Former Illinois Governor George Ryan attends Nelson Mandela memorial service

December 15, 2013 ( CHICAGO)

Ryan said Mandela played a role in his decision 10 years ago to empty Illinois' death row.

The local memorial took place as Mandela was laid to rest in South Africa.

After a week of celebrating Mandela's life with song and dance, Sunday's funeral service took a much more somber note. Buried with all the pomp and circumstance due a man of his stature, the world said its final farewell to Madiba, Chicago was no exception.

A final farewell was bid to Mandela with full military honors, in the small, rural village that was his ancestral home.

World figures from Prince Charles to Oprah and Richard Branson were in Qunu to say goodbye.

In Chicago, former Governor Ryan, in one of his first public appearances since being released from prison earlier this year, spoke at a memorial service hosted by Congressman Bobby Rush's South Side church.

"I had the pleasure to meet with Nelson Mandela in his home ten years ago," Ryan said.

Ryan was warmly received by those in attendance. In his nearly five minute speech, Ryan also revealed that in 2003, as he was pondering his eventual decision to vacate death row, he received a phone call from Mandela.

"Nelson Mandela transcended the boundaries of South Africa"," he said. "A towering figure of courage and tenacity and forgiveness. If I learned anything from that meeting, caring, loving, concerned individual."

Back in South Africa, Mandela's flag draped casket stood atop traditional cow skins. In the auditorium 95 candles burned, one of each year of his life. His grandchildren were among those paying final tribute to Madiba.

"We shall miss you," Mandela's granddaughter, Nandi Mandela said. "We shall miss your voice as you told us stories of your childhood. We shall miss your laughter."

It was a day of deep sorrow, summed up by a close friend of Mandela's and fellow Robben Island inmate.

"Now I have lost a brother," Ahmed Kathrada said. "My life is in a void and I don't know who to turn to. Thank you."

Following the service, Mandela was buried in a much more private ceremony, attended primarily by friends and family.

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