During the 41 years Ted Koppel
and Peter Jennings
worked together at ABC News, Koppel knew where each one stood in the universe.
"He was known as the handsome one, and I was known as the smart one," Koppel said at a memorial service for Jennings held Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. "Over the course of the decades he was still known as the handsome one, and also as being very, very smart. I still was known as being the smart one."
Viewers knew Jennings as the confident, sophisticated and authoritative anchor of ABC World News Tonight. But at the service to celebrate his life — which ended Aug. 7 after a battle with lung cancer — he was most remembered as a devoted father who truly cared about the human condition.
Koppel recalled walking with Jennings in Manhattan's Upper West Side and being stopped by a homeless man who asked for money. "Peter stayed and talked to the man for about 10 minutes," he said. "He asked about his life and he listened." For years Jennings volunteered his time to help the homeless in New York City, raising funds and delivering hot meals on the street after his newscast.
Jennings had a passion for music, and his taste, as reflected at the memorial, was eclectic to say the least. The program opened with a bagpipe performance by the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corps, which was escorted by a Royal Canadian Mountain Police honor guard (a tribute to Jennings' Canadian heritage). Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Celtic fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, country singer Alison Krauss and the Gates of Praise Choir all performed. But above all, Jennings was a jazz lover, and three of the genre's top players — trumpeters Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis and Clark Terry — paid their respects with a rousing performance of an original tune called "A Fanfare for Peter."
While family photos were projected high on the wall above, Jennings' two children, Christopher and Elizabeth, spoke publicly for the first time about life without their father. Christopher reflected on how the past summer was the first he could remember in which the two did not share a canoe trip. "Each day is above all else a day without him," he said. Elizabeth closed with the quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that begins: "Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heav'n so fine...."
Other speakers at the service included Walt Disney president Robert Iger
; ABC News president David Westin
; ABC medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson
, who became Jennings' confidante and advisor during his illness; actor Alan Alda
and Charles Glass
, the former ABC correspondent who worked with Jennings in Beirut. Along with many of Jennings' on-air colleagues from ABC News, the attendees included CBS chairman Leslie Moonves
, seated next to The Daily Show
host Jon Stewart
; former CBS anchor Dan Rather
and his interim successor, Bob Schieffer
; 60 Minutes
correspondents Morley Safer
and Mike Wallace
; Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly
and CNN's Christiane Amanpour