NEW YORK (AP) — Generations of New York journalists and political leaders joined Jimmy Breslin's family Wednesday in celebrating the life of the pugnacious Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who championed the downtrodden and battled corrupt public officials for more than five decades.
Breslin, who died Sunday at age 88, was remembered as a peerless prose stylist whether he wrote about sports stars, gangsters or a bit player in a national tragedy.
Michael Daly, the Daily Beast correspondent who like Breslin was a longtime columnist at the Daily News, held up a New York City press pass and said, "Nobody ever brought more honor to this pass than he did."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recalled Breslin's long friendship with Cuomo's late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, dating to 1969 in Queens. He said that if his father were still alive, "He would say Jimmy was an artist and his pen was to paper what Picasso's brush was to canvas."
Cuomo said that as an 11-year-old boy, he found Breslin "just plain scary," echoing remarks by other speakers who described the gruff demeanor that belied Breslin's deep love for his family.
Breslin's son Kevin Breslin surveyed the packed pews at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Manhattan's West Side and said, "Thank you for coming because I'm not sure he would come here for any of us."
Breslin's widow, former City Council member Ronnie Eldridge, described their marriage in the same church 34 years ago as the union between a Jewish widow with three children and a Catholic widower with six children who "just seemed to get each other."
She said Breslin continued to write tirelessly in his later years although he never understood the internet and had trouble pulling up the latest version of a story on his computer.
"He never wanted to let a day go by without working," Eldridge said.
Breslin wrote more than 20 books as well as countless columns for the Daily News and other New York newspapers.
He covered President John F. Kennedy's funeral by interviewing the gravedigger, and he won a 1986 Pulitzer Prize for commentary that included a column that used one man's story to shine a light on the AIDs epidemic.
Breslin became part of a news story in 1977 when he received several letters from serial killer David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz.
Berkowitz said he found Breslin's column "very informative." Breslin called Berkowitz "the only killer I ever knew who knew how to use a semicolon."