NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York political leaders from the last 50 years joined family and friends in celebrating the life of the pugnacious Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin.

During the funeral Wednesday, Kevin Breslin alluded to his father’s gruffness. He thanked the assembled by joking: “I’m not sure that he would come here for any of us.”

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Fellow columnist and longtime friend Michael Daly said nobody brought more honor to the New York City press pass than Breslin.

The program picture, from 1985, showed Breslin standing on the street. It was taken by Jill Krementz, a well-known photographer who’s the widow of Kurt Vonnegut.

Breslin died Sunday at his Manhattan home of complications from pneumonia, his stepdaughter, Emily Eldridge, said. He was 88 years old.

He spent decades battling corrupt politicians and championing the downtrodden in columns for the Daily News and other New York newspapers.

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“This man was New York. Maybe best columnist ever,” 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck tweeted in tribute on Sunday.

“An original, a character, a real journalist,” 1010 WINS’ Juiliet Papa tweeted. “I learned so much covering a story with #JimmyBreslin.”

Covering a story with Breslin was always a learning experience, Papa reported. He wasn’t there to get the facts of the day, he was there to get the nugget — the piece that spoke about the humanity of the situation.

“I’d always watch him to see who and what he was looking for, or looking at,” Papa said. “But he had a poker face, and he never revealed anything until it came out in his column the next day. It gave another of layer of depth to the story of the day, and made you think and learn just a little bit more.”

His elder daughter, Rosemary Breslin, died in 2004 at age 47 from a rare blood disease. His other daughter, Kelly Breslin, collapsed at a New York restaurant in April 2009 and died a few days later. She was 44.

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