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Five of Missouri's living governors attend Hearnes service

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 24, 2009 - Five of Missouri's living governors, and the widow of a sixth, made a rare joint appearance in the Missouri Capitol's rotunda Wednesday to show their respects to one of their own, former Gov. Warren Hearnes.

The governors, current and past, sat -- many with their spouses -- in a crescent underneath the rotunda stairs, just behind the flag-draped casket of Hearnes, who died late Sunday at age 86.

Current Gov. Jay Nixon and his wife, Georganne, were joined by former Govs. Matt Blunt, Bob Holden, Roger Wilson, and John Ashcroft, as well as former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, the widow of Mel Carnahan. Blunt and Ashcroft are Republicans, while the rest are Democrats.

The only no-shows were now-Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who sent his public condolences, and former Gov. Joe Teasdale, a Democrat who resides in Kansas City. 

Their attendance reflected the history wrapping the Hearnes' service, just as the 40-year-old flag draping his casket. Hearnes had saved the flag just for his funeral, preserving it in a special case for decades, a spokesman for Nixon said.

Nixon delivered the eulogy, praising Hearnes for his decades of public service -- in the Missouri House, as secretary of state (1961-65), and then two terms as governor (1965-73). Nixon noted that Hearnes attended law school during part his stint as a state legislator.

Nixon singled out Hearnes' efforts to expand state spending on education, and to create clinics to treat people with mental illness. Of the latter, Nixon called Hearnes "a beacon of hope for those who suffer from mental illness. At a time when the stigma of mental illness forced many to suffer in silence and live in the shadow, he spoke out on their behalf."

In brief interviews afterward, Ashcroft called Hearnes "a friend to me,'' while Wilson praised the 45-minute service, which included live music, a military contingent and the University of Missouri Singers.  The casket was carried in a processional around the Capitol.

"For all he did for Missouri, we should send him out in grand style,'' Wilson said.

Hearnes' casket will be transported back to his hometown in Charleston, Mo., for visitation late Thursday and a funeral Friday morning at the First Baptist Church.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.