WASHINGTON (AP) _ John Tower was remembered as a ''patriot's patriot,'' as someone who rose from enlisted sailor to chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and from West Texas teacher to international arms negotiator.

''We gather today at this final resting place of American heroes to honor another worthy of that title,'' Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said at a memorial service Thursday at the Arlington National Cemetery amphitheater.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who got the job the Senate refused to give to Tower, was among those in attendance. So was Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who led the battle to deny Tower his grandest ambition.

When he died three weeks ago in a commuter airplane crash in Georgia, Tower was also a published author on his way to Sea Island, Ga., to promote his memoirs. The book centered on his nomination for the Defense Secretary post, and included scathing criticisms of some of those who opposed his selection.

His daughter Marian, 35, also was killed in the crash.

''He had a sharp mind and elbows to match. He crunched more than a few toes with his cowboy boots. But inside that tough exterior, you could find the warmth and the kindness of a good father and a true friend, and more than a touch of melancholy and sadness as well,'' recalled Sen. William S. Cohen, R- Maine.

''He was an admired performer on the international stage,'' said British Ambassador Sir Antony Acland, who read a tribute from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

''From his first day as an enlisted sailor in the United States Navy to his last day as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Tower fought for a strong national defense and for a strong America,'' said Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican who was elected to Tower's seat when he retired in 1984 after 23 years in the Senate.

''He brought to public service a rare combination of talent and commitment that propelled him from a West Texas school teacher to the corridors of power in Washington and back again with poise and determination,'' Gramm said.

Vice President Dan Quayle said that while Tower was not universally liked, he was universally respected.

''He was called many things, some kind, some not so kind,'' said Quayle, who served in the Senate with Tower. ''He was the master of details, but he was also the boss of the big picture, and most of all he was a patriot's patriot.''