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Colin Powell's Funeral Held At Washington's National Cathedral

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSNewYork) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx, is being remembered as a titan and a trailblazer.

Powell, who was battling a rare blood cancer, died last month from COVID-19. He was 84 years old.

His casket was brought into Washington National Cathedral just before noon Friday for a private memorial, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

President Joe Biden and former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were among those who attended the service and offered condolences to Powell's family.

It was a final solute to a soldier and statesman. Colin Powell, a patriot dedicated to service, was remembered by presidents, the powerful and, most importantly, his family: Alma, his wife of 60 years, and his children, Linda, Ann and Michael.

"His journey was an American journey. Colin Powell was a great lion, with a big heart. We will miss him terribly," said Michael Powell.

Washington's National Cathedral was filled with music and mourners who paid tribute to a man who lived a life of firsts: the first African American secretary of state, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and national security advisor.

"Beneath that glossy exterior, a warrior statesman was one of the gentlest and most decent people any of us will ever meet," said Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a story about how Powell, an apparent ABBA super-fan, once surprised Swedish and U.S. diplomats with his own cover.

"Colin immediately got down on one knee and sang the entire 'Mamma Mia!' to a very amused foreign minister from Sweden and to a gob-smacked U.S. delegation who'd never seen anything like it," Armitage said.

In a city that rarely agrees on anything, Republicans and Democrats were in unison of their praise for the man who served three presidents and was awarded not one but two Presidential Medals of Freedom.

For so many in attendance, Powell was more than a colleague. He was a mentor. Rodney Slater, former secretary of transportation, went abroad with Gen. Powell.

"I was thinking about the wonderful time when we were all traveling to South Africa for the inauguration for President Mandela, and it was wonderful to see all of the members of the delegation actually take time to spend it with General Powell," Slater said.

Slater added, "Not only were we paying tribute to a soldier who first a nd foremost recognized the importance of the military as far as balancing the equations of society and protecting us, but also a statesman."

Kevin Young, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, was touched by the service.

"It was very moving, and just to hear especially his family and those beautiful songs," said Young.

Powell was a graduate of City College, where the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership now bears his name.

"When he was finishing up his service as secretary of state, he came back up to campus and we put him in a room with eight of the first Colin Powell fellows. He had them tell their stories and he said, 'My god, you are me. This is who I was 50 years ago,'" said Andrew Rich from CCNY.

Powell's life trajectory was nothing short of extraordinary. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he went from the streets of the South Bronx to the halls of power in Washington. Powell is an American patriot and a towering inspiration.

"If Colin Powell's life is possible, then it should be possible for every American. That would be what Gen. Powell would want," said historian Jon Meacham.

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