Evel Knievel left this world much as he lived in it—as a subject of awe and clad in red, white and blue.
"He's forever in flight now," Matthew McConaughey said in his eulogy Tuesday during a memorial service in the motorcycle daredevil's hometown of Butte, Montana, home of the annual Evel Knievel Days festival.
The 38-year-old Texan, who hosted the History Channel documentary Absolute Evel in 2005, was one of several celebrities and thousands of mourners who packed the Butte Civic Center, where Knievel's body was delivered Sunday under a canopy of red, white and blue fireworks.
Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and various country tunes played as family, friends and fans wound their way past the casket, where Knievel lay clad in his signature white leather jacket with red and blue trim.
American flags, poinsettias and photos depicting the 1970s-era legend on his motorcycle, in various stages of liftoff, added to the scene.
"Being on the earth is sometimes a lot harder than being in the air," McConaughey said. "Coming back down could be living hell sometimes. He doesn’t have to come back down, he doesn't have to land. He's in that spot of grace for the rest of time."
Knievel, who in his later years still talked of pulling off another great feat of daring but was plagued by health problems, including diabetes and the aftermath of having broken nearly 40 bones over the years, died Nov. 30 in Clearwater, Florida. He was 69.
"I am not the greatest daredevil in the world," 45-year-old stunt cyclist Robbie Knievel said, recalling hunting and fishing trips he took as a child with his famous dad. "I am the son of the greatest daredevil in the world."
Heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier, who said he met Knievel in 1968, told the Agence France-Presse wire service that he and his pal bonded over their different, yet similarly hazardous, careers.
"His job and my job were pretty tough jobs," Frazier said.
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller of California's Crystal Cathedral officiated at the memorial, after which the hearse carrying Knievel's casket wound through town via the six-mile Evel Knievel Loop. The burial service was private, but it didn't stop dozens of parka-clad, flower-toting mourners from gathering at the grave site afterward to pay their respects to their hometown hero.