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Community members and leaders say goodbye to John "The Dean" Dingell at memorial

Ballroom at John Dingell's memorial

A line weaving through the lobby of the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn represented people waiting to pay respects to a man who represented the community for nearly 60 years.

Former Rep. John Dingell died Thursday, Feb. 7, in his Dearborn home at the age of 92 after a prostate cancer diagnosis. Dingell served in the United State Congress for 59 years; from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Present Barack Obama, he was in Washington for it all. A steady stream of people came to honor him Monday

“I served him at parties for several occasions and he talked to me, he didn’t’ have to,” Detroit resident Sybil Lovell said as she waited in line to enter the ballroom where Dingell’s casket rested. “He just had a good spirit about him. I wanted to pay my respects.”

John’s wife and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell greeted each person who came through the line with a handshake, a hug, a kiss or some combination of the three.

Among the faces in the steady stream of mourners was longtime former U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak. He said it was important to him to show up and honor his friend.

“Every day I served, for 36 years, he was a presence,” Levin said of Dingell. “John’s passing marks major a passing for more than just the people of this community.”

Dingell had a hand in passing environmental and energy policy legislation during his time in Congress. He was also an auto industry advocate and helped with the bailout.

“It was because of his zip and zest,” Levin recalled.

That zip and zest was on full display on Twitter. Dingell took to the social media platform during his retirement from D.C. in 2015 and used his 280-character limit to capture the attention of his 269,000 followers.

His work outside of Twitter helped Congress arrive at the Affordable Care Act. Dingell introduced national health insurance legislation every year until 2010 when then-President Barack Obama signed the ACA into law.

A funeral service was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Divine Child in Dearborn. Another service was planned for Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton are among those expected to speak.

Lovell said she wanted to come Monday to take the opportunity to say, “Thank you, Mr. Dingell.”

Follow Political Reporter Mikenzie Frost on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to mbfrost@sbgtv.com or (517) 897-4861.

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