Hundreds of mourners lined up to pay their respects to the San Francisco native
Bay Area residents paid their respects Wednesday to Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving female U.S. Senator and a towering figure in the city’s politics, having served as mayor during one of the city’s most turbulent decades.
Feinstein, who died last week at the age of 90, was laid to rest in a closed casket draped in an American flag, as hundreds of mourners lined up throughout the day to see him. Feinstein’s close friend and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, are expected to attend a public funeral service at City Hall on Thursday.
Longtime San Francisco resident Florence Bryant remembered Feinstein as a steadying presence as the city’s first female mayor at Wednesday’s viewing. She credited Feinstein with assisting the city in healing after fellow Supervisor and gay rights icon Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall nearly 45 years ago.
“She was tough,” Bryant described her. “In those days, there weren’t many women in office.”
Bryant also praised the San Francisco native, who is credited with guiding the city through the 1980s AIDS epidemic, for championing LGBTQ causes.
“When you would see her on TV, she always seemed genuine,” Bryant stated. “And I’ve always liked what she stood for.”
During her time as a senator from California, Feinstein continued to advocate for LGBTQ rights, including voting against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“She represented a very smart, powerful example of leadership in the United States government,” Cooper Dawson, 32, said. “And especially for me, I’m married, and she’s one of the reasons why I can be married to my husband now.”
On Wednesday, officials including Pelosi and State Senator Scott Weiner paid their respects. As the sound of solemn classical music filled the hall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who worked closely with Feinstein during the AIDS crisis, made a brief appearance accompanied by Mayor London Breed.
Shu Lee Ong, of San Francisco, traveled with her 23-year-old daughter Olivia, writing down their memories of Feinstein in a funeral guest book adorned with lily and red rose bouquets.
“I was moving, and I came across the country to San Francisco to visit a friend,” Ong explained. “It was two weeks after the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, and the city was in mourning and shock, and she just stepped forward.” I’ve now lived here for 30 years, and just seeing how much she has given and how much she has contributed — she was unshakeable. “I adore her to pieces.”
Ong expressed hope that Feinstein’s replacement, Laphonza Butler, the nation’s third Black female senator, who was appointed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would be able to bring some stability to Congress, which has been mired in political infighting in recent days over a deal to keep the federal government funded. After a handful of Republican lawmakers revolted over the deal, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.
Meanwhile, Ong’s daughter stated that, while she does not follow politics closely, she admires Feinstein’s public service career.
“Her position as a woman is very inspirational for any young woman or girl growing up and wanting to pursue anything in politics,” she stated, “and not to be afraid to take on a role that’s predominantly male-oriented.”
The public funeral service on Thursday is set to begin at 1 p.m. on the steps of City Hall.
President Joe Biden plans to deliver a recorded message, as do Senators Harris, Schumer, and Pelosi. Newsom and Butler are expected to attend, as is fellow California Senator Alex Padilla.