A funeral service was held Thursday for former New York state Senator Bill Larkin, who died Saturday at age 91. He was the last World War II veteran in the state legislature.
Elected officials from the local level to Congress joined friends and family of longtime Senator Bill Larkin to pay their respects. Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who Larkin supported for re-election in 2014, called Larkin a friend.
“I’m very excited that the senator is going to be buried with full military honors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He did an enormous amount to support the Academy. He was an honorary graduate of the class of 1948, and a member of their association of graduates. It was a big priority for him. He hosted the cadets day in Albany every year where they could meet their representatives,” Maloney says. “And, of course, he was an extraordinary example of service in the military. This is a combat veteran of two wars, as someone who used to complain about his feet when we were doing events together, and I knew it was because he was still suffering the effects of frostbite from the Korean conflict.”
Democratic New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins:
“He was just always, no matter what, if he thought he could be of help, it was just never about what side of the aisle you were on, it was always about how can I help,” Stewart-Cousins says.
She said Larkin shared several stories with her, including about his service to President John F. Kennedy as Army Project Officer on the famous trip to Berlin in 1963. And he talked about providing security and protection for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on King’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery.
“He was always sharing his life stories and his wisdom because he understood, through it all, that we were just all people, and everybody wanted the same thing, and if we could help someone, we should,” says Stewart-Cousins.
Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus.
“He was a legend, and I think he’s an irreplaceable public official,” says Neuhaus. “I say that the guy was probably the most effective elected official we ever had.”
Larkin represented the 39th Senate District that includes parts of Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties. Again, Neuhaus.
“Even though he had a long life, just a big loss,” Neuhaus says. “And I was thankfully able to see him a week ago at the air show. His daughter came and grabbed me and I was able to have about 15 minutes of time with him. And I hadn’t seen him since I got back from Iraq so I’m so thankful I had that opportunity to at least say hello and, unfortunately, it was a goodbye at the same time.”
Larkin announced in May 2018 that he would not seek re-election. Former Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Democrat, won the race for the open Senate seat.
“No one could question his genuine interest and motivation on behalf of the people he represented. And that’s what made working with him really a joy when we were able to find common ground, especially on a lot of local issues. And he’s effective,” Skoufis says.
Larkin served nearly 40 years in the state Legislature, first in the Assembly from 1979-1990. Again, Congressman Maloney, of New York’s 18th District:
“Meeting Bill Larkin was like having your first glass of champagne. He was so much fun, and he took such joy in his work. And it’s because he loved the people he represented,” says Maloney. “And so I learned so much from him. We had such a great time together. I’d like to think we got a lot done for the people we represented. I know he did. And he taught me a lot, and I’m going to miss him.”
One of Larkin’s legacy accomplishments was helping to found the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor. And he initiated the campaign to create the Purple Heart Forever stamp. Larkin retired from the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. Republican New Windsor Assemblyman Colin Schmitt:
“Since I was a young child, I, when I first met Bill Larkin, I knew him my whole life. Everyone has those stories,” Schmitt says. “He went to my personal high school graduation party, just showed up, him and Pat, spent the whole time there with family and friends, would send me letters in the mail, with little trinkets or different things that he said, I thought of you Colin when I saw this or read this or this came into my office. And just, that personal touch that he had to a young man like myself, and I know that he replicated that over and over again in the district, it left a permanent impression in my life and I know thousands and thousands of lives here in the district and across the state and really across the nation.”
Pat is Larkin’s wife. The mass was held at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where Democrat Brendan Coyne is mayor.
“Bill was a resident of the village and he was extremely well respected, of course, by everyone who lived in the village,” Coyne says. “And, as mayor, I am happy to say that he was very good to me, especially in my early days of being mayor, we had some difficult times and Bill, as the story goes, went to his office and he immediately picked up the phone to the person I needed to talk to and set things straight, and it was smooth sailing from then on. So I am very grateful to Bill Larkin.”
A sentiment expressed repeatedly on Thursday.