Palm Springs Expects Full House For Bono's Farewell
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AllPolitics, Jan. 8) -- The city that Rep. Sonny Bono called home is expecting a massive crowd at a vigil scheduled this afternoon, the first of two public services for the late congressman.
"The community is grieving. We need to do something for the public," said Mark Mathews of Wiefels & Son Mortuary. "This is our buddy. This is a good friend of ours."
Bono, a popular Republican who first rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s as an entertainer, died Monday when he slammed into a tree while skiing in South Lake Tahoe.
City officials expect St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Church, which seats 1,100, to be packed on Thursday with family, friends, celebrities, politicians, and grieving constituents.
The Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival, which Bono founded eight years ago while he was mayor, plans to pay homage to him at the service.
"It will be quick and simple, just the way Sonny would have liked it," said executive director Craig Prater. "He would always tell us, 'Let's move ahead and just get the show on the road.'"
The four-hour service is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. (7 p.m. EST).
A family service
Bono's family on Wednesday took what friends called an important first step in healing, holding a private service in his honor.
Bono's widow Mary Whitaker, his ex-wife Cher, and other family, close friends and former colleagues gathered for a private evening service at Our Lady of Solitude, two family friends told CNN.
Mourners viewed Bono in an open casket, and many who attended the service delivered eulogies and shared anecdotes about the entertainer who became a politician.
Family friend Gary Simon told CNN Bono's family was holding up well.
Bono was vacationing with his family when he died. He is survived by a 9-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, and two adult daughters from former marriages, including Chastity, his daughter with Cher.
"The merciful thing was he died instantly," Bono's 83-year-old mother, Jean Bono, told The (Palm Springs) Desert Sun on Thursday. "I feel sorry for the children who don't have a father anymore."
The Bono family and friends have reserved about three-quarters of the pews at St. Theresa's for Friday's funeral service, which has been arranged by his widow.
Like Thursday's vigil, the funeral is also open to the public, and the family has arranged to set up speakers outside the church so the expected overflow crowd can hear the Mass.
California Gov. Pete Wilson and about 100 members of Congress are expected to attend the Mass. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will lead the congressional delegation. President Bill Clinton is also expected to send a representative to the service.
The funeral service begins at 11 a.m. PT and will last about one-and-a-half hours.
Following the service, Bono's body will be driven along a five-and-a-half mile route to the Desert Memorial Park for a graveside burial service, expected to last about 15 minutes.
The burial is also open to the public.
Palm Springs officials say the city's 83 police officers will get additional help from neighboring jurisdictions.
Filling Sonny's seat
Meanwhile, the California governor's office is waiting for the appropriate time to announce a special election to fill the late congressman's seat.
Under state law, the governor must announce an election within 14 days from the time the vacancy occurs.
State officials have reportedly said they may hold the election along with a statewide primary already scheduled for June 2.