- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. | Rep. John P. Murtha was remembered at his funeral Tuesday as a patriot, a fighter for his constituents and for veterans, a consummate politician and a family man able to separate work from his personal life.

His daughter, Donna Murtha, addressing an audience of 400 including former President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and most of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, said that while they knew him as a politician, she knew another side.

“I know him as Dad and my buddy and my pal,” she said, fighting back tears. They didn’t talk politics or economics; instead, he asked about the children she taught.

Her father was the powerful head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee who died Feb. 8 at age 77 of complications from gallbladder surgery. He also loved Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, loved to watch deer and goldfinches in his yard and tried to outwit the squirrels who eyed the bird feeders, she said.

Mrs. Pelosi, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, and the Rev. William L. George, president of Washington’s Georgetown Preparatory School, all spoke of Mr. Murtha’s power.

Father George read from the Book of Ecclesiastes about times to laugh and mourn. He later said that were the book to be written now, “The writer of Ecclesiastes could also have written ‘a time to make law and a time to change laws. And, yes, a time to earmark.’ ”

The quip drew knowing laughter from the pews of the Westmont Presbyterian Church: Mr. Murtha was known for his ability to help bring federal money and projects to his sprawling western Pennsylvania district, depressed by the decline of the coal and steel industries.

Mrs. Pelosi recalled that Mr. Murtha, a close political ally, had pride in the institution of Congress instilled in him by his mentor, the now-deceased House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill.

“To watch Jack Murtha legislate was to see a master at work,” she said. “But more indicative of his character was to watch him communicate with our men and women in uniform.”

And when he spoke in opposition to the Iraq war, “He taught us all to make a distinction between the war and the warrior,” she said.

Also at the funeral was former Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark S. Singel, who is among several people who have expressed interest in running for the seat Mr. Murtha had held since 1974. Former Pennsylvania Treasurer and Auditor General Barbara Hafer, also a Democrat, said Monday she would enter the race but would change her mind if Joyce Murtha, the congressman’s widow, were to run.

Mr. Murtha’s tenure was not without critics or controversy.

He defended earmarks, saying the targeted funding benefited constituents. And during a corruption probe, the FBI caught him on videotape in a 1980 sting operation turning down a $50,000 bribe offer while holding out the possibility that he might take money in the future.

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