WATCH: Visitors pay respects as Sen. Dianne Feinstein lies in state at San Francisco City Hall


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mourners are paying their respects Wednesday to the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco City Hall, where she launched her groundbreaking political career and where she spent a decade as the city’s first female mayor.

Feinstein’s casket was carried into the City Hall rotunda, where it was draped with an American flag, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Feinstein’s daughter and granddaughter following behind. Former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also of San Francisco, was among the officials in attendance. Feinstein died Thursday at her Washington, D.C., home after a series of illnesses.

A steady line of people solemnly waited for their chance to honor Feinstein.

WATCH: Remembering Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her trailblazing career

Jose Romero Cooper, 61, and 73-year-old Mark Cooper, a married couple, were among the first. They said they followed Feinstein’s career with pride.

“What I’m gonna say is thank you for everything, for being strong,” he said.

He stood before the casket, genuflected and crossed himself. He walked away with tears streaming down his face.

Feinstein was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969 and was board president in November 1978 when a former supervisor assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, at City Hall. Feinstein became acting mayor, and she went on to serve as mayor until 1988.

San Francisco would not be San Francisco without her. She steered the city through the HIV and AIDS crisis, bringing attention to an epidemic ignored by President Ronald Reagan. She also secured federal and private funding to save the city’s iconic cable cars from death by deterioration.

Long-serving US Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein dead at 90

Rep. Nancy Pelosi with the family of Sen. Dianne Feinstein before a public viewing at San Francisco City Hall on Oct. 4, 2023. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie/Pool via REUTERS

Feinstein led the city as it played host to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. Another San Francisco tradition — “Fleet Week” — was started by Feinstein in 1981, and this year’s annual celebration of air shows, naval ships and military bands is dedicated to her.

Beyond serving as San Francisco’s first female mayor, she joined Barbara Boxer as the first women to represent California in the U.S. Senate. They both won election in 1992, dubbed the “ Year of the Woman. ”

Feinstein inspired countless girls and women, including Breed, who is the first Black woman and only the second woman to lead the city. Breed recalled looking up to Feinstein when Feinstein was mayor and Breed played the French horn in the middle school band that played regularly at mayoral events.

“She was so proud of us and she said so, and she took the time to talk to us, express how amazing we were and to remind us that we were her band,” Breed said at a press conference the day after the senator’s death.

Cari Donovan placed a bouquet of lilies and daisies in red and pink before the casket.

“I’m a San Francisco native. And I remember her being such a big public figure on my life. She championed and fought for the rights of so many people,” Donovan said, adding that she talked to her 28-year-old daughter about the battles Feinstein fought so that younger generations of women could dream bigger.

“She was a powerhouse,” she said. “She was a lioness.”

While Feinstein’s career sent her to Washington, she remained deeply involved in the affairs of San Francisco, the city where she was born and raised. She often called her successors — including Gov. Gavin Newsom — to complain about potholes or trash and to offer advice and encouragement.

John Konstin Sr., owner of John’s Grill, a favorite downtown tourist destination and watering hole for city politicians, recalled Feinstein ordering potholes filled, trees trimmed and ugly scaffolding brought down before San Francisco hosted the 1984 Democratic convention.

“She asked, ‘How long has this scaffolding been up?’ And my dad said maybe 10 years and the next day it came down,” said Konstin, 59. “It was half a block of scaffolding.”

Feinstein’s favorite dish was the Petrale sole, he said. The restaurant, which celebrates its 115th anniversary Wednesday with a free lunch and appearances by Breed and other politicians, will have flowers by Feinstein’s portrait.

Her casket is expected to arrive at City Hall around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Mourners can pay their respects from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A memorial service will be held Thursday outside City Hall. Speakers will include Pelosi, Breed, Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks by recorded video.

Associated Press journalist Haven Daley in San Francisco and researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.

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