Mourners say final goodbye to ex-NY Gov. Mario Cuomo

Posted at 7:54 AM, Jan 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-06 14:12:44-05

NEW YORK (PIX11/AP) — Hundreds of mourners, family, friends and standard bearers of the Democratic Party packed a Manhattan church Tuesday for a final goodbye to one of their champions.

The two-hour funeral for former three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was held at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan. It follows a wake on Monday, in which hundreds of mourners waited in a line that stretched more than a block to pay their respects.

"At his core, he was a philosopher," said his son and current Governor Andrew Cuomo.  "He was a poet.  He was an advocate.  He was a crusader.  Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels."

The younger Cuomo spoke about who his father was, both in the political spotlight and at home, from his most powerful speeches to his love of basketball.

A husband of more than six decades and a father of five, Mario Cuomo was born in New York City in the apartment above his father’s grocery store. After a brief shot at a career in minor league baseball, he pursued a law degree and graduated at the top of his class from St. John’s University School of Law.

Although the allure of public service was strong, his early attempts at seeking political office ended in defeat.

Cuomo’s first electoral success came in 1978 as running mate to former New York Gov. Hugh Carey. Four years later when Carey stepped aside, Cuomo entered the race and won.

He held the governorship for three terms, winning two more handily by emphasizing lower taxes, balanced budgets, public education and affirmative action. He won national attention with his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

In a testament to his legacy, Cuomo's death touched New Yorkers and elected officials across the political spectrum.

“Our country and our region lost a giant today with the passing of Governor Mario Cuomo,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “He was a strong, eloquent leader who loved New York and its people. As an Italian-American, he was also a role model for future generations that anything was possible through hard work and education.”

At Cuomo's funeral Tuesday, several high-profile political players are expected, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Other high-profile mourners were at the wake Monday, including Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, actor Alan Alda and former state Comptroller Carl McCall.

Cuomo, 82, died Jan. 1, hours after his son Gov. Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term.

He had been hospitalized more than a month earlier to undergo treatment for a heart condition.