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A warm farewell for actor Carroll O'Connor

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Carroll O'Connor got a final standing ovation Tuesday, from friends, family and colleagues who came to say a last farewell to a beloved actor.

After a traditional Roman Catholic funeral mass and the mournful strains of the Irish tune "Oh Danny Boy" played on a violin, the mourners at St. Paul the Apostle Church stood and applauded as O'Connor's casket was taken slowly from the sanctuary.

O'Connor, best known for his role as Archie Bunker on the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," died last week of a heart attack at the age of 76.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese led the service. Actors Martin Sheen, Larry Hagman and Denise Nicholas -- longtime friends -- read passages during the service.

Mahony praised O'Connor for his unwavering faith through a life that had its share of difficulties.

CNN's Paul Vercammen reports on Carroll O'Connor's funeral where friends remember the actor as the opposite of Archie Bunker (June 26)

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"We thank you with the gift of this great person, this great man, but most importantly this man of faith," he said.

There were no eulogies, but colleagues spoke of their longtime friend before entering the church. "He had a style that nobody else had, and I think when you're separate from the rest, it makes you kind of special," comedian Don Rickles said.

"I know that I feel a big hole in my heart," said Sally Struthers, who played Archie Bunker's daughter Gloria on "All in the Family." "I know that people all over the world would be missing him too because he gave them so many years to laugh and to take a look at themselves."

"It was nice to go up there and see Carroll had a full house," Hagman said after the service. "He would have enjoyed that. He was a nice guy, and a wonderful friend for 42 years."

O'Connor died on Thursday at Brotman Hospital in Los Angeles with his wife, Nancy, at his side. The couple would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on July 28.

O'Connor appeared in more than 30 films, including "Lonely Are the Brave" and "Cleopatra," but it was as Archie Bunker that he became a household name.

"All in the Family," a Normal Lear sitcom adapted from a British series, delved into topics never before addressed on American television -- racism, sexism, intolerance and bigotry -- and pitted O'Connor against daffy-but-wise wife Edith, played by Jean Stapleton, their daughter Gloria and her liberal and outspoken husband Mike, played by Rob Reiner.

Carroll O'Connor
O'Connor remembered: "I know that I feel a big hole in my heart," said Sally Struthers, who played Archie Bunker's daughter.  

The show -- which ran from 1971-79 -- initially drew sharp criticism, but it grew to attract a tremendous audience, ranking No. 1 for five years and spinning off three successful shows -- "Archie Bunker's Place," "Maude" and "The Jeffersons."

O'Connor won five Emmy Awards over his career, four for Archie and one as the chief of police in the popular "In the Heat of the Night."

The actor's son, Hugh, was a regular on that show. When Hugh O'Connor committed suicide in 1995 after battling drug addiction for several years, his father became a public advocate against drug abuse.

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