Nearly 400 mourners, including some of the state's most prominent public officials, gathered Monday at a funeral Mass in Brentwood to praise Caesar Trunzo for his half-century-long public career.
Afterward, a group of 50 close friends and relatives paid final respects to the former state senator, laying roses on his coffin as a Suffolk police bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, where Trunzo was buried.
Trunzo, who spent 36 years in Albany and 29 years as Islip Town GOP chairman, died Wednesday after suffering complications from pneumonia. He was 87.
"He was a public servant longer than I've been alive and I'm 52," said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who delivered the eulogy at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church.
"The reason we're here is not because Caesar died, but because of the way he lived," said the Rev. Stephen Pietrowski, St. Anne's pastor. "He was a great politician, a man of faith" -- and also a "great usher," said Pietrowski, referring to Trunzo's weekly role at 5 p.m. Mass on Saturdays, where he routinely greeted churchgoers. Sometimes he showed up in a tuxedo because of events he had to attend later.
Those paying respects Monday included Long Island's nine-member State Senate delegation, led by Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), and retired Sen. Owen Johnson, who was first elected with Trunzo in 1972. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who as an assemblyman worked closely with Trunzo when both chaired their chambers' civil service committees, and A. Gail Prudenti, the state's chief administrative judge, also attended.
Local officials included Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone, Suffolk OTB vice president and Babylon GOP chairman Tony Pancella, and Suffolk PBA president Noel DeGerolamo.
The Rev. Frank Nelson, a former St. Anne's pastor who heads Maria Regina parish in Seaford, said that although Trunzo wielded significant clout in Albany, he understood the role of power is "not to be served, but to be in service to others." Among the dozens of groups Trunzo helped was St. Anne's, which received state aid for an elevator to the basement soup kitchen.
Flanagan said Trunzo brought "millions and millions and millions" of dollars back to his district for projects for which he often did not seek credit.
"He knew what mattered and it what was happening in the schoolhouse, the PTA and the community," Flanagan said.
Trunzo also was devoted to his family and particularly his wife, Lorraine, to whom he was married for 62 years until her death in 2011 and had met when he was 7, Flanagan recalled. "The only time people said Caesar raised his voice was on the phone with Lorraine. But then the conversation often was cut short on the other end," Flanagan said.
Flanagan cited Trunzo's unstinting loyalty as a key political strength. He recalled that some had feared in 1994 that Trunzo might face retribution for sticking with Sen. Ralph Marino (R-Muttontown) during his ouster as majority leader. But Marino's successor as Senate leader, Sen. Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick) didn't punish him, "because he understood from that day forward, he would have Caesar's complete loyalty as leader," Flanagan said.