Bruce Sundlun Dies at 91: Rhode Island Remembers
Friday, July 22, 2011
GoLocal spoke with a number of Rhode Islanders who shared public life with Bruce Sundlun. They shared their reflections, as the night lengthened, about the larger-than-life man who had such a long and lasting impact on life in his home state.
"He was a very vibrant man," former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino told GoLocalProv. "There aren't too many people who can be a governor, a successful businessman and a war hero and be such a wonderful individual. He never complained and never explained. I just wish we had more people like him that weren't afraid to make decisions."
Paolino was with Sundlun the night before he died. "I saw him and his family last night and told him, 'I want a recount.'"
Steve Rosa, CEO of the advertising/marketing firm AddVentures, is one of dozens of professionals who cut their professional teeth working for Sundlun's campaigns and staffs. "My first job after college was on Bruce's first campaign for Governor," he says. "I traveled the entire State with Bruce trying to help him transition from the board room to voters' living rooms. That was not easy for Bruce. I remember going to inner-city functions and he would wear suits that cost more than the cars that people in the audience drove.
To help him "relate to the common man," Rosa convinced Sundlun to swap his Jaguar for the young man's 1972 Buick Le Sabre. "But that sweet deal was short-lived," Rosa recalls. "We bought an official campaign mini-van soon thereafter."
Rosa sounds a note common to those who worked for Sundlun, whether in private or public life. "To this day Bruce was the most demanding person I ever worked for," he says. "Not one to suffer fools gladly, he placed tremendous demands on all who worked for him. He demanded perfection in an imperfect world and wouldn't settle for less. He taught me to be fearless in business and fight for what I believed in."
"Bruce Sundlun governed with sheer force, will-power and strength saving Rhode Island and pulling our state out of a time of great peril," says Terry Donilon, Sundlun's former Press Secretary for Governor Sundlun and currently Secretary for Communications for the Archdiocese. "His commitment to ethical government, honesty and integrity shaped those who worked for him. His style was unconventional and at times maddening for many, but he loved Rhode Island and he cared deeply and passionately about making our state a better place where people could live, work and raise a family. My experience with Bruce prepared me for every job and challenge I have faced since. I am indebted to him and join all of Rhode Island in honoring his memory."
Frank McMahon, the founder of Advocacy Solutions and Governor Sundlun's former Deputy Chief of Staff, added with a heavy heart, he told GoLocalProv, "my voice to the chorus of people remembering Governor Bruce Sundlun on the occasion of his passing."
"All of us have our favorite Bruce Sundlun story and I am no exception," McMahon said. "There is one thing about Bruce Sundlun, however, that may not be spoken about - and that was his undying loyalty to those of us who were lucky enough to work for him during his time as Governor."
"I owe Bruce Sundlun a debt of gratitude for placing his trust in a cocky 25 year old back in 1988. He coached and mentored me, and he played a large part in shaping me into the adult that I am today. A couple of years ago I sent Governor Sundlun a letter in which I thanked him for helping to lay the foundation upon which I have built my career. Within minutes of him reading the letter he called me on the telephone and told me how much he had appreciated the thoughts that I shared with him. My last encounter with Governor Sundlun was just a few short weeks ago. The General Assembly Session was winding down and as I made my way into the State House I saw him coming through the Rotunda and down the stairs towards the front entrance. I stopped and he greeted me with a hand shake and his signature slap on the shoulder. We spoke for several minutes and I mentioned to him that RI needed him back. He laughed and wished me well."
"Governor Sundlun’s legacy is larger than life," McMahon adds, "and his impact on each of us certainly doesn't end with his death. I will remember him, and honor his work, through my own - and I know that the same is true for all of my colleagues.May he rest in Peace.
And putting it in the tidiest, most appropriate language, former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci: "He was my friend. He was a legend. Rhode Island is going to miss him. He was somebody who fought for the little guy, a fighter for the underdog. We worked together on relocating the rivers and building the mall. He was a good friend."
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.