By DON STINE
Friends and family member of Sen. Joe Palaia, who died in 2016, turned out in Ocean Township on Sunday, Feb. 3 to celebrate his 92nd birthday.
Former Councilman John Huss said that Palaia “had a tremendous amount of pride in the Township of Ocean,” with Mayor Christopher Siciliano saying “he touched a lot of people.”
Democratic Sen. Vin Gopal said Palaia, who was a Republican, is still thought of as a gentleman, being decent, and working in a bipartisan manner by fellow representatives who knew him in the State House.
“People always told me when I took office (in Trenton) to be like Joe Palaia. His life and his legacy continues,” he said.
Palaia first entered politics in 1967 when he was 40 and was the principal at the Wanamassa Elementary School for 33 years. He served on the Ocean Township Council and was mayor from 1971 to 1979. He was instrumental in preserving the 208-acre former Deal Test Site, now named in his honor.
Palaia also served on the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders and was elected to the State Assembly in 1982. He was elected to the State Senate in 1989. After 25 years in the legislature, where he was praised for his bipartisan efforts, he retired from public service in 2008. He died in 2016.