POTOMAC, MD -- Former Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar, who served 36 years in Congress and died last weekend in his sleep, was remembered Thursday by family, friends and dignitaries as an insatiably curious family man with so much passion for life, knowledge, transportation and his beloved bicycle that it was hard to keep up with him.

"We all thought dad would outlive us," said his daughter Noelle Tower.

"And he ... believed that, too," she added, eliciting laughs.

The service, attended by roughly 500 people, was held in Oberstar's home Catholic church in this leafy Washington suburb, where he lived throughout his career in Congress and afterwards. His wife, Jean, sat in the same pew Jim faithfully warmed at 7 a.m. every Sunday, Rev. Raymond Kemp said. 

Oberstar was 79 when he died. He lost his re-election to Congress in 2010.

Oberstar's successful career in Congress was touted by both Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, as well as former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta.

"We all learned from him," Mineta said. "I loved this man."

Franken, who once used Oberstar as the reason why he didn't believe in term limits for members of Congress, said he always had a zeal for sharing what he learned about infrastructure.

"He had a tendency to go on and on, but it was because he believed everyone was as curious about the world as he was," Franken said, "and he was almost always wrong about that."

Four of his children told more personal stories about their dad, who was happiest when he was amid lively family discussions or playing with his grandchildren.

"He will be remembered fondly for his ability to break into flawless French ... but we will always remember him for his patience," said his daughter Monica Weber. "Dad was happiest when he was with his children and grandchildren."