Longtime State Senator William Larkin Dies at Age 91

Real Estate In-Depth | September 2019

Former New York State Senator William Larkin

CORNWALL, NY—Longtime New York State Senator William Larkin, who served the people of Orange County, New York State and the nation for three quarters of a century in the military and political arenas, passed away at the age of 91 surrounded by his family at his home here on Aug. 31.

The senator announced his retirement from the New York State Senate (District 39) in May 2018 and served until the end of 2018.

Larkin was born in Troy, NY on Feb. 5, 1928 and was raised by his aunt and uncle, Kathleen and Connie Koch. He volunteered for the draft and entered service in 1944 at the age of 16. Senator Larkin saw combat in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II and then served in combat in the Korean War. Twenty-three years of exemplary service took him from Private to Lieutenant Colonel at his retirement in 1967 with the Legion of Merit and seven Army Commendation medals.

During his combat service he received seven Battle Stars, one for World War II and six for Korea. He often spoke with pride of his service to President John F. Kennedy as Army Project Officer on the famous trip to Berlin in 1963. Another career highlight was providing security and protection for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his historic march from Selma to Montgomery, AL. He always treated the men under his command by applying his own version of the motto Duty, Honor and Country by adding the word Respect. To this day he was in contact with men he served with throughout his military career. Many years after his retirement he was awarded the Army’s highest civilian award, the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service in recognition of his tireless service on behalf of veterans and substantial contribution to the accomplishments of the Army’s mission. In addition, the New York State Senate awarded Senator Larkin the first New York State Senate Veterans Leadership Award for his work on behalf of New York’s veterans.

Following his retirement from active duty Senator Larkin served for more than 40 years in the New York State Legislature, having served in the Assembly from 1979-1990. He was first elected to the New York State Senate in November 1990, prior to that he served as an Executive Assistant in the New York State Senate, and from 1976-1977 was Supervisor of the Town of New Windsor.

Widely recognized among his colleagues both in New York State and nationally for his vast knowledge and expertise about the insurance industry, Senator Larkin was elected in November 2001, as president of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. NCOIL is a bipartisan organization of state legislators from the 50 states whose primary area of public policy is insurance. In 2002, Senator Larkin was named one of the “100 Most Powerful People in the Insurance Industry-North America”.

The Purple Heart Medal, our nation’s oldest military award was the focus of what the senator considered two of his most important legacy accomplishments. He is a charter member of the prestigious four-man Genesis Group, which founded the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor located in New Windsor, NY. Senator Larkin also initiated the campaign to create the Purple Heart Forever Stamp. Both of these efforts took over a decade to complete and would not have been possible without Senator Larkin’s unwavering tenacity and patriotism.

Senator Larkin was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh for his service to his community, state, and country. He is a member of the Catholic War Veterans, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans, and an honorary member of the West Point Society of New York. He is a long-standing member of the Orange County Citizens Foundation and a recipient of the prestigious Ottaway Medal.

Senator Larkin and his wife Patricia Kurucz McGuirk Larkin, a retired teacher from the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, share eight children and 17 grandchildren.

His survivors include his wife, Patricia Kurucz McGuirk Larkin, and children, Janet Stivers (Dan), William Larkin (Nancy) and Patricia Winters (Jim), J.P. McGuirk, Mary McGuirk, Jennifer McGuirk, Patricia Rivers and Anne (Gene) Duignan. Additionally, he is survived by 17 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, who brought great happiness to his life.

Sen. Larkin was praised by business leaders and politicians from both sides of the aisle. “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Larkin—a decorated war hero who dedicated over 70 years of his life to public service, including over 40 years in the State Legislature,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated. “He was a constant force for good, including when he guarded Martin Luther King, Jr. during his storied march from Selma to Montgomery. Senator Larkin led by example every day of his life and was an inspiration to me and countless others who wanted nothing more than to serve the people of this great state and nation.

“Senator Larkin began his lifetime of public service by serving in combat during World War II, and it continued during the Korean War and 23 more years of service in the United States Army. We owe him and his family the greatest debt of gratitude for his heroism and tireless devotion to our country,” the governor added.

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus also praised the former State Senator for his 75 years of dedicated service.

“Senator Larkin will be remembered for his lifelong dedication to public service,” Neuhaus said. “He proudly served his country in the military and went on to just as proudly serve his community in the State Assembly and as Senator. He was a dedicated advocate for his constituents, especially veterans, military personnel and their families. Senator Larkin was tough, but also fair-minded and compassionate. His long and well-respected career was highlighted by, among other things, his class and grace. I’m deeply saddened by his passing and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Ann Garti, former CEO of the Orange County Association of Realtors and the current COO of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said of Sen. Larkin, “What I loved and respected most about Bill was his ability to ‘work across the aisle’ and get things done for his constituents even when he had to diverge from his party.”

She continued, “He was a good friend to the real estate community and I felt privileged that he considered me a friend, as well.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5th at St. Thomas of Canterbury, 340 Hudson St., Cornwall-On-Hudson. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties and Nora Cronin Presentation Academy.