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Flags Flown At Half-Staff In Honor Of Former Governor, Mario Cuomo

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mario Cuomo's son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, directed Friday morning that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff in honor to remember his late father.

As CBS2 reported, Governor Cuomo will delay his State of the State Address two weeks as he deals with the death of his father.

Mario Cuomo died of heart failure at the age of 82, 32 years to the day after he first took the oath of office.

Remembering Former Governor Mario Cuomo

PHOTOS: Remembering Gov. Mario Cuomo

The elder Cuomo served as New York state governor for three terms, from 1983 to 1994. He previously served as New York secretary of state and lieutenant governor.

Mario Cuomo was born June 15, 1932. As 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported, Cuomo was proud of being a grocer's son, and said he learned his best life lessons from his parents' hard work in Jamaica, Queens.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Mario Cuomo originally aimed for a career on the baseball field, batting .244 in 1952 during his one season as an outfielder for a Pittsburgh Pirates minor league team.

"This man was dynamic, articulate, courageous. He could have been the president of the United states he was that great," former New York governor David Paterson said.

But the son of humble Italian immigrants opted to remain in the Empire State, his reluctance earning him the title of "Hamlet on the Hudson."

CBS2's Kramer spent years covering the former Governor and got a look at the Mario Cuomo that few ever saw.

"I never roller skated, I never ice skated, never had a bike, never went skiing. I learned to play basketball and baseball, mostly on my own and later on football. Nobody ever taught me the social graces," he said during a 1994 interview.

The man whose prose was like poetry had a deep curiosity about philosophy, and learned to read by picking up books at the junkyard. His hero was a Jesuit theologian, Pierre Theilhard De Chardin.

"I learned about lesbianism, the Well Of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall," he said.

Cuomo didn't like to deviate from his business suits and carefully knotted ties, but every once in a while he'd don a dashiki or a funny hat.

The day after he won his first governor's race he jogged and spoke about taking on then President Ronald Reagan.

"I will be a voice here, now to correct the President's policies and bring more justice for the people who living in our state, who are disproportionately old, weak, women, small business, all the people who are hurt by Reaganomics," he said.

Cuomo was a progressive, decades before Bill de Blasio made it the watchword of his mayoralty. It was that vision that inspired generations to take up public service.

"He was able to marry morality and politics in an interesting way to convince people they could do things," Political Consultant Hank Sheinkoph said.

Gov. Cuomo paid tribute to his beloved father, speaking about his dad during his second inauguration Thursday afternoon.

"We stayed at my father's house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer," Gov. Cuomo said.

The former three-term governor was too ill to leave his east side home, but was there in spirit.

"He couldn't be here physically today, my father, but my father is in this room. He's in the heart and mind of every person who's here. And his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what brought this state to this point," he said.

As CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported, the father-son duo had been a show of political royalty in New York, last appearing on the public stage together in November on Election Night as they had done so many times before.

In June 2013, a very proud Gov. Cuomo helped unveil his father's portrait inside the state capitol's Hall of Governors.

"We were missing just one portrait from a famously shy governor still unwilling to sit for a portrait, considering it an act of indulgence, God forbir," Gov. Cuomo said.

He said the artist had to create the painting from pictures, because Mario Cuomo refused to sit to have the portrait done.

Flags Flown At Half-Staff In Honor Of Former Governor, Mario Cuomo

As 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported, it was Queens where Mario Cuomo made his name, thrusting himself into the political spotlight.

Mario Cuomo was known as a fierce advocate of the democratic issues of his generation and on Friday, politicians on both sides of the aisle honored the former governor.

"He was always extremely intelligent and police. It was a privilege anytime being with him," Rep. Peter King said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Mario Cuomo was the voice of conscience.

"Mario was one of the great giants of our generation, politically and one of our most intelligent and honest members of the political profession," former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, told 1010 WINS Friday.

"I disagreed with him on 70 percent of the issues, but always found I could talk to him about it, always found that we could talk to each other and at least I could understand the reasons for his position," Giuliani added.

"He rose to the pinnacle of political power because he believed in New York, he believed in America and he believed in the potential of every individual," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

President Obama also released a statement saying, "An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service and we are all better for it."

Funeral arrangements are pending for the former governor.

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