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Friends, Colleagues React To Passing Of Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Nation's Oldest Senator Remembered As Dedicated Public Servant
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Friends, colleagues and others are remembering U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died early Monday due to complications from viral pneumonia. He was 89 years old.

Many remembered the nation’s oldest senator and last World War II veteran in the Senate as a dedicated public servant who fought for the people of New Jersey.

President Barack Obama

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg, a proud New Jerseyan who lived America’s promise as a citizen, and fought to keep that promise alive as a senator.

“The son of working-class immigrants, Frank joined the Army during World War II, went to college on the GI Bill, and co-founded one of America’s most successful companies. First elected to the Senate in 1982, he improved the lives of countless Americans with his commitment to our nation’s health and safety, from improving our public transportation to protecting citizens from gun violence to ensuring that members of our military and their families get the care they deserve. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Bonnie, the Lautenberg family, and the people of New Jersey, whom Frank served so well.”

Gov. Chris Christie

“It’s no mystery that Senator Lautenberg and I didn’t always agree. In fact, it probably is more honest to say we very often didn’t agree, and we had some pretty good fights between us over time – battles on philosophy and the role of government, but never was Senator Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the causes that he believed in and as an adversary in the political world.

“I think the best way to describe Frank Lautenberg in the way he would probably want to be described to all of you today is as a fighter. Senator Lautenberg fought for the things he believed in and sometimes he just fought because he liked to. He always reminded me that he was a kid from Paterson whose father died at a very young age, who served in the military and served his country, and then built a business which he was extraordinarily proud of, just as proud of his time at ADP as he was of his many years, nearly 30 years in the United States Senate, and so today is a sad day for the people of New Jersey.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

“Today, the American people lost a true champion. For three decades, Senator Frank Lautenberg worked to make America a stronger, healthier and safer place to live. His legacy will endure for generations.

“Senator Lautenberg was a model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office. He was a passionate advocate for New Jersey and a crucial and tireless partner who always delivered for the people of Newark. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lautenberg family.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

“I am saddened by the loss of my dear friend and colleague Senator Frank Lautenberg and my heart goes out to his wife and family. Frank was a true champion for those who need a voice in Washington. I am honored to have had the privilege to fight side-by-side to secure health care for our 9/11 first responders, ensure federal support for the families and businesses devastated by Superstorm Sandy, strengthen our gun laws, and reform chemical safety laws. We have lost a remarkable fighter and wonderful man. His voice will be sorely missed in the halls on Congress.”

Sen. Richard Codey

“New Jersey has lost one of its strongest and most accomplished leaders. Frank Lautenberg was a man of principled determination who never  backed down from fighting for what was right. From the battlefields of the Second World War to the halls of the United States Senate, he served the country and the people of New Jersey with selfless honor and distinction.

“He was passionate in his beliefs and compassionate in his commitment to those in need. He fought for working people and he stood up for  the disenfranchised and he was a leader on issues of importance, from anti-smoking and drunk driving laws to domestic abuse, gun safety and the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights.

“We are a better country, a better state and a better people because of his service.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell

“He was a friend and I hope he considered me to be a friend to him,” Pascrell told WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack. “His loss is just immeasurable. It’s taken its toll already.

“He’s the go-to guy. He could get it done, not only in terms of legislation — if you saw his Congressional constituency services were second to none. They really took care of people. They didn’t ask whether you’re Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. They took care of you, as a Congressional office should do. I’m very, very proud of Frank and the life that he lived and I’m very proud of his family and my family sends their condolences to his family. He’s going to be greatly missed. Believe me.

“He wasn’t a spectator. He had to do something. He had to make it better. He had to put his two cents into it. Frank Lautenberg was not just a politician, by any stretch of the imagination. He was a person that was able to get things and you know, in this day and age, when you see the inadequacy and the inaneness of the Congress right now, where we can’t get out of our own way, these are the folks that you counted on to get you moving, get off your duff, and don’t think you know all the answers all the time.

“His job was to put out the best of what he represented and that’s what he did.”

Sen. Robert Menendez

“Today I am shaken by the loss of the Senior Senator from New Jersey – a colleague and my good friend and ally.  Frank Lautenberg loved his job and the people who elected him 5 times, who trusted him to always be on their side, and he always was. He was a man for New Jersey, a man for his time, one of the greatest generation, the last in the Senate to have served in World War II.

“His story was an American story. He was a man who joined two of his boyhood friends to found a successful business. He did well, and gave something back and New Jersey loved and admired him for what he did for this nation, what he did to help them build a better life for themselves and their families. Whether it was his landmark drunk driving law, the 21st Century GI Bill, or the ‘Toxic Right to Know’ law empowering the public to know what pollutants are being released into their neighborhood, he was a fighter for New Jersey’s working families and the causes he believed in. And, in death, New Jersey’s love and admiration for him will not diminish. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Bonnie and his family.”

Menendez said he’ll remember Lautenberg as a tenacious fighter for what he believed in, a man with a good sense of humor and a dedicated public servant.

“Frank Lautenberg loved his job and he loved the people who elected him five times and who trusted him to be always on their side and he always was,” Menendez told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott.

Watch Sen. Menendez’s Comments On The Senate Floor:

Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan

“I want to express my deepest sympathy to the family of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg and especially his wife Bonnie.
Senator Lautenberg served his country admirably from his days in the U.S. Army during World War II through his service in the U.S. Senate.

“Senator Lautenberg lived a long and eventful life and his hard work and determination to succeed in both the private and public sectors should stand out as an inspiration to all of us, regardless of political affiliation. From humble beginnings in Paterson, N.J., Senator Lautenberg rose to be a leader in the chamber of the United States Senate. He served his country well, fought for what he believed in and spearheaded many important pieces of legislation to safeguard our citizens.

“On behalf of all Bergen County’s employees and residents, I want to offer our condolences on Senator Lautenberg’s passing.”

Sen. Charles Schumer

“Frank Lautenberg was the very best of the greatest generation. He grew up poor, served his nation bravely during World War II, led a company that created tens of thousands of jobs, and spent the second half of his life giving back via public service. And, boy, did he give back a lot.

“Our transportation system in the Northeast and the nation would not be as up-to-date and efficient were it not for Frank. And countless people are alive today because of his fight against smoking and Big Tobacco. He was a relentless warrior for common sense gun safety legislation, and so much more. The list of his accomplishments would take many pages.

“Frank was a close and loyal friend who never put on airs and said what he thought, when he thought it. And he had one of the most endearing senses of humor ever possessed by any public servant. We knew he was ill, but his passing is still a gut shot to those of us who knew and loved him.

“I am a better person for having known him and America is a better place for having benefitted from his long and rich service.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

“He was a fighter for his state and for America and for causes that go from one state to another.

“No one fought harder in the U.S. Senate for sensible gun safety laws that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people. He fought to the end, going back to Washington from the hospital to cast a vote in favor of gun legislation the Senate was considering in April.

“For years, he really stood up for common sense gun safety laws when many others in his party ran away from the issue. He was a strong ally of our coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and we will miss his voice and leadership.”

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer

“I am very saddened to hear the news of Senator Lautenberg’s passing. I had the great honor to work with him on everything from a rally on Pier A for marriage equality to advocating for Hoboken after Hurricane Sandy. He was a true public servant and a friend of Hoboken. He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. Flags are flying at half-mast in Hoboken today in his honor.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver

“This is a sad day for New Jersey. Our state has lost one of its most dedicated public servants and a dear friend to us all.

“It’s hard to imagine New Jersey without Frank Lautenberg advocating for the issues important to us all. His energy was relentless. His intellect was sharp. His work ethic was an example to us  all.

“I will miss Sen. Lautenberg and his guidance, leadership and friendship.

“On behalf of the New Jersey General Assembly, I offer our prayers and condolences and will forever remember Sen. Lautenberg as one of New Jersey’s finest leaders.”

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr.

“America has lost a true New Jerseyan who dedicated his life to public service. Until his last days, the resolute Senator served New Jersey honorably, fighting to bring home Superstorm Sandy recovery funding for families and small business owners. Senator Lautenberg was a consistent leader and a man of his convictions. May Frank Lautenberg rest in peace. Let his family know we are praying for them.”

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney

“It’s a sad day for New Jersey because Sen. Lautenberg was a real fighter for the little guy and this country lost a great fighter,” Sweeney told WCBS 880. “It’s going to be hard to fill the shoes of Sen. Lautenberg. He was a very effective fighter for the middle class and little guy.”

Democratic State Party Chairman John S. Wisniewski

“With the death of Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey has lost a powerful advocate of great integrity and the country has lost a person whose life embodied the American Dream. New Jersey’s loss is also a personal loss for his family and I wish to extend my condolences to his wife, his children and his grandchildren.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy

“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend Senator Frank Lautenberg. We have worked closely for many years, particularly on matters of public health and safety.  He has worked so hard to protect and improve the lives of his fellow Americans — his contributions are unrivaled in the history of our nation.  We were lucky to have his leadership and his light.  I’m thinking of and praying for his family and his staff, and the millions of Americans he has fought to protect and help during his distinguished career.”

 Laura W. Murphy, Director Of The ACLU Washington Legislative Office

“Our country lost a true civil liberties titan today. From his service during World War II to his final months in the Senate, Sen. Lautenberg understood the importance of fighting for the rights of every American. He was a champion for religious liberty and leaves behind a legacy of fighting for women’s rights and reproductive freedom. We will sorely miss his voice and passion.”

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