Reporting Marcia Kramer
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was a final farewell Thursday for one of New York’s most popular and colorful governors.
Hugh Carey led the Empire State through the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. His funeral drew a bipartisan who’s who of New York’s political elite, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
The bagpipes played as Carey’s American flag-draped coffin was brought out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to be blessed by a cardinal, an archbishop and at least three bishops. It was a trifecta for Carey, who never forgot his Irish roots, his Catholic upbringing or his great love of his country.
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Archbishop Timothy Dolan set the tone for the Mass of Christian Burial.
“This mass is first and foremost a great prayer for a great man,” Dolan said.
In honor of his storied devotion to Irish ballads, his grandson, Erich Collins Carey wrote and performed on guitar and harmonica “The Ballad of the Great Hugh Carey.”
“Come remember a life that was full as life can be. Come on, come sing, come sing the ballad of the great Hugh Carey,” Collins sang.
The song drew applause from hundreds of members of New York’s political elite that were on hand to bid a final farewell to the man who help save the city and the state from financial ruin. Carey’s partner in fixing the finances was Felix Rohatyn, who chaired the Municipal Finance Agency.
“Smart, funny, tough, great leader you know batting a hundred,” Rohatyn said. “We did save the city. He was most responsible for it.”
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The New York political Pooh-Bahs were led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but there were elected officials of every stripe and many political affiliations – Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and lots of former governors.
“When he saved New York City he saved New York State,” former Gov. Mario Cuomo said. “When saved New York City and New York State he protected the honor of the whole country. Imagine what Moscow would have said if New York City went bankrupt in the 1970s.
“I have counted 11,184 personal memories of Hugh Carey and they’re all indelible.”
Like when he declared “days of wine and roses are over,” to describe the fiscal crisis, offered to drink a toxic glass of PCBs to downplay contamination of a state office building, or sang one of his beloved Irish ballads.
“Not just an outstanding leader but he was a great guy, a great friend and a wonderful New Yorker,” former Gov. George Pataki said of Carey. “He loved New York and he loved New Yorkers.”
“He is the standard by which every governor should be measured. He was witty, charming, brilliant, did the public good, was tough when he needed to be and could make people laugh until his last day,” former Gov. Eliot Spitzer added.
“One of the things that he could do that Obama can’t do is to bring people together. He was able to bring the Democratic and Republican legislators together. That’s what they need in Washington,” former Mayor Ed Koch said.
“If he were here today, he is in spirit, I’m sure he’d tell us to lighten it up a bit remember the greatness, remember all the great moments and remember that we always have to stand tough and do what has to be done,” Rep. Peter King said.
Some of the most touching moments Thursday came from his kids. They recalled that Carey lived to sing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” at family affairs and liked to be called the “Triple Crown Governor” because he gave trophies to famed racehorses “Seattle Slew and “Affirmed” at Belmont.
You could say it was an ‘I love New York’ sendoff for the man who initiated the ‘I love New York’ campaign.
As for the Carey’s love of music, he adopted “New York, New York” as his signature song and often played it at home on one of Frank Sinatra’s pianos.
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