Remembering Gov. Bill Richardson: Funeral Mass held in Santa Fe Thursday

[anvplayer video=”5192271″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico said goodbye to one of its biggest political figures Thursday.

“Bill Richardson knew how to make people feel important and valued,” former President Bill Clinton said as he delivered the eulogy Thursday. “He was big and hulky and had a good sense of humor. Didn’t mind being a little politically incorrect from time to time – but it all seemed real.”

The two-term New Mexico governor, UN ambassador, U.S. Energy Secretary, and congressman died earlier this month at his home in Massachusetts. Richardson was 75.

Funeral services began Thursday around 11 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi.

Clinton spoke for more than half an hour, with a mix of personal memories and larger reflections on Richardson’s body of work – one which both the former president and Archbishop John Wester said reflected a willingness to notice people who needed him.

A number of people the former governor was able to get released from foreign countries were at the funeral, including former Marine Trevor Reed, who was released from Russia last year.

Clinton famously said, “Bad people seem to like Bill…” but indicated that’s because Richardson was willing to scratch at them until he found the real person underneath – and he liked being able to do it.

“If you don’t remember anything I say, remember the archbishop’s homily. Because Bill was a Good Samaritan, and he had a good time doing it. I think it bothered people sometimes that he was so happy,” Clinton laughed. “Don’t you? I mean, it was like how can we take this guy seriously? He’s so happy, he’s having such a good time doing this.”

The former president said that he and Richardson had two big fights in their time as friends – one fight was over Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton in 2008, but he didn’t mention the other.

Clinton said each of them apologized once and said the other made the right call. The former president said nobody is perfect.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham hosted the reception at the Roundhouse following the funeral. She called him a trailblazer in many aspects and a bold person who was not afraid to venture out into new territory, referencing his investments in film, space exploration, and renewable energy.

The governor ended her speech with a toast and asked people to reflect and share their favorite stories about Richardson.

New Mexico’s U.S. House delegation – Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez, Melanie Stansbury and Gabe Vasquez – released a joint statement before Richardson’s funeral Thursday:

“Governor Bill Richardson was a mentor to so many, an inspiration to New Mexicans, and is a man worthy of the legacy he left behind. We are saddened we cannot go home to attend his funeral service, but Congress is in deep debate on appropriations. We will honor his spirit of public service and legacy by fulfilling our duties in Congress.”