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Hundreds Come Out To Pay Respects For State Sen. Thomas Morahan

The line was out the door at Higgins Funeral Home in New City with people looking to remember the longtime political leader.

Madeline Buckley's most prominent memory of state Sen. Thomas Morahan, who died earlier this week after a six-month battle with leukemia, doesn't have anything to do with Morahan's time in politics.

For Buckley, who was friends with and went to St. Augustine's in New City with Morahan's daughter, Margaret, it comes from his ability to keep his cool in situations that might stress out others.

"I remember we splashed spaghetti sauce all over his walls, his newly painted walls," she said, laughing. "He was really calm about it and didn't seem mad at all. He was very tolerant."

Buckley was one of countless people to pay their respects Thursday during the calling hours for Morahan at Higgins Funeral Home on South Main Street in New City. The line to get in went not only out of the building, but stretched down the side of the funeral home.

Mourning continues at the funeral home today from 2 to 4 and 7 t0 9 p.m. and the funeral is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine's Church in New City, followed by a burial in St. Anthony's Cemetery in Nanuet.

Outside of the one food flinging incident, Buckley's memories of Morahan fall in line with mostly everyone else's.

"He was just a kind man," she said. "He always asked about how my family was doing, and even came to their services when they passed away. He didn't have to do that. He didn't know them too well. But that's just the kind of man he was."

Pat and Tom Shine, of Orangeburg, also reminisced about Morahan's kindness, as well as attentiveness.

"If you asked him something, he'd stand and listen to what you had to say," Tom said. "Even if he didn't agree, he would let you make your point."

The Shines' nephew, Michael, married Nancy, one of Morahan's seven daughters. The Shines were happy to have him in the family, even if they came from separate sides of the political aisle.

"Even though we're Democrats, we voted for him, and when Michael and Nancy asked, we were happy to put his signs on our lawn," Pat said. "He was a great man and did a lot for Rockland."

One group in Rockland that Morahan did a lot for was non-profit organizations. One such organization was the Volunteer Counseling Services of Rockland, a group formed in the 1970s to "provide hope and promote social justice for individuals, families and communities through counseling and community change," according to it's website.

"He really did a lot for the VCS and helped us out when we were in need of it," said VCS Executive Director Deborah Cary Murnion.

Morahan, along with some of his fellow elected officials, helped secure public funds for the renovation of the VCS building on South Main Street in New City. The renovations were made to the third floor back in 2006 after four years of planning, fund raising and construction. In renovating, the building got three new counseling rooms, a training room, additional office space and the entire building was made handicapped accessible.

"He really loved his family, and I think that's why he was great with non-profits," Murnion said. "He was just a caring man."

Another of the organizations Morahan helped out was the Rockland Community College Foundation, which seeks out donations from alumni and people in the community to improve the experience at RCC and set up scholarships. Morahan helped secure a grant for the RCC Foundation to set up a communications and marketing campaign.

Working with the RCC Foundation is just one of the places Lenore Buonocore knew Morahan from, where she is a past chair of the board of directors. She also knew him from his work with People to People.

"He was very dedicated to the people of Rockland," she said. "If there was an event around the county, he'd be there. He made his presence felt."

The last place Buonocore saw Morahan was at the opening of the Theresa Morahan Simmons Center for Children and Families at Rockland Community College, named for Morahan's youngest daughter, a first grade teacher at Richard P. Connor Elementary School in Suffern, who died in 2004 after complications from surgery.

"It just broke your heart to see how much he missed his daughter, even though they were honoring her," Buonocore said. "He couldn't even get up to speak because it was just too much for him."

It was partly that kind of passion from Morahan that led so many people to come out to pay their respects to him. And it wasn't just people who had professional or personal relationships with Morahan that came out. Plenty of people said they didn't really know Morahan at all, but wanted to come out to show their support for a man who had done so much for Rockland.

One such person was New City's Ray Botto, who was a fellow parishioner at St. Augustine's Church with Morahan, but didn't really know him too well.

"He was just a likeable guy," Botto said. "I admired the way he carried himself both as a legislator and as a person. I think you can tell I'm not the only one just by the number of people who came out pay their respects."

Morahan represented Rockland and parts of Orange County in the state Senate for the past decade. Previously, he was a member of the Rockland County Legislature and had served in the state Assembly.

At native of the Bronx and an Army veteran, Morahan worked for many years at New York Telephone and then Orange and Rockland Utilities. He had decided earlier this year not to seek re-election so he could focus on his work in the Senate and in fighting his illness.

Morahan was 78 years 0ld.

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