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'He chose to spend his time with us': Grant Woods remembered for love of family at service that was authentic Grant Woods

Former Arizona attorney general brings together Hall of Famers, top politicians, friends and family at Celebration of Life. He died of a heart attack at age 67.

PHOENIX — Pastor Warren H. Stewart Sr. said Grant Woods lived big.

"The magnitude of the man will continue to unfold," Stewart told several hundred people at Woods' Celebration of Life Friday at Phoenix's Orpheum Theatre.

Woods supported Stewart's leadership in the 1990's of the campaign to approve a Martin Luther King Day holiday in Arizona. Stewart used the words of the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis to describe Woods.

"Grant Woods was getting into good trouble until the day he died."

Woods, a former two-term Republican attorney general in Arizona, also lived in many worlds.

Hall-of-Famers from pro basketball and rock music were on the Orpheum stage.

A manicurist to the stars sang "Amazing Grace."

Courtroom calendars were cleared so judges could attend.

The gathering was authentic Grant Woods.

Also present were the state's two sitting Democratic U.S. senators (Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly), two former Republican governors (Jan Brewer and Fife Symington) and two former Phoenix mayors (Phil Gordon and Paul Johnson), at a service for a man who was last on the ballot more than a quarter-century ago - and of whom it was said, didn't care what your party registration was.

There was the music selection: Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine, spirituals by the First Institutional Baptist Church worship team, an original song performed by friend Nils Lofgren.

The eulogies were both poignant and downright hilarious.

Phoenix Suns' great Charles Barkley recalled how he met Woods:

"I got traded here in 1992. And I remember someone said to me, 'The attorney general wants to meet you.' And I said, 'I haven't even gotten arrested in Arizona yet!' And he says, 'No, he plays basketball! I said, 'He does?' And I said, 'Well, I would love to.'" 

RELATED: Cindy McCain, Charles Barkley speak at former Arizona AG Grant Woods memorial

But the enduring message through the grief - "This is hard and it sucks, plain and simple," Barkley said - was about Woods' love for his family.

"A man with all the resources that he had, hundreds of friends and the ability to spend his time any which way he wanted, chose to spend his time with us," said Cole Woods, a filmmaker and one of Woods' five children.

The grief was still fresh for Woods' widow, Marlene Galan Woods.

"To love and to be loved. That is the greatest gift, and that's why this hurts so much," she said, fighting back tears.

Woods died of a heart attack on Oct. 23. He was 67 years old.

He continued to practice law after he was termed out of the attorney general's office in 1998, but he never ran for public office again.

Woods' greatest legal legacy is a landmark settlement in 1998 with major tobacco manufacturers, to recover health care costs for Arizona residents who use tobacco. 

Arizona has received more than $1 billion in settlement payments from cigarette manufacturers. The money helps fund Arizona's Medicaid program for low-income residents.

RELATED: Friends remember former Arizona AG Grant Woods ahead of his celebration of life

Woods did flirt with a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 after the death of his longtime friend and former boss, Sen. John McCain. 

Woods' moving eulogy at McCain's funeral, and his status as torch bearer for McCain's "Country First" legacy, vaulted him to national prominence.

The lifelong Republican switched his registration to Democrat, but decided against a run for the Senate. 

Marlene Woods said the only office he would have wanted was mayor of Florence - Italy, not Arizona. 

Ambassador Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, said the two shared a fans' love of sports. 

"John used to joke with Grant that each of them would stay up past midnight to watch the Bedwetters play the Thumbsuckers if it was the only game on TV," she said to laughter.

She choked up as she closed her eulogy: "Please say 'Hi' to John and give him a hug for me." 

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