Whether you love or hate politics, you have to respect any man who dies at work, like N.J. Assemblyman Alex DeCroce recently did. Many pieces of legislation have died in the New Jersey statehouse, but Mr DeCroce may have been the first person to have done so. Condolences to his family.
Morris County mourns the loss of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce
By Star-Ledger Staff | By Star-Ledger Staff January 10, 2012 | http://www.nj.com
MORRISTOWN â€” This morning colleagues and constituents across the state mourned the passing of Assemblyman Alex DeCroce who collapsed and died inside the Statehouse late Monday night.
DeCroce, 75, was the longest serving current assemblyman in the state and the leading Republican of the state’s lower house. He represented Morris County for 23 years and died just moments after the 214th Legislature held its final voting session.
In a statement released early this morning, Gov. Chris Christie remembered DeCroce as “one of the most kind, considerate and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure to know,” Christie said. “He was an enormously accomplished legislator and a tremendous servant to the people of New Jersey.”
Politicians reacted to the news on twitter sending their condolences to the late-Assemblyman’s wife and three children. Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) said in a statement posted on the website, “Alex was a true leader for the Republican caucus in the Assembly, and was loved and respected by legislators of both chambers, on both sides of the aisle….It is hard to believe we will start a new legislative session without his wit, charm, and energy.”
Constituents also mourned the assemblyman’s passing. Morris County resident Rich Pompelio met DeCroce 20 years ago when the two started working together on victimâ€™s rights laws after Pompelioâ€™s son was stabbed to death in 1989.
â€œHe stepped forward kind of out of the blue after my son was murdered and he never left,â€ said Pompelio who founded the New Jersey Crime Victim’s Law Center. â€œTogether we introduced the victims rights amendment and he went on to become the leader of victimâ€™s rights in the state. He was a sweet man, one of the best I’ve ever known.â€
Monday Pompelio voted on a new crime victims bill of rights, which was approved in the senate.
Patrons and staff members interviewed this morning at the Morristown Diner had only fond memories of DeCroce who lived in Parsippany.
DeCroce had been an active member; of the Morris County branch of the NAACP for many years and members of the branch’s executive committee talked about him at their annual planning meeting last night before learning he had died, said Minister Wesley Marrow.
“We spoke about his contributions and his legacy just last night,” said Marrow, pastor at the Morristown Church of Christ. Marrow recalled that the Republican leader was involved in the branch’s “legal redress” work and also attended the chapter’s annual picnic last summer
“He was a very nice guy. He’s done a lot for Morris County residents,” Marrow said. “It’s always sad when you lose somebody who serves the people more than they serve themselves.”
Lorena Inestroza of Morristown, a waitress at the diner, said DeCroce was “very instrumental to Morris County.”
“I never heard anybody say anything bad about him,” Inestroza said. “People trusted him and were confident in him.”
“I lost a good friend,” Assemblyman Anthony Bucco Jr. said. “We have a giant void in leadership as a result of his passing.”
“One of the hardest working assemblymen I knew,” he said.
A sign on the door of the Whippany office of Assembly Alex DeCroce, which he shared with Assembly Jay Webber, informs visitors that it is closed. And the County College of Morris lowered flags to half-staff this morning, after hearing of DeCroce’s death.
DeCroce was on the board of trustees at the college from 1971-72 and 1973-82. He was chairman of the board from 1977-81, said college President Edward Yaw who has known DeCroce for more than 30 years.
“We lost a terrific man,” Yaw said. “He was a prince. We would have lunch from time to time and he was always very affable, very sincere and very committed to what he did and to the people of Morris County.”
Yaw said as board member and president, DeCroce was concerned about economically less privileged students and always a stickler when it came to building maintenance and fiscal responsibilities.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) said his son, Bill Pascrell III, passed DeCroce around 11 p.m. in a statehouse hallway. The two exchanged pleasantries and Pascrell III told his father the assemblyman appeared to be fine.
State Police Lt. Stephen Jones said the legislator died shortly before 11:30 p.m. in a first-floor restroom of the Statehouse. He said a physician on hand attended to the legislator but that he was found to be dead. Lawmakers said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), the Legislatureâ€™s only doctor, was the one who attended to DeCroce.
Legislative sources early this morning said Christie will not deliver his anticipated State of the State address, which had been scheduled for 3 p.m. today. Instead, they said, the governor expects to meet his constitutional requirement to address the Legislature with a brief talk that may eulogize DeCroce.
Spokesmen for Senate and Assembly Democrats said the state will hold an informal swearing-in for new lawmakers and a reorganization of party leadership at noon at the Statehouse.
DeCroce was born in Morristown in 1936 and graduated from Boonton High School before attending Seton Hall. DeCroce was selected to fill a vacancy and sworn in to his Assembly seat 1989. He was elected to his first full term in November of that year and was the state’s longest serving member of the Assembly.
DeCroce attended Seton Hall University and worked as a realtor for ERA Gallo & DeCroce, his legislative biography said. Among the committees he was recently serving on were the Bipartisan Leadership Committee, where he served as the co-chairman, and the Legislative Services Commission. He is survived by his wife Mary Lou, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, three adult children and two grandchildren.
DeCroce was a Morris County freeholder from 1984 to 1989 and served on both the Morris County Tax Board and Board of Elections, according to his legislative biography. He was also the chairman of the County College of Morris Board of Trustees.