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Long-time Democratic chairman remembered

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MASSENA - A long-time Democratic chairman was remembered Tuesday for his contributions to the local political scene.

Walter V. Basmajian, 90, Massena, died Monday night, leaving a legacy that those who knew him say will live on.

“He was Mister Democrat. He knew the right people. He could pick up the telephone and call people in Albany. He had a great rapport with those people in the know and in power. He was never king, he was a king maker,” Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said.

“He was a great man. I used to refer to him as the Godfather of the Democratic Party in St. Lawrence County. Everybody knew him,” former state Democratic Committee Chairwoman June F. O’Neill said.

“He was the Democratic Party,” said Ernest J. LaBaff, Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers International Union president emeritus.

Mr. Basmajian, a 1941 graduate of Massena Central High School and Massena businessman who owned Basmajian Real Estate, became active in politics when he asked to take over the Democratic chairmanship. That tenure lasted 50 years and earned him the Silas Wright Award for outstanding service from the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee.

“I’m so proud that we honored him with the Silas Wright Award,” Ms. O’Neill said. “He leaves a great legacy. He’ll be missed by many people.” Calling hours will be held from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday and 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Phillips Memorial Home, Massena. Joint services will be held at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday for the American Legion Post 79, AmVets Post 4 and VFW Post 1142.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Massena, with the Rev. Kathyrn Boswell officiating. Spring burial will be in Pine Grove Cemetery, Massena.

Online condolences may be made to www.phillipsmemorial.com.

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