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Jimmy Stewart Eulogized With Cue From Favorite Film

Tue., July 8, 1997

Hollywood on Monday bade a bittersweet goodbye to movie legend Jimmy Stewart, recalling his wonderful life on and off the screen.

“Dad withdrew from the world after Mom died,” Stewart’s daughter Kelly Harcourt told mourners packed into a Beverly Hills church. “He didn’t know what to do with himself. But you, his friends, were never far away. Your support and your love gave him comfort.

“Like him, we might take a cue from his favorite film - ‘No man is poor who has friends,”’ she said, quoting a memorable line from the final scene of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Stewart’s most famous film in a storied six-decade career.

“So here’s to our father, the richest man in town,” Harcourt said.

A bugler played taps for the decorated World War II hero.

The service concluded with an organ playing “Auld Lang Syne” - the same song that ended “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The only empty seat at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church was in the 12th pew, where Stewart sat every Sunday for years, until the 1994 death of his beloved wife, Gloria. Known for his distinctive, folksy drawl - but not for his warbly singing voice - Stewart was nevertheless a sometimes choir member.

An Air Force honor guard stood outside as Bob and Delores Hope, Robert Stack, actress Esther Williams and other luminaries exited.

“We lost a wonderful friend,” said former first lady Nancy Reagan, who knew Stewart from her days as an actress.

Carol Burnett brushed away tears as she left the church, following the hour-long service. “It was beautiful,” Burnett said.

The Rev. James Morrison, who conducted the service, said Stewart was buried during the weekend at California’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, next to Gloria, his wife of 45 years.

He called Stewart “a great star,” but told the mourners, “All of you here today knew him as a warm, caring, delightful human being.”

Stewart, who had been in failing health in the last couple of years, died from a blood clot in his lung Wednesday at age 89.

As hundreds of movie fans lined up outside the church, Williams recalled the Indiana, Pa., native as an uncommonly talented man with the common touch.

“He was not a movie star when you talked to him,” she said. “That’s the Everyman that he was. That’s why they rerun ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ year afer year after year.”

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