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New Yorkers, politicians, labor leaders, clergy bid goodbye to Mario Cuomo

Dozens of New Yorkers including union workers and clergymen weathered snow and freezing temperatures Tuesday to bid goodbye to former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

As political leaders filled a private service at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on the Upper East Side, onlookers gathered outside on Park Avenue. Several recalled highlights of Cuomo's career, from his fiery 1984 Democratic National Convention speech to his pro-labor positions.

"He was a man who, when he spoke, you listened," said Henry Singleton, 52, of Manhattan, an organizer with the 1199 SEIU local that represents health care workers.

Singleton was one of several union workers carrying "Thank You Mario" signs that bore Cuomo's photograph.

The Rev. John Rosson, of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Cooperstown, drove down to the funeral with the Rev. Andrew Cryans of St. Thomas Moore Parish in Durham, New Hampshire. Both said they wanted to pay tribute to Cuomo's "consistent" opposition to the death penalty.

Cuomo, a devout Roman Catholic, repeatedly vetoed bills seeking to enact the death penalty in New York, and some political observers have said his opposition to capital punishment led to his defeat in the 1977 mayoral runoff against Ed Koch.

"He was anti-death penalty and he paid the political cost for that," Rosson said.

Cryans said he had "a great respect for Governor Cuomo and his ability to articulate policies that were very compassionate and very humane. He spoke for the marginalized."

For Mary Ann Simons, 56, the funeral gave her a second chance to get close to the former governor to give her thanks.

Simons, a home health care worker who traveled by subway to St. Ignatius from downtown Brooklyn, said she saw Cuomo several years ago crossing the street in Manhattan, but never got close enough to approach him and express her appreciation.

"I just looked at him with admiration," Simons said. "When I think of Mario Cuomo, what comes to mind are his wonderful speeches. He was a wonderful orator."

About a half-dozen spectators held vigil outside the church for more than an hour Tuesday morning.

Dan Schlieben, 73, a retired psychologist and Upper East Side resident, stood outside the service for nearly an hour, watching as State Police riding motorcycles and rows of bagpipers and drummers led the way for the hearse carrying Cuomo's coffin.

"He brought a sense of thoughtfulness and respect to the office," Schlieben said. "This is just a small gesture I can do to honor him."

With Michael Gormley

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