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Buddy Cianci, the wisecracking politician who led Providence during a turbulent and troubled six terms as mayor, was remembered during his funeral Monday as a visionary leader and skilled promoter of his city who relished the political arena.
Cianci's criminal activity, which forced him from office twice, was mentioned only obliquely at the funeral, attended by about 500 people.
Former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino recalled a complicated history with Cianci. Paolino referred to Cianci's 1990 campaign slogan: "He never stopped caring about Providence."
"Buddy, we hope you are looking down today with pride, knowing that we, that Providence, will never stop caring about you," Paolino said.
Paolino succeeded him as mayor in 1984, after Cianci pleaded no contest to assaulting a man he believed was sleeping with his ex-wife. He used a fireplace log, ashtray and lit cigarette and was aided by a city police officer.
The Republican-turned-independent then won the office back in 1990 before being brought down again in 2002 with his conviction for racketeering conspiracy.
Paolino recalled a seven-hour visit with Cianci in prison and remembered thinking: "This guy doesn't belong here. He has so much talent, and it's being wasted."
The procession and funeral took place during a driving snowstorm, and the Rev. Bernard Healey joked that Cianci was still keeping an eye on the city's response.
"He's finding out which streets haven't been plowed yet and which streets will never be plowed," Healey said.
Earlier, police officers and firefighters lined the steps of City Hall as the former mayor's casket was removed from the building. It was taken through the city streets by horse-drawn carriage to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.
A bagpiper and police led the carriage. Mourners walked slowly alongside, followed by Cianci's family in a limousine.
Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin presided over Cianci's funeral. Afterward, a hearse drove Cianci's body through one of his favorite neighborhoods, Federal Hill, where dozens of people lined the streets to say goodbye as he left the city for the last time.
"This has got Buddy's fingerprints all over it. We think this is what he'd want. Bigger is always better," said Cianci's nephew, Brad Turchetta. If Cianci had his way, Turchetta said, "he would want it broadcast in 46 countries."
Cianci died Jan. 28 at age 74. He served 21 years in office and was the city's longest-serving mayor.
Since his death, Cianci has been remembered as one of America's most colorful and skilled politicians, who became known nationally for one-liners, endless TV appearances and his own brand of pasta sauce. But he also is known for presiding over years of widespread corruption.
Cianci's cause of death still has not been released, but he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and surgery.
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