State Assemblyman Alex DeCroce died suddenly late Monday night after a long deliberative session at the Statehouse, according to multiple reports. He was 75 years old.
Gov. Chris Christie will postpone Tuesday's planned State of the State, but will still address the Legislature to eulogize DeCroce, according to several reports.
The Parsippany resident, who represented the 26th legislative district in Trenton since 1989, collapsed and died in a first-floor bathroom in the Statehouse just before 11:30 p.m., right after the legislature completed its final voting session.
DeCroce was the state's longest-serving assemblyman. He served as the General Assembly's deputy speaker from 1994-2001 and was elevated to minority leader in 2003.
In addition to serving in government, DeCroce was also a Realtor with ERA Gallo and DeCroce, Inc.
He is survived by his wife, Betty DeCroce, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.
"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. He worked tirelessly for his constituents, for our party, and to make sure this institution never lost sight of who it was supposed to serve—the people of New Jersey," Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R- Union) said in a statement issued late Monday night.
"I knew Alex DeCroce long before my first term in the Assembly, and we forged a special bond as leaders of our respective caucuses. It is hard to believe we will start a new legislative session without his wit, charm, and energy."
Kean said DeCroce "will leave a huge void in this institution and in the hearts of the loved ones he leaves behind."
According to NJ.com, an emotional Gov. Chris Christie arrived at the Statehouse at midnight for a meeting, first stopping to hug Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Essex) outside party offices.
"Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor—Assembly Republican Leader Alex De Croce," Christie said in a statement issued by his office. “I have known Alex for nearly 20 years. He helped to give me my start in elective politics in Morris County in 1993. He was one of the most kind, considerate and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure to know. He was an enormously accomplished legislator and a tremendous servant to the people of New Jersey."
"Mary Pat and I offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Department of Community Affairs Deputy Commissioner Betty Lou De Croce, and to Alex’s entire family," the governor's statement continued. "This is an enormous loss for our state and for me personally."
Oliver and Assembly Majority Leader-elect Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden) issued a joint statement calling DeCroce "a friend, colleague and leader."
"He was a dedicated public servant. He was a true New Jerseyan," they said. ""He was always someone ready with a handshake and a laugh, no matter the circumstance, and his devotion to the people of New Jersey was unwavering. The Assembly has lost one of its great institutions. "His absence will never be filled. We are saddened beyond words. We grieve his loss and know that the prayers and condolences of the entire New Jersey General Assembly are with his friends and family."
The 26th District, after legislative lines were redrawn last year, includes Butler, Fairfield, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Montville, Morris Plains, North Caldwell, Parsippany, Rockaway, Verona, West Caldwell and West Milford.
Until the redistricting, it included Bloomingdale, Chatham Borough, East Hanover, Florham Park, Hanover, Pequannock, Pompton Lakes and Riverdale.
DeCroce's death came as the legislature was wrapping up its "lame duck" session—the last of its calendar before new members, elected in November, take office. As 2011 was closing out, Decroce was publically urging Democrat leaders to provide tax relief. He also urged the federal government to address the flooding of the Passaic River Basin, which in a statement issued Dec. 22 he and other leglislatuve leaders called "a frequent nightmare for North Jersey residents and businesses."
He'd also recently reflected on the December passing of his former running mate, longtime Morris County political fixture Carol Murphy. Murphy served in the Assembly with DeCroce between 1993 and 2002, also representing the 26th Legislative District
"Our state has lost someone who served the public in many ways, and always did so with dignity and class," DeCroce said just weeks ago of his longtime friend.
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