Hundreds gather to remember Jean Carnahan

FILE - Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo. expressed her simpathy and commented on the death of fellow Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn, Saturday Oct. 26, 2002 in St. Louis. Carnahan, who became the first female senator to represent Missouri after she was appointed to replace her husband following his death, died Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. She was 90. (AP Photo/David Kennedy, File)
FILE - Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo. expressed her simpathy and commented on the death of fellow Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn, Saturday Oct. 26, 2002 in St. Louis. Carnahan, who became the first female senator to represent Missouri after she was appointed to replace her husband following his death, died Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. She was 90. (AP Photo/David Kennedy, File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Children and grandchildren of former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri recalled her wit, curiosity, kindness and hard work during a public memorial service Saturday.

Carnahan, 90, died Jan. 30 in hospice care in suburban St. Louis after a short illness.

"In the last few days, as if preparing to be shot out of the cannon, Mom told us, 'I'm ready to blast out,'" one of her sons, Russ Carnahan, said to hundreds gathered at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. "And of course, Mom had a file for this day, containing the title page 'Mere service suggestions.'

"So welcome to the service Mom planned."

Carnahan became Missouri's first female U.S. senator when she was appointed in 2001 to replace her husband, Mel Carnahan. The two-term Democratic governor was running for Senate against incumbent Republican John Ashcroft when Carnahan died in a plane crash that also killed his son, Randy, and campaign adviser Chris Sifford, just weeks before the 2000 election.

Mel Carnahan's name remained on the ballot and he won despite his death. Jean Carnahan served until 2002.

Another son, Tim Carnahan, told mourners he has realized recently how much he wants to emulate his mother.

"It means when the world seems too much to bear, you clear your mind, embrace your heart and take a step forward," he said. "It means showing the world who you are by what you do and then doing it with passion. It means being the cause and not the effect and staying curious, taking authentic interest in others, and, sometimes, not taking yourself quite so seriously."

  photo  FILE - Senator Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., accompanied by her children Tom, left, and Robin, center, participates in a mock swearing-in by Vice President Al Gore in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2001. Carnahan, who became the first female senator to represent Missouri after she was appointed to replace her husband following his death, died Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. She was 90. (AP Photo/Hillery Smith Garrison, File)
 
 
  photo  Russ Carnahan, center, lowers his head during a memorial service for his mother, U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, in St. Louis, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Sen. Carnahan died in hospice care Jan. 30, at age 90. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, of Kansas City, works on his comments before officiating a memorial service for former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, in St. Louis, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Carnahan died in hospice care on Jan. 30, at age 90. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, of Kansas City, speaks during a memorial service for former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan in St. Louis, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Carnahan died in hospice care Jan. 30. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, of Kansas City, welcomes guests to a memorial service for former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan in St. Louis, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Carnahan died in hospice care Jan. 30. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  Robin Carnahan speaks during a memorial service for her mother, U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in St. Louis. Sen. Carnahan died in hospice care Jan. 30, at age 90. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
 
 
  photo  Robin Carnahan leaves at the end of a memorial service for her mother, U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in St. Louis. Sen. Carnahan died in hospice care Jan. 30, at age 90. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool)