Former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina led charge for Battleship New Jersey

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MONMOUTH COUNTY — Former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, a former Navy reserve captain who served 24 years in the legislature, relished his effort to bring New Jersey’s namesake battleship back home.
“He never got the salt out of his veins from serving in the Navy,” said Assemblyman Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex), who spent eight years representing the same district as Azzolina.
Azzolina, 84, a longtime Republican lawmaker from Monmouth County, died Thursday night at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City from complications related to a December surgery for pancreatic cancer. His three sons were by his side.
“He was a great mentor to his family, friends and people that surrounded him,” said his son, Joseph Azzolina, Jr.
Azzolina served in the occupation forces in Europe after World War II and in the Korean War. He remained in the naval reserve until the 1980s, when he served an eight month stint aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey. He later led the charge to refurbish the ship and bring to the Garden State. It sits as a museum in the Delaware River in Camden.
Azzolina, a Republican from Middletown, was first elected to the Assembly in 1965, where he served until moving up to the state Senate from 1972 to 1974. He returned to the Assembly from 1986 to 1988, and again from 1992 to 2006.
Azzolina was born in Newark and grew up in Highlands, over a candy store his parents owned. He opened a grocery store called the Food Basket with his father in 1950 and expanded it into Food Circus Supermarkets, a chain that today has 10 stores. He also owned the Courier, a weekly newspaper that covered the Bayshore area.
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said he first heard of Azzolina from his fourth grade teacher.
“Little did I know that I would go on to work in his supermarket as a teenager and to serve side by side with him in the Legislature,” he said.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), who was Azzolina’s chief of staff in the 1990s, said he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food from his supermarkets to local charities.
“To the chagrin maybe of some of his management, he never said no,” she said. “At one point I asked him if he wanted to write a press release. He looked at me and said ‘No, I don’t do it for that reason.’”
Beck said Azzolina established the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program, which treats sexual assault victim and trains nurses in the collection of forensic evidence.
Calling hours will be held Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. and Thursday from 2-8 p.m. at Saint Mary’s Mother of God Church in Middletown. The burial service is set for Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the church.

(picture Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina and son Joseph Jr.)

1 Comment

Filed under Battleship New Jersey, Joe Azzolina, Monmouth County, NJ State Assembly

One response to “Former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina led charge for Battleship New Jersey

  1. A great man, who will be missed.

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