HOUSTON - Hundreds of Houstonians said goodbye to one of the city's most influential leaders. Three-term Houston Mayor Bob Lanier was larger than life, and fittingly Tuesday, his memorial ceremony was a grand affair.
With no less than Pastor Joel Osteen at the helm, a who's who of Houston political titans, including three mayors, were on hand at the Jasek Chapel of George H. Lewis & Sons on Bering Drive in the Tanglewood area.
The weather cleared on cue.
"Bob Lanier had an engaging manner. He connected with people. He had a clear vision for the city and I heard him exclaim many times... he didn't do a lot of different projects. He focused on a few things and did them well. And he felt that was the way to approach the job," said current Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Parker recalled her first-ever encounter with Lanier, who was mayor when Parker was the president of a local civic club.
"He was leaning back with his feet on the desk and so, not being particularly tall, I stood at the bottom of his feet for 20 minutes, and we had a conversation," she said.
Parker said Lanier's style didn't upset her, because he was the same way around everyone.
Former mayors Bill White and Lee Brown were also in attendance. White served two terms as Houston's mayor immediately preceding Parker. He later ran for governor.
"We were friends before he was a mayor," said White. "We talked quite a bit about the importance of the mayor being nonpartisan."
Lanier was a Democrat, but many of his constituents never knew. Even as Democrat, Lanier endorsed George W. Bush for president.
"The city has lost a great leader. He left Houston better than he found it," said Brown, who served as mayor from 1998-2003, and like Lanier, served three terms.
"He never forgot being poor and he never forgot what that's like," said attorney Rusty Hardin. "He's the only politician I knew who was not always looking over his shoulder for the next person to talk to. He talked to whoever he was talking to."
But by all accounts, it was family that Mayor Bob held closest and undoubtedly he would have been proud of his grandchildren Tuesday. They braved their own emotions and a packed house to deliver genuinely thoughtful messages.
"Dreams are possible, hope exists, friendships are of the essence, love matters and family is the greatest gift of all," said his grandson, Robert Clayton Lanier III.
"Everyone who was around him felt loved and honored and special," said his granddaughter, Louisa Lanier Sarofim.
"Let's continue to honor his legacy by making this world a better place like he did," said Osteen.
The list of speakers included two of Lanier's grandchildren, as well as Kenny Friedman, Vince Kickerillo, Charles Hurwitz and Doug Pitcock.
A private burial was then held at Memorial Oaks Cemetery.
Lanier died of natural causes at the age of 89 Saturday in his River Oaks home, just one hour after spending the day with his family.
Lanier served as mayor from 1992 to 1998. Before that, he worked as a gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Highway Commission and was the chairman of METRO.
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