Bob Dole's final trip home
Russell, Kansas, prepares to bid farewell to its native son whose life of public service had its root in the small town.
Young and old in Russell, Kansas, will pay their respects and attend the ceremonies that will serve as the final homecoming for the late Sen. Bob Dole.
At the completion of memorial ceremonies in Washington D.C., Dole's casket will be flown to Salina Regional Airport, where it will be received by a Kansas delegation led by Gov. Laura Kelly. A motorcade will transport the remains to Dole's hometown of Russell.
Russell's mayor, Jim Cross, said the city has been preparing for this day since it was announced in February that the former senator had lung cancer.
"We didn't want to plan for this day, you know, you never want this day to come, when you have someone like the senator, but, it was inevitable, so we were planning," Cross said.
On Saturday morning, the hearse bearing Dole will proceed down Main Street and to the Dole family home after which it will continue on to St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Russell.
Once there, a public viewing will take place followed by a memorial service where former U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and current U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall are expected to speak. Dole's wife Elizabeth and daughter Robin are expected to be in attendance.
If time allows after the service, the public will again be allowed to pass by the casket before a 1 p.m. departure for Topeka, where Dole will lie in state at the Capitol.
Saturday is expected to be an emotional day, as it was Main Street where a young Bob Dole worked at Dawson's Drugstore — where politics was often the topic of conversation.
"He picked up on all the town's scuttlebutt. That was where all the town leaders always talked about city government, county government," Cross said.
The mayor remembers his own dealings with Dole in his later years. When the senator accepted an invitation to be the grand marshal of a Russell parade, it was Cross who was responsible for preparing the firetruck named for Dole's father to be the senator's ride.
"I didn't sleep much for about two days," Cross said, concerned with plans to get the former senator on and off the truck.
Dole, a World War II veteran, passed at the age of 98. Many living in the city might not have the personal memories like Cross, but the mayor says his passing has generated plenty of interest including among the younger generation.
"There's a lot of younger people here that are just finding out what a fabulous, wonderful individual he was," Cross said.
The values of a man like Dole are those instilled in Russell's youngsters, according to Cross.
"We hope they will continue to show the values that they have here in town and what the Senator held dear in his heart," said Cross.
- Jim Cross, mayor, Russell Kansas