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New Yorkers remember former Gov. Mario Cuomo

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UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) -- The family of former governor Mario Cuomo has now released initial details about his funeral and wake, set for early next week.  The ceremonies are expected to be tributes to the remarkable life of the son of poor, immigrant shop owners in Queens who went on to become a three-term governor of one of the most important states in the nation.  However, there's much more to the life and times of the lion of New York and national politics who passed away on Thursday, of which few people may be aware, even after all of the tributes are made next week.

Mario Cuomo's most famous speech was the keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.  That speech he used to memorably declare that there were two Americas, one rich and one poor, in contrast with then-president Ronald Reagan's assertion that the U.S. was a shining city on the hill.

C-SPAN video of that keynote address shows, three minutes in to the recording, two young men watching behind the scenes.  They are a young Andrew Cuomo, who is, of course, now the governor of New York, and Tim Russert, who went on to host NBC's Meet The Press from 1991 until his death in 2008.

Ancrew Cuomo and Russert, at the time 28 and 34, respectively, lobbied Democratic National Convention organizers extensively for months to have Gov. Mario Cuomo named keynote speaker.  The move resulted in then-governor Cuomo being considered a major contender for the presidency.

It's among many things about the recently deceased former governor that many New Yorkers may not be aware of.

"We don't think about Mario Cuomo stopping a riot at Sing Sing [Prison] and saving hundreds, thousands of lives," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic Party consultant who has worked with both Cuomo Governors.  He said that he's known Mario Cuomo for 51 years, over the course of which the first Governor Cuomo made many changes in New York City that have resulted in it being a place to which more people want to come than any other destination in America.

"He revitalized 42nd Street," said Sheinkopf, "and completed Battery Park City."

He added, "We don't think about Mario Cuomo living trhough a time when 50% of... industrial job[s] lost in the United States in the first Reagan recession were lost in New York state."  He said that despite that, residents of the state's industrial northern cities, like Buffalo and Rochester, "respected him, because he treated people with dignity."

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that flags at state government offices be flown at half staff.  The day before, he referenced his father's failing health in his inaugural address at One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.  "He is in this room," the current governor declared.

Andrew Cuomo had been in Buffalo giving the second of his two inauguration speeches on Thursday afternoon, when his father died, surrounded by the rest of the Cuomo Family.  Mario Cuomo passed away in his apartment on Sutton Place on the East Side of Manhattan.

The elder Cuomo had made part of the down payment for his home with proceeds from a Doritos commercial he'd made after losing reelection in 1994.  Co-starring in the commercial with Cuomo was fellow defeated governor Ann Richards of Texas.

Since his passing, President Barack Obama has sent his condolences in an official statement, saying "an Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service — and we are all better for it."

Former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton released a joint statement, "It was Mario Cuomo's great gift and our good fortune that he was both a sterling orator and a passionate public servant. His life was a blessing."

And throughout Friday afternoon and evening, members of the Cuomo family, including Mario Cuomo's wife of more than 60 years, Matilda, were seen with members of Andrew Cuomo's office, state troopers, and NYPD ceremonial unit members at the St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue.

They were planning details of the funeral for Mario Cuomo, scheduled for 11:00 A.M. Tuesday.

It will be preceded by a wake and viewing at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Avenue, on Monday, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

PIX11 News has learned that the Cuomo Family has planned the ceremonies in order to not conflict with the funeral of recently slain NYPD detective Wenjian Liu.  His funeral, at which thousands are expected to attend, will be held Sunday morning in Brooklyn.  It is not confirmed whether or not Gov. Andrew Cuomo will speak at the police funeral.

The service for the governor's father, on Tuesday, will be a private ceremony.  The guest list has not yet been finalized.