Family, friends gather to honor Elizabeth Edwards

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -December 11, 2010

A funeral for Edwards will be held Saturday afternoon at Edenton Street United Methodist, a Raleigh church that Edwards turned to after her 16-year-old son Wade died in a car crash in 1996.

The memorial will bring several political figures, including Sen. John Kerry, who led the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004 that included John Edwards, and Vicki Kennedy, wife of late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

A number of Democrats from North Carolina will attend, including Gov. Beverly Perdue and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Edwards' oldest daughter, Cate, is scheduled to give a eulogy along with two of her mother's longtime friends, Hargrave McElroy and Glenn Bergenfield. John Edwards is not scheduled to speak. The couple had four children together, including 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack.

One of the pallbearers, Tyler Highsmith, was in the car Wade Edwards was driving when he died. He and three other pallbearers - Michael Lewis, Ellis Roberts and Charles Scarantino - were pallbearers in Wade Edwards' funeral.

Jennifer Palmieri, who was a senior adviser during John Edwards' presidential campaigns, said the funeral is open to the public because Elizabeth Edwards always insisted on open campaign events - much to the consternation of staff who wanted to control access. She never wanted tickets issued, even free ones.

"So it may be a little messy getting folks in the church," but that's how she would have wanted it, Palmieri said.

Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, a day after the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost to George W. Bush in that year's presidential election. Doctors declared her cancer-free after grueling treatments, but the disease returned in an incurable form in 2007. She died on Tuesday.

Her last years were tumultuous ones, made difficult by her husband's affair and eventual admission that he'd fathered a child with the mistress. John and Elizabeth Edwards separated about a year ago.

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