One of New Jersey's longest-serving state senators has died, family members said Saturday. Sen. Gerald Cardinale was 86.
Cardinale, who served almost four decades as a Republican in the New Jersey Senate, passed away Saturday at Hackensack Meridian Health Pascack Valley Medical Center after a brief illness that was not COVID-19-related, his daughter Marisa said.
“He devoted his life to serving his New Jersey community," the family said in a statement.
Gov. Phil Murphy said all flags would be lowered to half-staff on Monday when the Senate returns to session to honor Cardinale.
“Sen. 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," the Democratic governor said in a statement.
A longtime Bergen County dentist, Cardinale served on the Demarest school board in 1967 and eventually became mayor in 1975, then spent one term in the Assembly before moving to the Senate in 1982.
Senate GOP leader Tom Kean said the caucus is “deeply saddened" by Cardinale's passing, calling him “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," Kean said. “We are all better legislators for having served with him."
Cardinale, who had been planning to run for reelection, leaves behind his wife, Carole, of 62 years, his children — Marisa, Christine, Kara, Gary and Nicole — and his grandchildren, Sebastian, Allegra, Tamara and Chloe, the family said. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Bergen, called Cardinale a longtime mentor to generations of Republicans and one of the best retail politicians he had 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,” Auth said.