Colleagues and friends are remembering U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg as a dedicated public servant who fought vigorously for the people of New Jersey.
Lautenberg's office said the nation's oldest senator and the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate died of complications from viral pneumonia at a hospital in New York City Monday. He was 89-years-old.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said his fellow Democrat leaves behind an amazing legacy of pushing for the rights of the working poor and middle class.
Lautenberg grew up poor in Paterson, where his father worked in a silk factory and died at 43. He used the G.I. Bill to attend Columbia University and went on to found the multimillion-dollar company Automatic Data Processing.
"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, R-N.J.:
"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 thirty years, in the United States Senate, and so today is a sad day for the people of New Jersey.
Whenever we lose someone who’s committed to public service and has been an honest and dedicated public servant as Senator Lautenberg was it’s a loss for everyone. Most particularly it’s a loss for his wife Bonnie and his family, and so our thoughts and prayers are with them today because whatever loss we feel as New Jerseyans and whatever loss his colleagues feel in the United States Senate is minuscule compared to the loss that his family feels, his loved ones, and so I think it would be inappropriate for me to give any other speech today except to ask all of you to pray for the Lautenberg family today, to pray for the soul of Senator Lautenberg, and to give a prayer of thanks for his service to individual New Jerseyans and to our country.
And in the end, all of you who decide to get involved in public service, should aspire to have the same things said about you in whatever role that you play. That you were honest, that you were a fighter for the things that you believe in, and that you gave as good as you got. All those things can be said about Frank Lautenberg. And so I’m sure we’re going to have a number of times over the course of the next few days to reflect upon his life and to pay him tribute in even a more public way. But for this morning, as the leader of this state and our people, I extend to the Lautenberg family and to his staff and friends, our deepest condolences.
And to Senator Lautenberg, I give him praise on a life well lived. I think we’d all signed up today for a life like Frank Lautenberg had of 89 years of fighting and fighting hard. And he’s been a great example for the people of our state and we will certainly miss him. You’re going to have a lot of other things to discuss today at the conference and I look forward to getting reports back on how things went and how they were received. I’m as committed today as I’ve always been to making sure that everybody who can make a positive contribution to government will be given the opportunity to do so and to help to make a difference in our state and our country the way Senator Lautenberg did."
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.:
“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."
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.'s 12th District:
"This is a personal loss as well as a loss for New Jersey and the country. I don't think there will ever again be anybody quite like Frank Lautenberg.
Frank came from humble beginnings, and he never forgot that. The GI Bill sent him to Columbia University, and he always felt grateful for that and felt a need to pay back.
Much will be said about his accomplishments: keeping trains and buses safe, promoting public health, safeguarding chemical plants, keeping cigarettes out of planes, and more. But what stands out in my mind is what Frank did to prevent drunk driving. As part of his transportation work, he established limits on blood alcohol levels. Today you could fill several football stadiums with people who are alive only because of Frank Lautenberg – and not one of them knows who they are.
Frank was dogged; he was persistent. His colleagues in the Senate would sometimes laugh or smile about that: ‘Here comes Frank again to try to twist our arms.’ They liked him. Frank did his homework; he knew what he was talking about, and he just kept fighting.
Frank and I worked together on a number of things, so I feel this loss very personally. Frank, we miss you, but your ideas and your legacy live on."
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.:
"I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and colleague, Senator Frank Lautenberg. I had the honor and privilege of working with him in the Senate, including a 2009 Congressional delegation trip to Israel and Turkey. The trip greatly contributed to our understanding of the Middle East Peace Process, and Frank’s presence was invaluable to our delegation. He was a tireless advocate for the people of New Jersey, and his efforts in important areas such as public health, education, transportation and veterans will leave a lasting legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Bonnie, his children and his grandchildren."
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.:
"Sen. Lautenberg leaves a long legacy of serving this country dating back to his days as a signalman in World War II. I will always appreciate that one of his last legislative acts was to return to the Senate floor, even though he was not feeling well, to vote for my amendment to enhance background checks for commercial firearms sales. It has been an honor to serve alongside Sen. Lautenberg, and Kris and I will keep his family in our prayers."
U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks/Montgomery counties:
“Senator Lautenberg was a selfless public servant, representing the state of New Jersey admirably for nearly 30 years. I was saddened to hear of his passing this morning.
As the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate, Senator Lautenberg brought a unique perspective to many discussions taking place in Washington.
As a ‘traveling lawmaker’ from the northeast like myself, I often saw Senator Lautenberg on the train to and from the nation’s capital and appreciated his work to strengthen transportation projects in the region.
My deepest sympathies go out to his wife Bonnie and the rest of his family in their time of grief. “
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:
"I was very saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. Frank was a good friend and respected colleague. He was a strong advocate for the men and women of our armed forces and their military families, and America's veterans. He was a member of America's 'greatest generation.' His passion and his leadership will be missed. Lilibet and my thoughts and prayers, as well as all of us at the Department of Defense, are with Bonnie and his family."