Long-serving New Jersey state Sen. Gerald Cardinale dies at 86

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State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, the second longest-serving state senator in New Jersey history who was known for his political acumen and wit, died Saturday morning at Pascack Valley Hospital following a brief illness.

He was 86 years old. His illness was not related to COVID-19.

“Gerry, the dean of our caucus, was a trusted voice in the Senate for nearly four decades,” Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, said in a news release. “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.”

Cardinale, a dentist by profession, served the 39th district for 42 years. Before entering the state Senate, he was mayor of Demarest from 1975 until 1979 and served a term in the state Assembly in 1980 and 1981.

“Gerry was one of the best politicians I’ve ever seen,” state Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Old Tappan, said in a news release. “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,” Auth added. “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.”

Cardinale was born in New York City in 1934. He received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from St. John’s University and a Doctor of Dental Surgery from New York University’s College of Dentistry in 1959.

He is survived by his wife, Carole, of 62 years and five children. He was a member of Saint Joseph’s parish in Demarest and honored his Italian heritage with an affinity for Italian food and an occasional grappa, according to a news release.

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