LD39 Senator Gerald Cardinale Passes Away

Longstanding Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato will have a senate hearing this month regarding his appointment to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA).

LD39 State Senator Gerald Cardinale has passed away at age 86.  He was the longest-serving member of the Senate Republican caucus, and one of the longest-serving Senators, having first been elected to the Assembly in 1980, and then the Senate in 1982.

Cardinale’s obituary can be found here; Insider NJ editor Max Pizarro’s tribute to the Senator can be found here.

The Senate GOP released the following:

‘It is with deepest sadness and grief that we share the heartbreaking news that long-serving State Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-39), passed away this morning at Pascack Valley Hospital after a brief illness (not Covid-related). He was 86 years old.

Senator Cardinale faithfully served the 39th district for 42 years. He is the second longest serving Senator in New Jersey history.

He will be remembered for his wit, political acumen, devotion to family and friends, and a deep and abiding love for his state and country. He celebrated his Italian heritage in many ways with his love of Italian food and the occasional grappa.’

Said longtime associate and State Assemblyman Robert Auth:

“Gerry was one of the best politicians I’ve ever seen. There was never a hand he did not want to shake, a door he did not want to knock on, or a train station where he did not want to greet commuters with a smile. He was my mentor and close friend. It will be a long time before we see another public servant like Gerry Cardinale who had guts, commitment and passion for his constituents. He worked hard every day to earn the trust of the residents of the 39th district and maintain his connection to the people of New Jersey.”

Born in New York City in 1934, Gerald Cardinale received a B.S. Degree in Chemistry from St. John’s University and earned a DDS from New York University College of Dentistry in 1959. Aside from his long political career, Senator Cardinale was a Dentist by profession. He served as Mayor of Demarest, NJ from 1975 – 1979, before his career in the NJ State Senate, he spent one term in the NJ Assembly from 1980 – 1981.

He leaves behind his devoted wife Carole Cardinale of 62 years and 5 children. A lifetime practicing Catholic, Senator Cardinale was a member of the parish of Saint Joseph, Demarest New Jersey.

Assemblywoman Schepisi, who was challenging Cardinale in the GOP primary, said “It is with deep sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of my friend and longtime colleague Senator Gerald Cardinale who had been battling an illness. Gerry was a well respected and revered Senator for nearly forty years, fighting for our community and working to make New Jersey a better place to live, work, and retire. I was fortunate to work with him for nearly a decade and will miss his friendship, principled leadership in Trenton. We have lost an icon in our state. Paul and I and our entire family send our love and support to his family, especially his wife Carole and children, during this difficult time.”

Governor Murphy said “Tammy and I are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Gerry Cardinale, a true public servant. Senator Cardinale’s 54-year record of public service to the state of New Jersey speaks to the level of trust his constituents placed in him. Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and colleagues in the Legislature. All flags will be lowered to half-staff on Monday when the Senate returns to session.”

Senate Minority Kean said “Our Senate Republican family is deeply saddened by the passing of our longest serving member, Senator Gerald Cardinale.

“Gerry, the dean of our caucus, was a trusted voice in the Senate for nearly four decades. Generations of Republicans and Democrats who served alongside him in the Legislature were guided by his sage advice. We are all better legislators for having served with him.

“Please join us today in praying for Gerry and his family. Rest in peace, Senator, and thank you for everything you have done for New Jersey.”

Speaker Coughlin said  “I am deeply saddened to learn that Senator Cardinale has passed away.

“Gerry was a well-respected legislator for over four decades. He was known for his diplomacy, tact, passion and integrity. He will be greatly missed. His passing is a loss for the Legislature, his constituents and most importantly his family.

“I offer my deepest condolences to Gerry’s wife of 62 years, Carole, his five children and the entire Cardinale family.

“May he rest in peace.”

Senate Majority Leader Weinberg said “I join with many others today in mourning the death of my long-time colleague, Senator Gerry Cardinale. While we disagreed on many issues, we found common interest and purpose when it came to serving the people and institutions of North Jersey and Bergen County, whether regarding infrastructure and mass transit, or supporting the preservation of New Bridge Landing, in which we worked together with a mutual respect for the history of Bergen County and the state of New Jersey.

“I can safely say the only time I ever allowed him a proxy vote was when he was selecting the wine because he was quite the connoisseur. I will miss him dearly.

“I pass along my deepest condolences to his wife Carole, their children, and to the entire Cardinale family in their time of grief. Gerry was a powerful voice for many years in the halls of Trenton, and a dedicated public servant who leaves quite a legacy.”

Senate President Sweeney said  “This is a terribly sad loss for Senator Cardinale’s family, the people he served in the 39th Legislative District with devotion, and all of us in the Legislature who knew him and respected his commitment to public service. He was a distinctive man who worked tirelessly and with sincere conviction to improve the lives of others. Gerry Cardinale will be missed.

“I express my sincere condolences to his wife Carole, his five children and the entire Cardinale family during this difficult time.”

Senator Sarlo said  “The passing of my colleague and friend Senator Gerry Cardinale marks the end of an era in Bergen County politics. His over 50 years in elected office is a significant feat, rarely achieved in politics. While we usually disagreed on most matters, Gerry never took anyone’s disagreement personally and always maintained a cordial and collegial demeanor with his fellow legislators. He advocated his positions and fought for his beliefs with passion and vigor, even when he knew the votes were against him.

“When Bergen County Senators would meet for dinner to negotiate appointments, Gerry, as the Dean of Bergen County’s Senate Delegation, always delighted in exercising the prerogative of picking the restaurant and ordering the wine. The negotiations weren’t always good, but the food and wine always were. Rest in peace Gerry.”

Senator Pou said “I am saddened to hear of the passing of my colleague and friend, Senator Gerald Cardinale. I first met Senator Cardinale when I began serving in the Assembly in 1997. By then the senator had already carved out a place of respect among legislators for his independent mindedness and his outspoken passion for policies he championed.

“I got to know him better when I came to the Senate in 2012, as we worked alongside each other in discussing issues on both the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees.  We had a mutual respect for each other and when speaking with him, I was always grateful for his viewpoints as a health care professional, for the fact that he brought valuable insights to issues surrounding health care policy and medical services.

“As we in the Senate grieve the death of our long-time colleague, we do so while recognizing his years of service to the State of New Jersey. I offer my sincere condolences to the entire Cardinale family.”

Senator Corrado said “I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend and colleague Senator Gerald Cardinale. A veteran leader and distinguished statesman, Gerry dedicated a lifetime of service advocating for his constituents and bettering his community.

“I was always impressed with his preparedness and knowledge. Gerry dove into complicated issues and legislation. He was not just a fighter for the residents of the 39th Legislative District, but for all of New Jersey.

“My heart goes out to his wife, Carole, and their five children.”

Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle said ‘Senator Cardinale was a true public servant. Throughout my career in public service, Senator Cardinale has always been eager to engage in discussion on issues impacting our communities. While we may not have agreed on many issues, I always appreciated Senator Cardinale’s willingness to debate the implications of policy in our State. Amongst my many fond memories of Senator Cardinale, I will always remember him as a dedicated supporter of the arts. In 2004 when I was serving as Chair of the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Senators Gerald Cardinale and Byron Baer were amongst the few elected leaders to help fight for the reopening of the John Harms Center. Senator Cardinale worked with me in securing funding for the arts, he spoke passionately about the importance of the arts in our communities and he followed up his words with action and advocacy. Regardless of your political ideology, we will all remember Senator Cardinale as a tireless advocate who never wavered from his beliefs. My thoughts and prayers are with Carole and the Cardinale family during this difficult time. May Gerald’s memory be a blessing and a comfort to all who loved him.

LD39 GOP Assembly candidate and Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti said  “I’m saddened to hear of Senator Cardinale’s passing. During his time in office, he was a great friend and advocate for the residents of Saddle River and worked closely with the Borough Council to address many issues and concerns. We will miss his friendship and leadership in Trenton and offer our prayers to his wife Carole and their children during this difficult time.” – Saddle River Borough Councilman John Azzariti, candidate for New Jersey State Assembly, LD 39

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