PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Buddy Cianci, the former mayor of Providence who presided over the city’s revitalization during two stints in office cut short by criminal charges and prison, returned to City Hall on Saturday, lying in repose outside the office he occupied for more than 21 years.
The colorful, long-serving mayor would likely say those were the best 21 years of his life.
“There’s no one that loved the city of Providence more than Vincent ‘Buddy’ Cianci,” former state Rep. Vincent Mesolella said. “He was the biggest cheerleader of the city that I can remember.”
Cianci died Jan. 28 at 74.
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At the start of his wake, the line of mourners stretched down the block outside City Hall as residents waited to pay their respects to Cianci. His casket, surrounded by sprays of red roses, was guarded inside by members of the Providence police and fire departments.
Former Mayor Joseph Paolino, Cianci’s close friend and onetime bitter political rival, said many dignitaries had stopped by, including former Mayor Angel Tavares, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and current Mayor Jorge Elorza, to whom Cianci lost a 2014 comeback bid for mayor.
“Everybody’s sad, and at the same time, we all know how appreciative he would be for the outpouring of support,” Paolino said.
The Rev. Giacomo Capoverdi of Immaculate Conception Church in Westerly presided over a private homily attended by Cianci’s friends and family, including his fiancee, Tara Marie Haywood. Capoverdi, who worked briefly as an aide to Cianci in 1991, praised Cianci’s revitalization of the city.
“I always said to myself, ‘When I become a priest, I want to do for my parish what Buddy did (for Providence),'” Capoverdi told reporters later.
The Republican-turned-independent presided over the revival of Providence from a decaying, Industrial-age relic to a 21st-century city during his six terms as mayor. He was forced from office twice: in 1984 after pleading no contest to assaulting a man he believed was sleeping with his ex-wife and again in 2002 with his conviction in a federal investigation into widespread corruption at City Hall.
After serving 4 1/2 years in prison, he resumed a career as a radio talk-show host and TV commentator. He was filming his TV show when he was overcome with abdominal pains and rushed to the hospital. He died the following morning.
Cianci’s cause of death hasn’t been released. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and surgery. Despite the cancer diagnosis, he tried a comeback campaign for mayor in 2014.
Cianci’s funeral will be held Monday.
Flags at City Hall have been at half-staff since Cianci died. Flags at state buildings were lowered Saturday and will remain at half-staff through the funeral.