N.J. Assemblyman Alex DeCroce collapses, dies in Statehouse after long legislative session
Published January 11, 2012
ALEX DeCROCE BIOGRAPHY
• Born: June 10, 1936
• Hometown: Parsippany
• Education: Seton Hall University
• Occupation: Realtor, ERA Gallo & DeCroce
• Political career: State Assembly 1989-2012, representing the 26th District in Morris County; Assembly Republican Leader, 2003-2012; Deputy Speaker of Assembly, 1994-2001; Republican Conference Leader, 2002-2003
Source: New Jersey Legislature
TRENTON — Longtime Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, the leading Republican of the state’s lower house who represented Morris County for 23 years, collapsed and died in a bathroom inside the Statehouse
late Monday night, just moments after the 214th Legislature held its final voting session.
DeCroce, 75, of Parsippany, began serving the 26th Legislative District in the Assembly in 1989 and was the Republican minority leader since 2003.
In a statement released early this morning, Gov. Chris Christie expressed sadness over the loss of “a dear friend, colleague and mentor” whom he has known for nearly 20 years and who helped give him
his start in politics.
“He was 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.”
He added: “This is an enormous loss for our state and for me personally.”
State Police Lt. Stephen Jones said a 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 Legislature’s only doctor, was the one who attended to DeCroce.
An emotional Christie — wearing a suit jacket over a Notre Dame T-shirt, no socks and loafers — showed up at the Statehouse at midnight with four staffers. He hugged Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver
(D-Essex), Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Essex) outside party offices and then held a meeting.
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. The swearing-in
ceremony was supposed to attract hundreds of family and friends, but now lawmakers are urging them to stay home.
The spokesmen said they would have delayed the events, but they are required to hold them under the state Constitution.
Word of DeCroce’s death began circulating among lawmakers through calls and text messages about 11:30 p.m., almost immediately after the Senate wrapped up its marathon lame-duck session.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union), the highest ranking Republican under DeCroce, was seen in a Statehouse hallway crying.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said he was at a loss for words.
“What a shocking loss,” Drewniak said. “He was the state’s finest elder statesman.”
Staffers lined the staircases outside the party offices and exchanged hugs in stunned silence. Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) said DeCroce was “the most unselfish leader.”
“I’m absolutely heartbroken by this,” O’Toole said. “The state will miss this guy for a long time. Everybody loved him. Wherever you went, anyone who interacted with Alex absolutely loved him.”
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 Affiairs, 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.
Among his achievements, DeCroce sponsored a law that renewed the state Transportation Trust Fund, dedicated motor fuels tax for transportation projects, and amended the state Constitution to protect
and strengthen the rights of crime victims, his biography said.
Oliver and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden) said in a joint statement that they were “saddened beyond words.”
“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,” they said.
By Christopher Baxter and Jarrett Renshaw/Statehouse Bureau
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