They came to a Catholic church in Wilmington, Delaware, to pay last respects to the vice president's mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, a small but forceful woman who died Friday at 92.
The President, First Lady, members of the Cabinet and Congress (including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and former President Bill Clinton joined family and friends of the Bidens in filling the pews of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, which the vice president said his mother had called her own since it was founded in 1955.
Members of the family read prayers and offered tributes to the Biden matriarch.
He spoke of the love and strength she conveyed to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He said his mom instilled feelings of confidence, balance, security unconditional love and "that total sense of what it meant to be family."
"She taught us to be respectful to everyone, but deferential to no one," Biden said from the pulpit.
"She believed in us – so we believed in ourselves," he added.
Biden's father, Joseph Robinette Biden, died in 2002 after 61 years of marriage to Jean.
Returning to his seat in one of the front pews he gently touched his mother's casket. He wiped tears from his eyes as it was rolled from the church, walking behind it, and exchanging a hug with President Obama and others who came to offer their condolences.
"We know God grants her peace," Rev. Msgr. J. Thomas Cini, said of Jean Biden.
"Pray he grants you consolation," he told mourners.