Memorial service held for Evelyn Lowery

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ATLANTA —

Hundreds of people gathered to pay their final respects to Evelyn Lowery, a leader in the civil rights movement for more than 60 years.

Lowery was married to the Rev. Joseph Lowery, sometimes referred to as the "dean of the civil rights movement." He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but Evelyn Lowery quietly built her own legacy. She founded the SCLC Women's Organizational Movement, which focused on empowering women and girls.

The 88-year-old died last week after suffering a massive stroke.

Everyone went silent as friends and family members helped lead Dr. Lowery into the chapel as the funeral for his wife began. Observers inside the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College watched a tender moment as he touched his wife's casket and passed by.

Linda Anderson, who attended Cascade United Methodist Church with Evelyn Lowery, sang in the choir at the funeral.

"She was just a wonderful, wonderful woman," Anderson said.

Corine Hanson sang, too.

"It's not that she's gone, it's just enjoying the legacy, knowing what she has left behind for our young people to grasp and know that this is what life is all about," Hanson said.

Activists Xernona Clayton, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor Raphael Warnock were among the dignitaries at the service. Mayor Kasim Reed gave remarks. DeKalb County's former CEO, Burrell Ellis, spoke to Channel 2's Richard Elliot about Lowery's legacy.

"Her life is just a testament to the struggle and people like me, who are the beneficiaries of the movement and for all that was put down to sacrifice and so we're here to pay homage and tribute to a beautiful life, a God-led life and a wonderful person," Ellis said.

Loved ones said Wednesday's service was not about mourning a loss, but celebrating a life.

"When you think about somebody's life, you're here for the celebration of life and how they affected you, and she was just a very wonderful individual. And so the joy is knowing that she completed her task on earth, and now she's with her God," Anderson said.

Lowery's other accomplishments include creating the Drum Major for Justice Awards, held annually in Atlanta.