topics he believed in, from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he condemned, to what he believed were the unethical news practices of Fox News. (Evan Agostini / Getty Images For Tribeca Film Fe) Back to slideshow navigation
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