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Joseph Paolino, Jr: Words of Remembrance

Monday, February 08, 2016


Buddy Cianci, photos courtesy of Richard McCaffrey

I am honored to offer words of remembrance as we join to commemorate and celebrate the life of Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. I would like to thank Bishop Tobin and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Mayor Elorza, his staff, the Public Safety Departments of Providence, and the legions who came forward to participate and pay their respects to Buddy over the course of the past week, and today.

A year after leaving the White House, Teddy Roosevelt said the following:

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place in history shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Buddy was in the arena his entire life. As a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army, as a prosecutor for the Attorney General's Department, as Providence's longest serving Mayor and as a top-rated radio talk show host and television commentator. For 21 years he devoted his life to what he believed was the most worthy cause: propelling Providence to prominence. He did so often at the expense of his family, his relationships and his own health. Right from the start, everyone embraced him as their Buddy.

I have to admit - for a long time - I wasn't one of them.

We had a complicated history. In the early days, we were not friends. We didn't even like one another. We were opponents. We were rivals. And we relished it. Just as Buddy relished telling everyone that we were on a last name basis.

It's interesting how time heals old wounds and maturity leads to understanding what is important in life. In more recent years, Buddy and I realized that we shared a passion for the City of Providence in a unique way. There were many projects that he started as Mayor that I completed. Just as there were projects that I started and he completed. Most important of all, we shared a tremendous love for this great City and a vision of putting it on the road to fulfilling its potential.

When I left the Mayor's office to head the State's Department of Economic Development, Buddy, Governor Sundlun and I worked on bringing the Providence Place mall to fruition and traveled to Seattle together to attract Nordstrom as a prime anchor. Years later, Buddy went to Italy and visited former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn who was Ambassador to the Vatican. At that time I was Ambassador to Malta and Buddy also came to visit . We had a late night of wine, song and cigars. Justice Anton Scalia was with us. Our animosity was beginning to dissipate. As our friendship evolved, Buddy would sometimes talk about how he extended an olive branch by coming to visit me in Malta. I would kid him by saying he was just being nosy, to see what kind of house I was living in.

From then on, we were on a first name basis.

In 2002, when Buddy went away, mutual friends asked me to write to him. My question was simple: "What will I say? How is life at Fort Dix?" And they said, "Just keep him up to speed on current events and political gossip. Because coming from you, it will mean more because it will be unexpected." I thought that was good advice. And I took it.

It wasn't long before he asked me to visit him. My first visit went for seven hours but felt like 20 minutes. Buddy and I talked about family, Nicole, his grandchildren, his faith, and about common friends and foes. And of course we talked a lot about Providence. When I got to my car I just sat and reflected on the visit. I thought to myself, "This guy doesn't belong here. He has so much talent and it's being wasted."

There's a story that I need to tell that's classic Buddy. It happened in 2007, just months after his return. We had a meeting with Jane Rosenthal, who heads up Tribeca Film, with Robert DeNiro. The meeting was at her home in the Hamptons to discuss making a movie about Buddy. We took advantage of the terrific weather and arrived by boat. We were supposed to meet with Jane for a half hour. Our meeting lasted over two hours.

When we left Jane, she told us she was on her way to Matt Lauer's summer home to attend his annual summer bash. Buddy magically whipped out a jar of his marinara sauce and asked her to give it to Matt, whose career began in Providence. A few hours later my phone rang. It was Jane, saying that Matt wanted to talk to Buddy. Matt said he had 140 people in his backyard and he wanted to make it 142.

Matt hugged and doted on Buddy all night. Meredith Vieira hugged and kissed Buddy and reminded him that he went to Moses Brown with her brother. We then bumped into Jon Bon Jovi and Buddy reminded him that he presented him with a Key to the City when he performed at Waterplace Park years earlier. And then we bumped into Bryant Gumbel and Buddy reminded him that he spoke at the Providence College commencement when he was awarded an honorary degree. Then we see New York City Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, who was there with his girlfriend who's about a foot taller than he is. When I mentioned this to Buddy he immediately shot back with, typical Buddyism - "I don't think she cares that he's short." Then Regis Philbin spotted Buddy and reminded Him how nice he was to his daughter when she went to Brown, and they talked about their dinner together at Al Forno.

We went back to the boat and smoked a cigar, agreeing it was an amazing night. Buddy was truly surprised and humbled by how he was received. The following morning, while having coffee on the aft deck, I noticed that Buddy was just staring out over the water, reflecting. After a while he said to me, "Did last night really happen?" I said, "Yes, and people still love you."

Buddy could be likened to many historical greats:
He had the charm and charisma of John F. Kennedy.
He shared Teddy Roosevelt's love of the spotlight.
Like Mohammed Ali, Buddy always bounced back after a defeat. And similar to Frank Sinatra, Buddy had to do it HIS way.

If there is just one inspiration to be drawn from Buddy Cianci, the Mayor and the man, it is this, Every time Buddy suffered tragedy, trials, tribulations, or tears, he got back up. He had the tenacity to go against the establishment when it was necessary to do so. He wanted to define himself. And he defied and surmounted any challenges that stood in his way of creating a renaissance in Providence.

He was confident in the knowledge that he was supported and encouraged by so many and, most of all, his family.

Carol. You have forever been a constant in Buddy's life. You have always been there for him, as a sister and as his dearest friend. And you have the same elegance and loyalty of your mother, Esther. And John Turchetta. You were the brother he never had.

Olivia, your grandfather was so proud of you. He beamed when he told me that you were continuing in the family tradition of medicine, Your great-grandfather was a doctor and your two cousins Jay and Brad are doctors and now you are studying to be a nurse. And the way that you have taken care of your two younger brothers in their young lives prove that care-taking is your true calling.

Joey your grandfather was delighted that you were in college and wanting to pursue a career in real estate. I have a feeling I know where you will be interning this summer.

And Buddy totally adored his youngest grandson, Julius. He so much love it when you came on the boat and he would take you alone through NEWPORT Harbour on the mini speed boat ,bouncing on the waves and talking about the history of the city by the sea.

Nicole. What can we say about a life lost so young. I can tell you that she NEVER left Buddy's heart, While Buddy was away , he and his daughter Nicole bonded as never before. Through letters flying back and forth and constant visits they became one another's champions, and best friends.

Buddy softened during those years. He used that time to get deeper and more fully in touch with his faith. He was proud of growing up as a Roman Catholic and passionate about proclaiming his strong pro-life stance.

Speaking of close bonds. The most important one was with his family. Buddy's favorite time of the year was Christmas and he always made it a priority to have a big family gathering. It was also when he got to spend time with his three nephews, Jay, Todd, and Brad and his two nieces, Tamara and Holly, who he felt so close to - they were more than just nieces and nephews to him.

So it was fitting that Buddy proposed to Tara on Christmas Day, and that she said yes.

I was with Buddy when he first met Tara during the spring of 2014 and he said to me when we left, "You go over there and get her number for me." I told him, I'm not getting it...you go get the number yourself." A few days later he called me, all excited. He had arranged a date with the woman who would go on to be the light of his life. He had finally found someone he felt he could spend the rest of his days with. Tara, I'm sorry your time together was cut short.

For close to 15 years, like many of you, I was with Buddy through many of his life-changing experiences, good and bad. I was with him when he broke down over Nicole's death and experienced the worst nightmare of all, a parent burying a child. I was there when the doctors told him he had cancer. I witnessed firsthand his tears, his fears, and his triumphs. This was the private side of my friend Buddy.

For all of you who had the good fortune of working with Buddy at City Hall, WPRO, WLNE TV or elsewhere, Buddy always hoped that you felt empowered and capable of exceeding your own expectations. He was so proud of all that you achieved together and would be so pleased to know that you are still working for him today. Thank you for all your help this past week.

For all the citizens of Providence, he was humbled by the fact that you elected him to lead this city for 21 years.

When Buddy came back in 1990, his campaign slogan was "He Never Stopped Caring About Providence." Buddy. We hope that you are looking down today with pride, knowing that we, Providence, will never stop caring about you. Rest in peace my friend.


Related Slideshow: Community Leaders and Friends React to Cianci’s Death

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Rick Simone, President of Consulting Group EGN

"It's one of those days you wish you had more time to prepare.  It was 25 years of my life. I met him when I was only 17, as a young college kid to now, being able to call him my friend.  He changed everything about Providence -- the landscape of the city and state -- without even trying.  

Despite his personal and professional trials and tribulations, it didn't matter when he was your friend.  Talk about lessons -- he was the king of loyalty, and he taught you what that meant.  He said, 'You carry someone's bags to the end.'  I teach my kids and my friends that -- I'll never forget where I was when he said it, why he said it. He had a way of lifting people's morale"

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Ray Rickman, Former State Rep and Deputy Secretary of State

"It's what I've always said, Buddy was Providence's greatest mayor ever. Did he have some flaws?  Yes.  Doesn't everybody? No one should leave with, 'He was indicted and jailed'.  Yes he did that, but please don't forget PPAC, Providence Place Mall wouldn't exist without him, that Capital Center wouldn't look like it did.  I had a stick when I got off at the old train station because of the rats  There was no Waterfire. I was a volunteer for 20 years at West End Community Center-- Buddy built four or five of them -- it wasn't all downtown.  I was on the HRC, I had some problems with him there. He wasn't a perfect moral man, but who is? He has a hundred legacies." 

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Joseph Paolino, Former Mayor of Providence

"With this morning's passing of Providence's longest serving mayor, Vincent A. Cianci, Jr., the people of Providence and the City itself have lost its greatest champion. He gave his heart to Providence, and the city's energy and its very soul will always reflect his love and his brilliance in forging the Providence Renaissance.

Our thoughts and prayers are now with his family and his fiancée. As arrangements are made, more information will be released."

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Beryl Kenyon, Former Cianci Campaign Staffer

"Everyone is heartbroken and in a state of shock. Everyone who was fortunate to have worked with him, and witnessed his magic, his brilliance -- are completely heartbroken at this time." 


Photo courtesy of Facebook

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John Lombardi, State Representative and Former Interim Mayor

"In some ways he was a visionary, and in some ways he could be feisty and adamant in his ways. I had my political issues with him, but at the end of the day -- I respected him. I feel bad for his family and his fiancee.  I know the whole family. And Buddy and I had the same birthday - April 30."

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Paul MacDonald, President, Providence Central Federated Council

"I just found out, my breath was taken away. We don't have enough time to talk about Buddy -- he was incredible guy, there will never be another Cianci.  He was once in a lifetime.  Him and I, we had a love-hate relationship for years.  We'd fight from time to time, but yet we loved each other.  It was almost romantic.  We'd go through periods where we didn't talk to each other, and we both knew we wanted to.  I've got hundreds of labor stories about him.  He was rascal, he was my rascal.  I remained friendly with him.  Getting close to him was monumental task, but I'm one of the few who did."

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Leah Reels

I'm shocked and saddened to hear of Buddy’s passing. I was truly honored to be selected by the Legendary Honorable Mayor Buddy Cianci, to serve as his Co-Chair along side Councilman Kevin  Jackson. He was a polarizing figure to be sure, but I don’t believe there is anyone who did more for the city he loved. Providence is a far better place because of Buddy Cianci, and he will be truly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, fiancé Tara Marie Haywood, and friends. He inspired me and mentored me in so many ways. He will truly be missed! 

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Ray Flynn, Mayor of Boston

"I will miss my long time friend Buddy Cianci. He was a great Mayor to the City of Providence. I just spoke to him the other day about family, politics and Friar basketball. I was proud to stand with him in good times and the rough days as well. He often called Joe Paolino and me his two most loyal friends; which I was proud to be called. His visits to Rome, and our many meetings when we were mayors we're very special. We remained close friends. He did a lot to help the people of Providence and he will be deeply missed.”

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Artin Coloian, Former Cianci Chief of Staff

"He will be sadly missed.  My heart breaks for his family.  They've gone through quite a bit," said Coloian.  "His accomplishments will live on."

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 Kevin Jackson, City Council Majority Leader

"I can tell you for me, and my interactions with him, he truly loved the city, he had a vision, and he got things done.  We can debate that back and forth about his legacy -- but he pushed things through. 

People forget about the positive stuff. People forget about the sacrifices -- your family gets hurt.  You have that on your shoulders.  You have to give up so much."

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 Stephen Day, Former Head of the Providence Firefighters Union

"I think that what he did for Providence will be his legacy. He gave his heart and soul to the city.  He had his faults, as all humans do.  No one can question his love for the city and his personal mission to make it better.  

He will be missed, I knew the family well. Nicole had worked for me me.  Her children, his sister -- it's got to be tough for them.  You know like some families have matriarchs? He was the patriarch. 

History will judge him more kindly now that he passed -- i hope he finds peace that we all hope to find someday.  He was a smart guy, and witty -- I think his biggest downfall was that people saw much potential in him. He was a true genius."

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Luis Aponte, City Council President

“Today is a sad day as our city mourns the loss of its longest-serving mayor. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Mayor Cianci’s shadow looms large over the City of Providence. His brilliant mind, charisma, passion, and love for Providence are woven into his legacy. “

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Mark Curtis, Former ABC-6 News Reporter

"Buddy Cianci always talked about politicians needing to "have the fire in their belly" to run for public office. In April 2014 he got up on a chair at his 73rd birthday party, and gave one of the most rousing political speeches I'd ever heard. At that point, I knew he'd run for mayor, despite the cancer, and his colorful past. When he got up on that chair and at that age - in his medical condition - you just knew he still had "the fire is his belly" to run for office in the city so so loved - whether he ultimately won or not."

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Darrell West, Brookings Institution 

"Buddy Cianci was a larger than life figure who had a major impact on the city of Providence. He was the city’s biggest cheerleader when he was mayor and worked hard to push the area forward and renovate the downtown. A considerable part of Providence’s progress over the past few decades was due to Buddy’s vision and leadership. He helped the city get over the hump to a future that looks very promising.

The downside of Buddy was the behavior that led to his time in prison. That was a dark spot for him and the city as a whole. It produced lots of negative publicity for Providence and made it difficult to convince outsiders that the city had turned the page on its past. With Buddy, there always was the good and the bad sides."

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Taft Manzotti, Former Providence Police Union President

"He was man of controversy and conviction -- that's what I'll remember about him.  He had a vision of what the city wanted to be.  I had both sides of him, he was a difficult negotiator, but he liked people who stood up to him. There ware many sides to Buddy -- and that's how I remember him, and of course I'll remember Joe Rodio in dealing with him." 

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Joanne Giannini, Former State Rep and was Volunteer Coordinator for 2014 Campaign

"I've known him for 40 years -- I knew how much he loved the city.  I met him in '74 -- I was already working in City Hall, I was his secretary in the transition office.  I was young, I was 19, he was 33 -- full of vision, ambition.  When he came in, the city was asleep, and he woke it up.  

I had worked in City Hall for 27 years and then I became a State Rep and did a lot of work for the district, we did a lot of good things together -- Waterfire, the building of Providence, really -- the skating rink, the zoo was nothing until he became Mayor.  I worked this past election, we had 1,000 volunteers.  He still had the same vision that he wanted to make Providence not better -- he wanted it to be the best.  It's like an end of an era in Providence, there were so many supporters who valued his opinion.  We laughed, he argued, we had that type of relationship...I just feel it's such a loss.  He may have been have 74, but he was 33 at heart."

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Joseph McNamara, Rhode Island Democratic Party

"The Rhode Island Democratic Party joins fellow Rhode Islanders in offering deepest sympathies on the sudden passing of Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci to his fiancée, family and colleagues. 

His colorful personality, passion for living and dedication to all things political will long be remembered: his larger than life personality will be greatly missed. 

Buddy Cianci  was a true legend in Rhode Island, and he will leave a lasting mark on government, politics and his beloved capital city," 

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Mayor Jorge Elorza 

"Mayor Cianci's love for Providence was undeniable. My thought and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult Time. 

City flags will be flown at half-staff as the City makes arrangements to recognize Mayor Cianci's memory."

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 Nicholas A. Mattiello, Speaker of the House 

“We have lost a giant on the Rhode Island political landscape. Buddy Cianci moved the City of Providence forward with many impressive accomplishments. In his second career as a radio and TV host, he was an informative voice who engaged many Rhode Islanders in the political process. He will be deeply missed.”


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