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Farewell to Bono awash in laughter, tears

Cher January 9, 1998
Web posted at: 4:48 p.m. EST (2148 GMT)

PALM SPRINGS, California (CNN) -- With laughter, tears and fond remembrances of an American original, Sonny Bono's family, colleagues and friends said goodbye Friday at his funeral Mass in Palm Springs.

The entertainer-
turned-congressman was eulogized by his former wife and television partner, Cher, as "the most unforgettable character I've ever met."

"He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to build it, and his enthusiasm was so great that he just swept everyone along with him," she said, fighting back tears. "We didn't know where he was going, but we just wanted to be there."

The crowd of mourners inside St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church included House Speaker Newt Gingrich, California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Vice President Dan Quayle.

"In some way, Sonny was a living beatitude," said Gingrich. "He walked up, you looked at him and you thought to yourself, 'This can't be a famous person.' He smiled, he said something, and then you said to yourself, 'He can't be a serious person.'

"Four jokes and two stories later, you were pouring your heart out to him, he was helping you solve a problem, and you began to realize this was a very hard working, very thoughtful man who covered up a great deal of his abilities with his wonderful sense of humor."


Family friend Bruce Herschensohn, a one-time political opponent of Bono, remembered Bono for having "a childlike innocence combined with ancient wisdom."

"Being in a bad mood around Sonny was impermissible," Herschensohn said.

Bono, the former Palm Springs mayor elected as a Republican to the U.S. House in 1994, died Monday when he struck a tree while skiing at a resort in South Lake Tahoe. He was 62.

Borne out of the church by a military honor guard to a waiting hearse, Bono's casket was on its way to a cemetery in nearby Cathedral City, where his burial service will take place Friday afternoon.


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