- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri senators paused in the final weeks of this legislative session to honor their former colleagues who have died during the past several decades with a memorial service on Monday.

The Senate commemorated 60 former state senators who died since May 1987. Current senators lit candles, placed roses and responded to the names of their deceased colleagues during a roll call.

Speakers at the ceremony said it was important to remember former legislators and their service, especially since voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992 limiting senators to two four-year terms.

“Their memories do indeed live on in the customs, rules and courtesies of this august body,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.

Senators were joined in the ceremony by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, along with former Govs. Kit Bond, Roger Wilson and Bob Holden. Nixon served in the Senate before being elected attorney general in 1992. Several former Senate President Pro Tems and some family members of the deceased senators were also in attendance.

The memorial service was previously a biennial event held around Memorial Day. But the tradition faded away after the state Constitution was amended to change the length of Missouri’s annual legislative sessions, and senators no longer were in session around Memorial Day.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, made it a priority to reinstitute the practice and he said he hopes to make it a permanent fixture.

This year’s ceremony included musical selections, including a duet of “Amazing Grace” sung by a current and former senator. The Chorale Senior Men of Jefferson City High School also performed “Shenandoah” and “Tell My Father.”

Bob Priddy, a longtime capitol reporter for MissouriNet and speaker at Monday’s ceremony, said no sitting lawmaker ever had the opportunity to serve with one of the honorees because of term limits. He told stories of former senators who were independent of outside influences and those that relished public service. He challenged the current Senate to continue that legacy.

“You share a culture that they created and it is up to you to continue that culture and spread it to future generations,” Priddy said.

Among the former senators being honored was former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, who died in October. Skelton was elected to the Missouri Senate in 1970 and served until winning a congressional election in 1976.

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