Thousands attend wake for Beau Biden

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Hundreds gathered to honor the life of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at a memorial service held in the Delaware Legislative State House in Dover. Biden, the oldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with terminal brain cancer. He was 46 years old.

By Kristen Holmes, Sunlen Serfaty and Lindy Royce

CNN

WILMINGTON, Delaware (CNN) — Thousands paid their respects to former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on Friday.

Biden, the oldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died last week after a battle with brain cancer. He was 46.

Mourners began gathering outside St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church here nearly two hours before the wake began at 1 p.m., forming a line that eventually spanned roughly five city blocks over the course of the day.

“Anybody that wanted to talk to Beau, he took the time to talk to you and listen to you,” said Faith Green as she waited to enter the church where Biden’s flag-draped casket sat. Green worked for Beau Biden as well as on one of his father’s earlier campaigns.

Some people waited five hours just to get into see the casket. According to people inside the room, the vice president shook everyone’s hand as they moved past the casket. One woman said the vice president apologized that the wait was so long but thanked them for coming.

“The Biden family is an icon here in Delaware,” said Jack Morton, who once worked for them. “We are here to pay our respects, not just to a great person, but to a great family.”

Among the dignitaries paying their respects was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, the vice president’s office said.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama and the first lady will travel to Wilmington for the funeral mass, when the President will deliver the eulogy.

“Over the last seven or eight years, the Obama family has grown very close to the Biden family and the President did have a personal relationship with Beau Biden,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday. Earnest said the President felt the death in a “very personal way,” but was also “looking forward to spending some time tomorrow celebrating Beau’s life.”

In addition to the first family, Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend Saturday’s service, along with several foreign dignitaries.

Beau Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and his two children, Natalie and Hunter. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which was set up by his wife earlier this week.