About 1,500 Attend Funeral for Florida Congressman Bill Young

By Tamara Lush
|  Thursday, Oct 24, 2013  |  Updated 11:38 PM EDT
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AP/The Tampa Bay Times

The casket containing the body of deceased congressman C.W. Bill Young is carried into First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks on Thursday in Largo, Florida. Young, 82, died last Friday after 43 years in Congress. Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Congressman Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, were among those scheduled to eulogize Young.

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During a two-hour funeral, Florida Congressman C.W. Bill Young was remembered Thursday as a man who loved his family, his country and those who served in the military.

Young — the 82-year-old Pinellas County Republican who served in Congress for 22 terms — died last week, surrounded by friends and family, at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Young had been involved in Florida politics since 1957. He was considered the elder statesman of Florida's Republican Party and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

More than 1,500 people attended the funeral at a Baptist church in Young's district. The memorial service drew 34 members of the House, including Speaker John Boehner, as well as Gov. Rick Scott and countless other local and state officials.

Boehner choked up while speaking about Young and his legacy.

"What now? Who among us will carry on this man's work?" Boehner said. "No one man or one woman can fill his shoes. It will take all of us."

As Boehner and others remembered Young, a national Republican organization was coming under fire for polling voters in the late congressman's district.

The National Republican Congressional Committee started polling Pinellas County voters a day earlier about potential matchups in a special election for Young's replacement.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who attended Young's funeral, blasted the group.

"It's typical Washington," said Scott, a Republican. "There's no off on the political switch. It's disappointing."

Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, said that a few unscheduled polling calls were "inadvertently" made in Young's district. She apologized for the "unfortunate mistake."

It's up to Scott to decide when to set the date for the special election.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, said Young and his wife, Beverly, were unmatched in their dedication to the military and wounded veterans. The pair would visit injured veterans at Walter Reed almost weekly — and even accepted one into their family.

Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Callihan stood with three of Young's sons during the funeral and said that Young helped him recover, both physically and mentally. Young had been paralyzed by a bullet to the spinal cord.

Callihan said that in the last days of Young's life, he recorded a video for Callahan's unborn daughter.

C.W. Bill Young II, one of Young's children, said family was the most important thing to his father. Yet after years of medical problems — Young suffered lasting back injury following a 1970 plane crash — it was Young's wife, Beverly, who inspired the congressman to help others.

"Nobody but Beverly and God will know how much she's done for me," Young would tell his son.

Young was buried following the service at Bay Pines Cemetery, which is located near the Bay Pines VA Medical Center — the same facility that his lawmaker colleagues have proposed to name after Young.

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