Woodward, Bernstein speak at Felt memorial

January 16, 2009 10:18:50 PM PST
The Washington Post reporters whose stories about the Watergate cover-up led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon paid tribute at a memorial service this afternoon to their secret source who helped them do it, former FBI man W. Mark Felt.

Family and friends filled the 400-seat Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa to honor the former associate director of the FBI who worried until the last years of his life that the American public would consider him a traitor.

Felt revealed he was indeed Deep Throat in a 2005 article in Vanity Fair and he greeted the media in the doorway of his home in May that year after his secret was out.

Felt met only with reporter Bob Woodward, never with Carl Bernstein, in an underground parking garage in the Washington, D.C., area and he exhorted them to "look at the overall picture and connect the dots."

Woodward recalled Felt had all the characteristics of "a prickly, nagging assignment editor."

"A subtext was 'Are you dumb? Don't you get it?'" Woodward recalled.

"Mark's great decision was his refusal to be silenced. He said, 'Action is character'," Woodward said.

"He was a truth teller who knew his overall oath of office was to the people and the Constitution," Woodward recalled.

"He was a great teacher and guide who always put the ball in your court. He said, 'You're going to have to find that out, aren't you?' He insisted we do our job," Woodward said.

Bernstein said he could only imagine the turmoil Felt underwent as he provided information to the reporters that Nixon operatives, who were in the FBI Felt was dedicated to, sought to conceal.

"Some higher sense of duty prevailed in a moment of great national peril," Bernstein said. "I'm grateful I was able to finally meet him."

Felt died Dec. 18 at age 95 in the Santa Rosa home he shared with his daughter Joan who told the assembly she and her father developed a three-step plan 18 months ago to prepare for his death when his dementia was apparent.

That entailed "holding out as long as you can" by eating healthy and taking vitamins, letting her know if he got tired of living and following step one and assuring that when death came "it was going to be beautiful."

"And it was. His passing was gentle and kind like the man himself," Joan Felt said.

The Felt family held a home funeral.

"We kept him for four days. Forget makeup. Forget embalming. He looked beautiful. He was a hero going home," she said. "Like Gandhi, his life was his message."

"He was a radiant man, a wise man and a wonderful man. His words got scrambled in the end, but his heart spoke loud and clear," she said.

Felt's grandson Will Felt remembered him as "an extraordinary government employee."

Grandson Rob Jones said he was a man who never wanted the spotlight but only to do what is right.

"He passed peacefully and easily in his own home. His great soul is here now," grandson Nick Jones said.

"It was a closing of the circle," Bernstein said shortly before he and Woodward left the service, fittingly through the parking garage adjacent to the Glaser Center.

The Felt family is planning to display a public memorial somewhere in Santa Rosa.