Retired State Senator Bill Larkin, whose distinguished political career spanned nearly half a century, died Saturday at the age of 91.
His death was announced Sunday afternoon by his family.
“It is with a heavy but full heart that we announce our beloved Bill Larkin has passed away.," read a statement released by former Aide Brian Maher. "America and the State of New York have lost a dedicated public servant, soldier and statesman. Our family lost a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so much more. We appreciate your thoughts, prayers and best wishes. It is our hope that all of the people whose lives Bill touched in some way over the years will join us in celebrating his life over the coming days.
Larkin, who retired from public office on Dec. 31, 2018, had the distinction of being the last World War II veteran to serve in the New York State Legislature.
Larkin represented the 39th Districtin the New York State Senatefrom 1991 until his retirement in 2018; the district includes the Towns of Plattekill and Marlborough in Ulster County, eastern and central Orange County, and a small portion of northern Rockland County. ]He previously served as New Windsor town supervisor and as a member of the New York State Assembly.
His senate successor, James Skoufis, offered these thoughts on Sunday afternoon:
“Foremost, I extend my heartfelt condolences to Senator Larkin’s family, especially his beloved wife, Pat. He cherished his family above all else and would occasionally remind me, ‘happy wife, happy life,’ a reflection of his devotion and admiration for Pat. I’m deeply saddened for their loss.
“World War II and Korean War veteran; New Windsor Supervisor; state Assemblyman; and state Senator, Bill Larkin’s lifetime of service and unwavering dedication to our country will live on as an inspiration. May his memory be a blessing to the countless lives he touched.”
Among the highlights of his tenure:
- Passed the most sweeping veterans legislation in more than 30 years. The new laws increased the financial protections for families of U.S. service members.
- Sponsored and fought to have the Veterans Equality Act passed allowing ALL veterans to buy back up to three years of time while they were serving our country. Senator Larkin kept pushing this legislation and was unwavering in his support despite it being passed and vetoed two years in a row before eventually being signed by the Governor.
- Spearheaded the passage of the Compassionate Care Act, legalizing medicinal marijuana in New York State. This effort gained support after Senator Larkin raised the issue of how this treatment could help suffering children and veterans experiencing PTSD.
- Appointed to NYS Senate Heroin & Opioid Task Force, hosted public hearings which provided feedback from local experts and stakeholders leading to meaningful legislative action to address the epidemic head on.
- An ardent supporter of sportsman and the second amendment, voting against the New York State Safe Act and instead promoted common sense legislation and funding that would both protect our community and keep our schools safe.
- S Larkin served on countless committees during his time in the Assembly and Senate including Finance, Rules and Health.In the Assembly he served as Assistant Minority Leader Pro Tempore and in the State Senate served as Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Leader of House Operations.
- Sponsored and passed legislation that required Pulse Oximetry testing on all newborns. This legislation has been credited for saving the lives of countless newborns throughout the State of New York. Senator Larkin was named “Legislator of the Year” by the American Heart Association for his work.
- Delivered millions in capital funding for projects and infrastructure investments that have been shaping communities in the Hudson Valley for the past 40 years in parts of Orange, Ulster, Rockland and Sullivan counties:
- $40 million to establish SUNY Orange Campus in Newburgh.
- More than $10 million to build, maintain and enhance the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
- More than $100 million to support St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital.
- $1 million to refurbish existing education buildings on the campus of Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh.
- Secured over $2 million in funding for the Newburgh Armory Unity Center to ensure its adaptive re-use.
- Secured tens of millions over the last four decades to support local municipalities, nonprofit organizations and businesses looking to create jobs and provide workforce development training. Funding secured for these projects helped to ensure that local leaders avoided raising taxes on their own residents to pay for costly infrastructure improvements.
- When representing the City of Middletown, helped to establish the eventual home of Orange Regional Medical Center and advocated for the funding needed to ensure it exists today.
- Widely recognized by his colleagues both in New York State and nationally for his vast knowledge and expertise concerning the insurance industry, Senator Larkin was elected in 2001 as President of the Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) and headed this group for one year. In December, 2002, Senator Larkin was named one of the “100 Most Powerful People in the Insurance Industry in North America.”
- As a member of the Genesis Group, established the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, honoring the memory and service of nearly 2 million Purple Heart recipients across America.
- Launched the successful campaign to create the Purple Heart Forever Stamp, a process than took more than 10 years to complete.
- Bought the Newburgh Armory Unity Center for $1. Today nearly 100,000 children visit the Armory annually and take advantage of countless educational opportunities.
Larkin has received countless awards for local nonprofit organizations, businesses and community leaders for his steadfast service to his community.
Mount St. Mary College awarded Larkin an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for his outstanding service to his community, state and country.
In 2014, the United States Army presented Senator Larkin with its highest civilian award, the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, in recognition for his decades of services on behalf of veterans.
He is survived by his wife Patricia Kurucz Larkin and between them; they have eight children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 4th at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center in the William and Pat Larkin Education Center, 321 S. William Street, Newburgh, NY under the direction of Quigley-Sullivan Funeral Home of Cornwall-On-Hudson. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, September 5th at St. Thomas of Canterbury, 340 Hudson Street, Cornwall-On-Hudson, NY.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties and Nora Cronin Presentation Academy.