MILWAUKEE (AP) – Former Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey was remembered Monday as a great family and religious man who helped the state and the Democratic party.
Lucey, who also ran for vice president of the United States as an independent in 1980, died May 10 after a brief illness. Lucey was elected governor in 1970 and won re-election in 1974, but left midway through his second term to serve as then-President Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Mexico.
“We have but to read the accounts of his life in the major papers across the country to know the justice that he did,” said his brother, Rev. Gregory Lucey, who spoke during the funeral Mass on Monday at Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee.
In Wisconsin, Lucey is credited for pushing to merge the University of Wisconsin in Madison with the state college system, a fierce battle that created today’s system of 13 four-year state colleges. He was also responsible for breaking the all-male dominance of the state’s high court when he appointed now-Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to it in 1976.
He was elected to the state Assembly in 1948 and became executive director and later chairman of the state Democratic Party. He served as lieutenant governor in 1966.
Rev. Lucey said his brother recently said “with a slight embarrassment” that John F. Kennedy told him he wouldn’t have been elected president if not for Lucey’s help as state party chairman in 1960.
“Despite his great achievements, he was a humble man of faith,” he said.
He recalled his brother once telling him he forgot to go to Mass.
“He said ‘In my 92 years I don’t think I ever missed Mass,” he said. “I assured him with that record or even without that record, the Lord would readily understand.”
Among the dignitaries who attended were Gov. Scott Walker and former Wisconsin governors Martin Schreiber, Scott McCallum, Tommy Thompson and Jim Doyle.
Thompson, a Republican, called Lucey a friend and credited him with expanding the Democratic Party. He built a “tremendous organization, much to my chagrin and all Republicans,” he said.
Doyle said Lucey was one of his father’s closest friends and godfather of his sister.
“As great a leader as he was, he was an even better man,” Doyle said.
Lucey’s son Paul told the audience his father was uncomfortable with emotion, once responding “thank you” to his now-late wife after she said she loved him. He was better at showing love through actions, he said.
“On behalf of his children and his grandchildren and all those he touched: we thank you and we love you,” he said. Then he added, referring back to his father’s response to his mother: “You’re welcome,” and the audience laughed.