Former state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was lauded Friday as an extraordinary public servant during a moving funeral mass upstate.
“We give him back to God with great gratitude,” said the Rev. Jim Walsh, pastor of Pope Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Loudonville.
Bruno, 91, who was the Senate Republican majority leader from 1994 to 2008, died Wednesday after a bout with prostate cancer.
E. Stewart Jones, a longtime friend, called Bruno an “extraordinary man.”
“He talked about making opportunities, not waiting for opportunities. For the rest of his professional life that’s what he did — created opportunities for all of us in this region, in this state, opportunities that are generational,” said Jones, a lawyer who helped Bruno beat back corruption charges.
John Flanagan, the former Long Island Republican state senator who served as majority leader after Bruno retired, called him a “mentor” and “father figure.”
“He made me feel special, he made me feel like I was important and he did that for everyone. That was his gift,” said Flanagan, who spoke at the funeral.
“He treated people the way he wanted to be treated.”
Flanagan also said Bruno had a “work ethic beyond anyone’s imagination.” And he recalled fondly Bruno’s bravado and sense of humor.
“He used to tell me when I was doing well, he would say: you are doing so well, you could actually become the second greatest majority leader in the state. He could get away with saying that … he would absolutely be the first,” Flanagan said.
“He was the real deal. If you were his friend, you were his friend for life. He never walked away.”
One of the pallbearers was Robert Mujica, state budget director to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Mujica worked for Bruno in the state Senate before Cuomo hired him.
Before the mass began, the funeral procession drove around the “Joseph L. Bruno Stadium” in Troy. Bruno was instrumental in delivering funds to build the stadium, where the Valley Cats’ minor league baseball team plays.
Afterwards, the procession drove around the state Capitol building before sending him to his final resting place at Oakwood Cemetery in his home of Troy.
Bruno, first elected to the senate in 1976, served as majority leader during the tenures of Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. He represented Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.
A Korean War veteran and Army boxing champ, Bruno recalled nearly coming to blows with Spitzer during a tense confrontation in his memoir, “Keep Swinging.”
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