Obama hails Biden's son Beau as 'original' in eulogy

US President Barack Obama (right) hugs Vice-President Joe Biden during the funeral of the latter's son, former Delaware attorney-general Beau Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware on June 6, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama (right) hugs Vice-President Joe Biden during the funeral of the latter's son, former Delaware attorney-general Beau Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware on June 6, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WILMINGTON, Delaware (AFP, Reuters) - Beau Biden, son of US Vice-President Joe Biden, was a selfless "original" who made his own way in life, President Barack Obama said in a eulogy on Saturday for the former Delaware attorney-general who died of cancer.

The mass at the St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington in Biden's home state of Delaware was packed with mourners including the large Biden family, numerous politicians, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, and top administration officials.

Mr Obama said Beau Biden overcame an early family tragedy - the death of his mother and sister when he was a young child - to live selflessly.

"He would live a life of meaning. He would live a life for others," Mr Obama said.

Beau forged his own path despite living with the privilege of the influential Biden family, a "sprawling, intimate clan."

"But as much as Beau reminded folks of Joe, he was very much his own man. He was an original. Here was a scion of an incredible family who brushed away the possibility of privilege for the harder, better reward of earning his own way," the President added, at times pausing in emotion.

Beau Biden, who was 46, died on May 30 from brain cancer. He was a popular Democrat in Delaware and served as a lawyer for the state's Army National Guard, deploying to Iraq in 2008.

His death is another tragedy for VP Biden, whose first wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping in 1972.

Beau and his brother Hunter were injured but survived the car accident.

- Posthumous Legion of Merit -

Before his cancer diagnosis, Beau Biden was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father on the national political stage.

Mr Obama said mail had poured into the White House expressing sorrow over the Bidens' loss. Letters came from soldiers, students and passing acquaintances.

"They noticed. They felt it. His presence. Beau lives on in the lives of others," the President said.

General Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the US Army, hailed him as a "father, a husband, a son, a friend, a leader, a soldier, and a patriot", celebrating his time serving with Beau Biden in Iraq.

"He understood the importance of maintaining trust with his fellow soldiers and with the public to gain justice and the victims he fought so hard for and with everyone he came in contact with," Gen Odierno said, awarding the Legion of Merit honour to Beau posthumously for his service in the military.

His life was far too short, Gen Odierno said, but he had "a life that had incredible meaning and a life that left an indelible mark on all of us".

Chris Martin, lead singer of British rock band Coldplay, performed a moving rendition of the group's song 'Til Kingdom Comeat the funeral.