Thousands Attend Memorials for Late Retailer
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Friends, neighbors and employees of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton gathered Tuesday night at a football field in his hometown to sing, laugh and swap stories during a memorial service.
About 1,000 people heard speakers remember Walton - who died Sunday of complications from bone cancer - as a bad driver, an airplane pilot whose mind wandered too much, and a man who put his family and friends above anything else, including his billions of dollars.
″Sam did not want all of us mourning his passing. He wanted this instead to be a celebration,″ said Wal-Mart president and chief executive David Glass.
Bob Cheyne, an old friend of Walton, said Walton liked to gather visitors around the piano in his home. His favorite song was ″I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.″
″He’d sing all three verses,″ Cheyne said. ″For that moment, he was just a regular guy.″
Earlier, about 1,500 people, including Gov. Bill Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and radio personality Paul Harvey, attended an invitation-only memorial for Walton.
At that service, Helena Gadison, an employee at Wal-Mart’s home office, sang other Walton favorites, including ″When the Saints Go Marching In,″ ″Morning Has Broken″ and ″Amazing Grace.″
″Mr. Sam had requested a celebration rather than a wake. It was emotional but at the same time it was very upbeat, which he wanted,″ said Wal-Mart spokesman Don Shinkle.
Most of the invited guests were Wal-Mart employees, Shinkle said.
A private funeral also was held Tuesday.