CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hundreds showed up Friday morning to celebrate the life of former Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski.

Gorski died from Parkinson’s Disease at his home in Cheektowaga on July 4, an appropriate date, according to family members, for the longtime political icon.

He was 76.

Gorski was the first Democrat elected to the county’s top position in 1987, and served three terms, after his time on the Erie County Legislature and in the state assembly. His political career spanned three decades, and he was best known locally for bringing the world university games to buffalo, pushing for what’s now KeyBank Center, to keep the Sabers in town, and balancing budgets in difficult financial times.

Former Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello, who worked closely with the Kaisertown native, says Gorski was one of the most skilled politicians in the county’s history.

“He had the whole package. He was very smart, he was very disciplined, he was an unbelievably hard worker, and he led with his heart. And I think if I remember Dennis, and I spent a lot of time with Dennis in the state legislature and in this city and county, he was a terrific human being who always put the people of this county first,” said Masiello.

Gorski was also a marine veteran and served most recently as a Cheektowaga town court justice until 2018. As what was considered then a conservative democrat, Gorski drew favor from both sides of the political aisle.

He, and that particular trait, will be missed.

Dave Greber is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.