PHILADELPHIA — With humor and words of admiration, philanthropist Lewis Katz was remembered Wednesday at his beloved Temple University for his loyalty, wide-ranging generosity, and devotion to his family.
During a memorial service of more than 2½ hours at Temple’s Performing Arts Center, mourners laughed, applauded, and wiped away tears at reminiscences of Mr. Katz. The message over and over again was to keep Mr. Katz’s memory and work alive.
“You will never be a distant memory,” his daughter Melissa Silver vowed.
Mr. Katz was killed along with six other people Saturday night when the jet he was on crashed trying to take off from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass.
His son Drew told the mourners, “My father prepared me for everything in life except for this.”
“Life was always interesting with Lewis Katz,” he said, “Death can end a life, but it can never end a love.”
Speakers had mourners — a who’s who of sports, politics, and media — laughing as they recounted times spent with Mr. Katz and his mischievous sense of humor. They also told of the $100 tips he left for college students working summer jobs or how he quietly helped the poor mother who had nowhere else to turn and the promising student who could not afford tuition.
Former president Bill Clinton said the first time he met Mr. Katz was with former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and they “had me play Nerf basketball in the Oval Office.”
“I lost,” Clinton said.
He went on to tell how at another time, Mr. Katz asked him at a fund-raiser to whisper in his ear.
When asked why, Mr. Katz replied, “If you whisper in my ear, they’ll think we’re close, and I can raise more money.”
“Lew, you’re a putz,” Clinton said he whispered, adding that Mr. Katz then acted as if he had been given “the nuclear code.”
On a serious note, Clinton recalled some of Mr. Katz’s many works and said: “He took a trip we couldn’t imagine. His life force was such that we thought he’d be around forever.”
“If more of us acted on our better impulses . . . what a different world we’d be living in today,” Clinton said.
Rendell recounted the laughs he had with Mr. Katz and called him a “great man” who demonstrated it daily through his friendship, generosity, and love of his family.
He recalled Mr. Katz’s spontaneity, telling of an impromptu flight to Mount Rushmore and saying, “If you were a friend of Lewis Katz, you used the phrase, ‘He did what?’ ”
Rendell choked back tears as he told of talking to Mr. Katz’s personal assistant the day after his death.
“She said: ‘I’m lost. He was my champion,’ ” he said. “I said . . . ‘You are not alone.’ ”
Patrick O’Connor, chairman of Temple’s board of trustees, said Mr. Katz was a man who “lived his dreams.”
“Lewis’s primary joy is his family,” O’Connor said. “Your father, your poppy, left you a great legacy, not of money or power, but of love.”
Bill Cosby, who caused some concern when he stumbled on the stage after Clinton spoke, stood before the mourners, wearing a T-shirt that said, “Self Made, Philly Made, Temple Made.”
Pacing like a preacher, Cosby recounted how Mr. Katz grew up poor in Camden, N.J., and how much he had given back to the city, including two Boys and Girls Clubs.
Addressing the people of Camden, he said they had to make sure they took care of what Mr. Katz gave.
“You better not let it drop. You better not let it fall,” Cosby said. “Lewis Katz lives in what you do to the gifts that were given to you . . . You will treat these gifts as gifts, not something to be thrown in the trash.”
Temple’s Performing Arts Center, which can hold 1,200 people, was filled to capacity for the memorial.
Among those attending was Shane Victorino, the former Phillies centerfielder who now plays for the Red Sox. “It was a no-brainer for me to be here,” said Victorino, who described Mr. Katz as like a father to him.
Inside the center, photos from Mr. Katz’s life were projected on a large screen. A Temple University string quartet played somberly as Mr. Katz’s family took their seats.
Mr. Katz, a co-owner of The Inquirer, and three friends had attended an education fund-raising event in Concord, Mass., at the home of the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin before the crash Saturday night.
“Lewis Katz surely lived life to its fullest,” she said, adding that the name of her friend of 20 years would live on in schools and buildings, but mostly in memory.
A private family service was held Tuesday.