Former Capital Region Senator Joseph Bruno Passes Away at 91

Photo: Getty Images

A man with a long political legacy in the Capital Region and New York has died after battling cancer.

Joseph Bruno has died at the age of 91. Bruno served as a state senator for decades before becoming Senate Majority Leader in 1994. It was a post he held for over a decade before he left office in 2008 and began defending himself against federal charges alleging he had been politically corrupt.

In 2009 he was convicted of two charges but those verdicts were later reversed following a change in the interpretation of the law based on a Supreme Court ruling. In 2014 he was acquitted on two other counts.

WGY will have more reaction to the death of Joe Bruno throughout the day.

Here is the official obituary for Joseph Bruno released Wednesday morning:

"Senator Joseph L. Bruno, the venerable and charismatic former New York State Senate Majority Leader who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most prominent and effective leaders in New York State history, passed away peacefully on October 6 at his Brunswick home, surrounded by his loving family. He was 91. 

Having learned to box as a kid to defend himself from bullies and continuing to knock around a heavy bag even in his senior years, Bruno’s underdog persona led him to fight hard for the growth of New York State and the Capital Region throughout his lifetime. Numerous Capital Region buildings are named for the Senator who became affectionately known as “Uncle Joe,” including the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats, a minor league baseball team.

The son of immigrants, Bruno grew up in Depression-era Glens Falls, New York, making ends meet by selling ice off a truck, including during his years as a college student at Skidmore College. He served in the United States Army in Korea, and as the leader of the Senate Republicans in New York, joining Gov. George E. Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as the powerful “three men in a room.” During his 14 years in the Senate, he forged coalitions, achieved compromises, and brought together feuding legislative factions for the common good.

Before being elected to the New York State Senate in 1977 and later becoming Senate Majority Leader in 1994, Bruno served on the campaign staff of Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1966), was special assistant to speaker of the assembly Perry B. Duryea (1969-1975), president of the New York State Association of Young Republicans (1968-1969), and Chairman of the Rensselaer County Republican Committee (1974-1977). 

Representing Rensselaer and Saratoga counties, and thinking in terms of the entire Capital Region, he focused on economic development and job creation, improving the lives of millions before announcing in 2008 that he was stepping down from politics. Working with state leaders, he was instrumental in attracting major technology firms to the Capital Region.

He was a man ahead of his time. Bruno, a highly astute and successful businessman, knew the world was dramatically changing. He became the architect of efforts to lure AMD, later to evolve into GlobalFoundries, to the Luther Forest Tech Park in Malta, setting the stage for the creation of thousands of jobs in construction and operation of the semiconductor foundry.  

In 2002, he unveiled a bold and comprehensive new plan, Generating Employment Through New York Science, or Gen*NY*sis, that brought new life science industries to the state and make New York an undisputed leader in research and development of applied life sciences technology. 

Knowing that the Capital Region was on the precipice of becoming a focal point for technology, Bruno renovated and reenergized the transportation hubs at Albany International Airport and the Rensselaer Train Station.

During his 32 years in public service, Bruno provided critical state funding to establish and support: the University at Albany’s Center for Environmental Science and Technology, a parking garage at Hudson Valley Community Center, a cancer research center at UAlbany’s East Campus Center for Bioengineering and Medicine at Rensselaer, the JOBS Now program to attract and retain large-scale employers, the expansion of the Saratoga Springs City Center Convention Hall, RPI’s Microelectronics Semiconductor Research Corporate Center, new biomedical research laboratories at Albany Medical College, infrastructure upgrades for the Target Corp. distribution center in Wilton, the J. Spencer & Patricia Standish Library at Siena College, waterfront improvement projects along the Hudson River, the pediatric unit at Albany Medical Center, emergency room renovations at Saratoga Hospital and GE Healthcare, along with hundreds of other projects that changed the face and the fate of upstate New York.

Bruno once said, “During my most challenging times in my life the most helpful thing I could do was to repeat to myself a poem I remembered: I am sore wounded but not slain. I will lay me down and bleed a while, and then rise up to fight again.”

He is survived by his children, Joseph, Susan, Kenneth, and Catherine, and his longtime partner Kay Stafford. He leaves behind his beloved grandchildren, Rachel, Nicholas, Richard, Elizabeth, Anna, Victoria, and Aiden, and his greatgrandchild Alessandra, as well as his sister Florence and his four brothers Vitaliano, Arthur, Tony, and Robert, and many nieces and nephews. Joe was predeceased by his devoted wife of 58 years Barbara Bruno, his Sister Rose DelSignore, and his brother Peter.

To honor his life and his many accomplishments, the family will be celebrating a Funeral Mass at St. Pius X in Loudonville at a time to be determined. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Mass will be streamed live on the St. Pius X Facebook page. Friends and those wishing to celebrate his life are encouraged to participate in the Mass online at the following web address: If for some reason the link doesn’t work, please go to St. Pius’s Facebook page at: In addition, the New York State Senate will be web casting the Funeral Mass in a Hearing Room in the Legislative Office Building to be determined.  On the way to the Mass, Bruno will be driven past “The Joe” for one final trip to the stadium that he loved to visit and looked forward to throwing out the first pitch of the season on many occasions. Upon conclusion of the Mass, he will be driven past the New York State Capitol on the way to his final resting place at Oakwood Cemetery for a private burial service."

In 2016, WGY's Chuck and Kelly spoke with Joe Bruno about his book. Listen below.

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