Jan 5, 2015 4:15 PM
Hundreds line up for wake of ex-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) Hundreds of mourners waited outside a funeral home Monday in a line that stretched more than a block to pay their respects to former three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died just hours after his son was sworn in for his second term.
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in a motorcade late Monday afternoon. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, actor Alan Alda and former state Comptroller Carl McCall were also among the prominent arrivals at Cuomo's wake on Madison Avenue.
Inside, Cuomo's casket was draped with the state's flag, and his widow, Matilda, stood by it. Flower bouquets and wreaths of roses were all over the main chamber, along with photographs telling Cuomo's life story, from a black-and-white image of him as a younger man playing stickball on his native Queens streets to Cuomo holding a Wheaties cereal box with his image on it.
Cuomo, 82, died in his Manhattan home on Thursday evening, hours after his son Gov. Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term. The governor spoke Saturday for the first time publicly about his father's death, saying, "There is a hole in my heart that I fear is going to be there forever."
Tired and tearful, Matilda Cuomo still managed smiles after four hours of greeting mourners. "He's up there, telling God what to do. He's working with God now," she said.
Lynda Rufo, a banker lined up outside the funeral home, said her daughter was finishing law school because of Cuomo's encouragement.
"He was a part of New York," Rufo said. "He always took the time to be there for everyone, no matter who you were or where you came from. He loved people."
Schumer described Cuomo as "an amazing guy" who found ways to bring opposing sides together.
Asked about his legacy, Schumer said, "At a time when people didn't have hope in New York and in the country in a lot of ways, he provided it."
Paul Amelio, a friend of the family, said, "The length of this line is surprising but not for Mario. How many politicians can you say so many great things about? He did so much for the capital of the world, New York."
Cuomo's funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were expected to be among the attendees.
Andrew Cuomo postponed his State of the State address, scheduled for Wednesday, until Jan. 21.
Exuberant and eloquent, Mario Cuomo's most memorable national moment came at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Cuomo challenged Ronald Reagan's description of America as "a shining city on a hill" by delivering a keynote address titled "A Tale of Two Cities" about a country split between haves and have-nots.
Bill de Blasio used the same words when campaigning and winning New York City's mayoral race last year. The mayor said all flags in the city would be at half-staff in Cuomo's honor for 30 days.
Mario Cuomo's "A Tale of Two Cities" came from personal experience. He was the son of an Italian immigrant father who struggled to make ends meet. Cuomo, whom some called a Roman Catholic kid from Queens, never forgot his background.
He once called politics "an ugly business" and never ran for president, as some Democratic leaders pushed him to do in 1988 and 1992.