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Funeral for Owen Johnson, former state senator, to be held Monday

Former state Senator Owen Johnson is shown in

Former state Senator Owen Johnson is shown in his office in Albany in an undated file photo. Credit: Newsday / Dave Oxford

Elected officials and former constituents paid their respects Sunday to the late Owen Johnson, the longest-tenured state senator in Long Island history, who will be buried Monday.

The family estimated more than 600 people came over the weekend to Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home in Babylon, where a giant U.S. flag hung from a Babylon Fire Department ladder truck out front.

It was the second day of visiting hours for Johnson, 85, of West Babylon, who helped form a powerful Republican core in the Senate for decades. He died Christmas Eve of natural causes.

The funeral will be held Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Babylon, with burial to follow at Amityville Cemetery.

"He was extremely principled, but he was not hyperpartisan," said Rory Whelan, Johnson's former chief of staff and a family friend.

Johnson never passed off constituent issues, even if they were federal or local, making sure his staff stayed with it. "He would never just hand it off," he said.

Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer, who also is the Suffolk Democratic county chairman, recalled Sunday that Johnson had been recruited to run for Congress or a statewide office, or that he may have had a state appointment under Republican Gov. George Pataki.

"Luckily for us, he was a homebody, and he stayed right here," Schaffer said.

Schaffer was asked by Democrats over the years to run a strong candidate to unseat Johnson, but he refused.

Johnson represented a Babylon-Islip district from 1973 to 2012 as one of the Long Island Nine, the all-Republican Long Island delegation that had powerful influence over state spending on schools, transportation and other key issues.

He worked with eight governors during his tenure and, with 40 years of service, is the second-longest-tenured senator in state history, trailing only the late John Marchi of Staten Island, who served 50 years, Senate officials said.

State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and fellow state Sens. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and Jack M. Martins (R-Old Westbury) were among those attending Sunday's wake, Whelan said.

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