Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died on Friday at the age of 80, was in Rochester in March 2018 for the funeral of Rep. Louise Slaughter. Lewis entered Congress with Slaughter in 1987.
Lewis told the audience at the Eastman Theatre that he was struggling with the loss.
“I want to be honest with you,” he said. “This is hard. This is tough. Louise Slaughter was one of a kind. She was generous, she was friendly, she was warm. She was determined and she stood up for her beliefs.
“She was strong. She was solid. And she didn’t take any stuff,” he said, eliciting laughter from those in attendance.
“She was my sister,” he said. “I love you and I will miss you.”
Lewis’ remarks are in this video of the service starting at the 25:55 mark:
Lewis also remarked upon the time he visited Rochester in 2016 at Slaughter’s invitation. She took him for a tour around her district including making a stop in Pittsford at the Sisters of Saint Joseph Motherhouse where he said he got the opportunity to thank Sister Barbara Lum and other nuns from the order who cared for Lewis and other protesters when they were beaten at the march in Selma, Alabama, that came to be known as Bloody Sunday.
“I met two nuns, who had taken care of us, when we were hurt in Selma, Alabama in 1965. They cried, they hugged me; I cried, and Louise cried. Looking back, that moment demonstrated to me the true nature of Louise. This beautiful, unbelievable, gifted, loving, sister.”
The Sisters of Saint Joseph had a Facebook post on Saturday in tribute to Lewis, saying that, "We celebrate the life of our friend and brother, John Lewis. Go gently dear friend into the loving arms of God, we will miss you and your service to all people. We will continue to make "Good trouble" knowing you are walking with us."
Lewis also remembered Congresswoman Slaughter on the one-year anniversary of her death last year, with these comments on the House floor:
Rep. Joe Morelle, the Democrat from Irondequoit who now represents the 25th Congressional District, issued a statement on Saturday saying that, "We have lost a true American patriot. John Lewis was a hero—a champion of civil rights who put his life on the line for equality and justice. He has fought the good fight, and our nation is a better place because of him. Despite his fame, he was a gentle and humble soul who cared deeply about the public he served."
Governor Andrew Cuomo said that, “John Lewis was one of the greatest men this country has ever known - a man of unimpeachable integrity, wisdom, courage, and morality. He was our conscience. And I know I speak for the entire family of New York when I say we are devastated by this loss.”
Senator Kirstin Gillibrand of NY called Lewis, “an American legend, whose courage and leadership in the civil rights movement and the House of Representatives laid the foundation for a more equal and just future.”