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5 Celebrity Funerals that Enraptured the Nation

Over the past 30 years, the world has seen its fair share of celebrity deaths and subsequently, funerals. Like everything celebrities and people of high status do while living, their funerals are often highly covered by media. Questions such as which funeral home will they use, will there be a public visitation, and where will they be buried run through the minds of the public. Here, we’ll take a look at just a handful of the most public funerals of the last few decades.

Senator John McCain:

On August 25, 2018 just 4 days before his 82nd birthday and about a year after his original diagnosis of a glioblastoma brain tumor, Senator John McCain died at his home in Arizona with his family by his side. As is tradition for those in political positions, McCain lay in state in both his home capital in Phoenix, AZ and again in Washington, D.C. in the rotunda of the United States Capital. On September 1, 2018 the nation watched as his funeral service was conducted at the Washington National Cathedral. The funeral was attended by political leaders from McCain’s past, both national and international, with eulogies delivered by former President Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and McCain’s daughter, Meghan. One September 2, 2018, in a small private ceremony, McCain was laid to rest at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, alongside his former classmate and lifelong friend, Admiral Charles R. Larson.

Senator McCain's casket is escorted out of the church.

Aretha Franklin:

Aretha Franklin, a life-long entertainer and “Queen of Soul” died on August 16, 2018 at age 76. Her death followed a long drawn out and relatively private battle with various medical issues, to which she ultimately succumbed. After a memorial service on August 19, 2018, thousands of people paid their respects while Aretha lay in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. In her highly televised Homegoing Service, Aretha garnered serenades from pop stars and gospel singers, alongside eulogies and words of remembrance by family and friends.

True to her “Queen of Soul” title and in following her wishes, Aretha’s four days of viewing and funeral included outfit changes for each day. Everything was planned with precision and carried out with the utmost detail. She was laid to rest in a solid bronze Promethean casket plated in 24-karat gold, a casket truly fit for a queen.

Aretha was laid to rest in a solid bronze Promethean casket plated in 24-karat gold.

Kobe Bryant:

In a report that rocked the nation, it was announced that Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant died on January 26, 2020. Their death was the result of a helicopter crash in the Calabasas mountains, which killed the seven other passengers on board, including the pilot. Bryant and his daughter were buried in Pacific View Memorial Park in a private funeral. To pay homage to Kobe and his daughter, a public memorial service was held on February 24, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. The star-studded event was filled with performances from Alicia Keys, words from sport greats Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, and the first public speaking from Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant. Los Angeles was a sea of purple and yellow as fans paid their respects outside the Staples Center and across the city. In the following weeks, the nation and the sport of basketball continued to mourn the star and his daughter, and the first Lakers game following his death was the second most watched game in ESPN-NBA history.

The Staples Center in the days following Kobe Bryant's death.

Princess Diana

In another tragic and unexpected event, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash on August 31, 1997 while her driver was fleeing the paparazzi. Diana was extraordinarily popular among the British population, and even after her divorce from Charles, Prince of Wales, her popularity soared. Diana’s funeral was held on September 6, 1997, beginning at Kensington Palace. Her coffin, draped in the royal standard with an ermine border was brought through the streets of London until it reached the ceremony location, Westminster Abbey. Diana’s funeral plan followed the funeral plan for the Queen Mother and was a royal ceremonial funeral including royal pageantry and Anglican funeral liturgy. Diana was laid to rest privately on an island on the grounds of Althorp Park, the Spencer family home for centuries. Diana’s funeral was one of the most widely televised events in the United Kingdom’s history, capping at 32.10 million viewers, with an estimated 2.5 billion worldwide.

Princess Diane's casket, draped in the royal standard.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death on April 2, 2005. Following a hospitalization due to a bout of influenza, John Paul II was taken home to his private residence to be monitored by his own team, and indication that he was nearing death. He received the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz and just days later, spoke his final words in Polish "Pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca" ("Allow me to depart to the house of the Father"). His funeral was held on April 8, 2005, six days after his death and was followed by the novemdiales devotional, during which the Catholic Church observes nine days of mourning. Clothed in the familiar papal attire, John Paul II was placed in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the public as allowed to enter the Basilica to pray before the exposed body. During this time, the Swiss Guard remained always beside the body. Following a Mass of Requiem, the Rite of Interment was presided over by Cardinal Martinez Somalo. Pope John Paul II was entombed in the customary fashion of three nested coffins, and covered with a plain stone slab featuring his name and dates of his pontificate, in following his requests. His funeral brought together what was, at the time, the single largest gathering in history of heads of state outside the United Nations, including four kings, five queens and over seventy presidents and prime ministers in attendance.

Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica.



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