FRANKFORT — With his voice cracking, Gov. Steve Beshear paid respects Wednesday at a memorial service in a packed Capitol Rotunda to one of his best friends and trusted confidants, chief of staff Mike Haydon.
"To me, he was invaluable because he told me what I needed to hear instead of what I wanted to hear," said Beshear as he stood near the open casket of the veteran of more than 30 years of government service at the local and state levels.
Haydon died unexpectedly Sunday at his home in Springfield of a heart attack. He was 62.
Current and former state and federal officials, legislators and co-workers crowded into the Capitol to remember the man who became Beshear's chief of staff in 2010 after having served as his legislative liaison.
Haydon's other tenures in government included deputy cabinet secretary and revenue secretary for former Gov. Paul Patton, chief of staff for House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, mayor of Springfield and property valuation administrator of Washington County.
Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, presided over the service. The governor was the first speaker.
Beshear said Haydon was "a whirlwind of activity" known for humor and enthusiasm for his work.
At the end of his eulogy, Beshear blew a kiss to Haydon's family — wife, Lisa, and children, Blair, Kate and Ben. They were on the front row with Haydon's parents, C.H. and Frances Haydon. Mike Haydon has seven siblings.
Former Auditor Crit Luallen, who was Haydon's boss when she was Patton's cabinet secretary, said Haydon "never really worked for anybody." She said he would convince his bosses that his good ideas were theirs.
Luallen said Haydon had "an irrepressible spirit that kept us moving forward."
Adkins called Haydon "my true and trusted friend" who "loved his job." The Democratic legislative leader from Sandy Hook said Haydon "was at his best behind the scenes" and could work with Democrats and Republicans.
Haydon's brother, Hugh Haydon, said the memorial service was a celebration of his brother's work. He said Friday's 10:30 a.m. funeral at St. Dominic Church in Springfield will be a celebration of his brother's life.
Wednesday's service concluded with the singing of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Colmon Elridge, an executive assistant to Beshear.
At the request of Haydon's daughter, Kate, Elridge led the crowd in singing My Old Kentucky Home.