The life of Nuala Pell, widow of Sen. Claiborne Pell, was celebrated Monday morning with wit, tradition and family love and devotion in services at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newport, the city she loved and where she died last week at age 89.
The Rev. Canon Anne Marie Richards was the officiant at the service, which was suffused with tributes to Mrs. Pell from her children and grandchildren, to whom she was devoted. While best-known as the wife and political partner of Senator Pell, who represented Rhode Island in the Senate for 36 years, Nuala Pell was a force on her own, and devoted to many educational, cultural, philanthropic and environmental causes.
At the side of her husband during his six campaigns for Senate, Mrs. Pell carved a reputation as an asset to his career. Senator Pell listened to her counsel and she enjoyed the campaign circuit much more than most political spouses. She was known for treating everyone with respect, dignity and affection.
There was about her a streak of old-world charm and grace. She was active until the end of her life; her last political appearance came on January 28 in Providence, where she spoke with eloquence at the announcement of her grandson’s - Herbert Claiborne `Clay’ Pell IV- campaign opening for governor.
The service was a mix of family tribute and Episcopal Order for the Burial of the Dead. Her grandson, Nicholas Lorillard Pell read from Isaiah 25. Her grandson, Herbert Claiborne `Clay’ Pell, IV, read Psalm 23. Her granddaughter, Dr. Tripler Pell, read from Oceans, a poem by Mary Oilver. Another grandson, Eames Hamilton Yates Jr, read from 2 Corinthians and granddaughter Christina Pell Neal read the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Columbus ODonnell, Mrs. Pell’s brother, read from the poem, She is Gone, by David Harkins.
The eulogy was delivered with humor and emotion by her son, Christopher Thomas Hartford Pell.
The hymns were `For all the Saints’ and `Now the day is over, and `All creatures of our God and King.’
The service was attended by many of her Newport friends. Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and a longtime friend of Mrs. Pell, attended the service. Rhode Island’s political hierarchy turned out, including Sen. Jack Reed, Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Rhode Island First Lady Stephanie Chafee, U.S. Rep. James Langevin and RI Senate President Teresa Paive Weed, D-Newport. There were many former staffers to Senator Pell in attendance, including Tom Hughes, the senator’s chief of staff, and Peter Galbraith, the former Ambassador to Croatia, and a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer under Claiborne Pell. Dr. John Pastore, son of the late U.S. Sen. John O. Pastore, was also in attendance, as was former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino Jr., and former Democratic State Chairman Mark Weiner. Also in attendance was G. Wayne Miller, a Providence Journal reporter and her husband’s biographer, and M. Charles Bakst, the longtime Journal political reporter and columnist. Also there was Hugh `Yusha' Auchincloss, III, stepbrother of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy.