FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - It was a day of mixed emotions as hundreds of people turned out Saturday to show their respect for former State Representative Ben GiaQuinta.
The funeral for the 87 year old legislator was held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne. It was on this somber occasion that friends, family, and colleagues reflected on GiaQuinta's life and accomplishments.
"Tough day, sad day, but happy day too," said GiaQuinta's son, Phil GiaQuinta. "Happy in the fact that we've had so many nice comments from people yesterday, and a nice turnout today. Just hearing how he touched so many lives that we didn't even know about through his legislative career and real estate career and just being a good ol' all around good guy, and so in that aspect it's been a good day."
Phil GiaQuinta took over his father's seat in the state legislature in 2006. His brother, Mark GiaQuinta, is on the Fort Wayne Community School Board.
GiaQuinta died Sunday after complications arose stemming from congestive heart failure. He was first elected to the Indiana General Assembly in 1990 at the age of 70. He served all but two years leading up to the announcement that he had lymphoma in 2006.
"It's a loss, but man weren't we lucky to have him," said Fort Wayne City Council member Tim Pape.
Fort Wayne's Mayor, Tom Henry was also in attendance. "There's no question he was a gentleman in a number of different ways. Not only as a citizen of this community, but also as a legislator, and I think that's probably how he'll be remembered."
The World War II veteran was buried with full military honors.
"My dad was very proud of his service in WWII. Right after high school, enlisting and serving his country. And he always did that. He always served his country no matter what he was doing as a citizen or as a legislator," remembered Phil GiaQuinta.
The ceremony also included personal touches like a tip of the hat to the representatives favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox.
It was outside of the funeral afterwards that friends and family reflected on the type of legislator, and person, GiaQuinta was.
"Always had a kind, positive word, an upbeat attitude no matter what was going on, really a tremendous asset for the community. Tremendous life," Pape said.
"I think people do appreciate when people do nice things for you, and I think it's more of a thank you from them to him, and I think that's what's being recognized here today," said Phil GiaQuinta.
"Tremendous patriot, dedicated, wouldn't complain, very stubborn about doing the things that he thought was right, but always courtly about it," added Pape.
Those close to the long time Fort Wayne resident say GiaQuinta survives through the legacy that he leaves behind.
"Family is I'm sure his proudest legacy, knowing Ben," reflected Pape. "They're still serving following his lead with Mark on the school board, and of course his son Phil in the state legislature. Still doing great works for the community and trying to set a great example for everyone."
"For four years he watched me it was great for me because he kept telling me what a good job I'm doing. I don't know if that's true or not, but it was really fun to hear that," said Phil GiaQuinta. "And he always told me he got a real big kick out of it, and he told everyone too that he got a real big kick out of me taking his place, so that was pretty special."
"I think this community should remember Ben not only as a gentleman in more ways than one, and not only as a pillar of this community, but as a man who would reach out in a number of different ways to help out his fellow man and how best to be remembered," said Mayor Henry.
"We are very appreciative of all the nice things people have said and have written, all the phone calls have been quite overwhelming," smiled Phil GiaQuinta. "He would be very embarrassed about it, but he'd also be very appreciative, and he'd be saying thank you, thank you, thank you."
For all those who came to Saturday's funeral to say their "thank you's" and "goodbye's", it is clear the name GiaQuinta will hold a special meaning for the people of Fort Wayne, and all Hoosiers, for years to come.
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