Mario Cuomo Remembered as Man, Rather than Politician, in Funeral Speeches

January 6, 2015 Updated: October 8, 2018

The late Mario Cuomo, a former New York Governor, was honored as a humble and compassionate man at his funeral. Hundreds of family members and friends gathered for the service at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Among the attendees were Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other dignitaries.

The service was not to proclaim Cuomo’s legal or political accomplishments, but rather capture him as a human being, said Rev. George M. Witt, pastor of the parish leading the service.

“Mario Cuomo was fundamentally a humble man,” said Rev. Witt. “His spirit was one of great inclusivity.”

Mario Cuomo, son of Italian immigrants and governor from 1983-1994, died at 82 on Jan .1, hours after his son Andrew was sworn in for a second term as the New York Governor.

Andrew Cuomo characterized his father in his speech as principled, and a sometimes stubborn man of compassion. Sharing anecdotes from their family and professional life, Cuomo described a man disinterested in politics in early life but prompted to run for office by a sense of social injustice.

“He wasn’t really a politician at all,” Cuomo said, describing his father’s public service as led by personal convictions, rather than political affiliations.

Elusive of political labels, Mario Cuomo described himself as a “progressive pragmatist” achieving liberal goals by means not fitting liberal rhetoric, Andrew Cuomo said. “Frankly I still don’t understand what he was saying.”

Mario Cuomo left behind his wife of 60 years Matilda, two sons, three daughters, and 14 grandchildren.

His death, caused by a serious heart condition, invoked a wave of support for the family. Thousands attended the wake on Monday, including Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama also sent his condolences, describing the man as “an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.”

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