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Hundreds gather in St. Louis to remember former US Sen. Jean Carnahan

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Children and grandchildren of former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri recalled her wit, curiosity, kindness and hard work during a public memorial service on Saturday.

Carnahan, 90, died Jan. 30 in hospice care in suburban St. Louis after a short illness.

“In the last few days, as if preparing to be shot out of the cannon, Mom told us, ‘I’m ready to blast out,’” one of her sons, Russ Carnahan, said to hundreds gathered at The Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “And of course, Mom had a file for this day, containing the title page ‘Mere service suggestions.’

“So welcome to the service Mom planned.”

Carnahan became Missouri's first female U.S. senator when she was appointed in 2001 to replace her husband, Mel Carnahan. The two-term Democratic governor was running for Senate against incumbent Republican John Ashcroft when Carnahan died in a plane crash that also killed his son, Randy, and campaign adviser Chris Sifford, just weeks before the 2000 election.

Mel Carnahan's name remained on the ballot and he won despite his death. Jean Carnahan served until 2002.

Another son, Tom Carnahan, told mourners that he has realized recently how much he wants to emulate his mother.

“It means when the world seems too much to bear, you clear your mind, embrace your heart and take a step forward,” he said.

“It means showing the world who you are by what you do and then doing it with passion. It means being the cause and not the effect and staying curious, taking authentic interest in others, and, sometimes, not taking yourself quite so seriously," he said.

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A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Tom Carnahan as Tim Carnahan.