PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — One week ago, Mark Weiner was up early and dressed to go to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, according to President Bill Clinton, who gave the eulogy at his funeral Tuesday. Weiner went back to bed, Clinton said, because he was up too early. He never woke up again.
Weiner’s funeral at Temple Beth-El on Providence’s East Side was well-attended by famous Democratic names including Hillary and Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and political consultants James Carville and Paul Begala. Hillary Clinton’s decision to leave the presidential campaign trail and come to Rhode Island to pay tribute to Weiner surprised many.
Weiner was an influential and popular local Democrat who sold merchandise and raised funds for the Clintons and others. He was an intern for Hillary Clinton on the Jimmy Carter campaign in 1976, and according to son Richard Weiner, he hadn’t missed a DNC since. He died in Newport last Tuesday at the age of 62 after a long illness.
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In his eulogy, President Clinton called Weiner “forever young, forever exuberant … always just a little too much.” He spoke in detail about his friendship with the Rhode Islander, lamenting that Hillary Clinton was lucky enough to attend Weiner’s daughter Zoe’s Moulin-Rouge-themed bat mitzvah but he wasn’t.
“He loved helping other people more than anyone I have personally known,” the former president said. “You want to honor Mark Weiner today? Do something nice for someone,” he said.
Weiner’s four children spoke at his funeral, explaining how they witnessed everyone “from the deli to the DNC” who knew and loved their father.
Mark Weiner’s eldest son Stephen said the two had spoken about his funeral, joking that it would be “as if a pope, king and a president passed away simultaneously.”
“He made sure everyone had a Hillary button,” his son Richard Weiner said. Richard ultimately filled in for his father as a delegate at the DNC last week, and President Clinton mentioned Weiner in his keynote address Tuesday night.
Rhode Island Democratic Party Chairman Joe McNamara said he and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello discussed giving Weiner a tribute during the roll call vote at the DNC, but they suspected President Clinton would say something. They were right – Clinton told the crowd during primetime that he and Hillary had cried together at the news of Weiner’s death that morning.
“He did not let us down,” McNamara said. “I knew he would [say something] because they were so close.” Indeed, many people at the funeral commented on how genuine and true Weiner’s friendship was with both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“There was no such thing as a boundary for him,” Judge Frank Caprio said to a chorus of agreement. As an example, Caprio said when Weiner received an honorary degree from Rhode Island College, he made a moving commencement address to the crowd even though he was not invited to speak. It was the most inspirational commencement speech Judge Caprio said he had ever heard.
Former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino also addressed the crowd. A longtime friend of Weiner’s, they first met at La Salle Academy as teens. The two remained best friends for 47 years. Paolino said Weiner was recently fitted with a tuxedo, “to dance with Hillary Clinton at the inaugural ball.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, a famous civil rights activist, said he worked with Weiner on the founding of the Rainbow Push Coalition.
“Mark was a giver, a selfless giver,” he said. “He was that light in darkness.”