Joe Bruno was a lot of things: A boxer, a ice salesman, a businessman, a Korean War Veteran and, for 14 years, one of the most powerful men in New York state government.
He died Wednesday at his home in Brunswick, where he had lived the remainder of an upstate life that took him from a blue collar birth to the halls of power in state government.
Bruno's rise benefitted the district he represented, helping to steer what would become chip manufacturer Global Foundries to Saratoga County, about half an hour north of Albany. Without that help, Malta town Supervisor Darren O'Connor says his town would not be thriving today.
"We are what we are. We are in a very good position and we're in it to a large extent thanks to Senator Bruno," O'Connor said.
He took power as the majority leader in 1994, winning the job in a leadership coup that resulted in the ousted of Long Island Sen. Ralph Marino.
Bruno's largesse was shared with his Republican colleagues in Albany. Upstate New York benefitted along the way.
"Senator Bruno had a vision," O'Connor said. "His vision was to develop the Luther Forest Technology Campus. Without that vision, Malta is not the Malta that is today."
But Bruno also faced allegations of public corruption. He was convicted on two counts of fraud in 2009, appealed, and won. A retrial in 2014 led to an acquittal. Bruno in 2017 decried aggressive prosecutions.
"It is a horrible, horrible experience in my life," Bruno said in an interview with Spectrum News at the time. "From beginning to end it was nine years. Nine years."
Bruno could charm, but failed to win over enemies like Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The two feuded over control of the direction of state government and the power of the state Senate Republican majority.
In the end, it was Spitzer who would be booted from office before Bruno stepped aside.
A favorite hangout of his was Jack's Oyster House in Albany. Owner Brad Rosenstein recalled a larger than life figure who loved to order clams comfortable to speak with busboys like he was fellow power brokers.
"So many people loved him and they would come over to him and thank him for everything he did for the area," Rosenstein said, "and it was always a special occasion when he came in."