MIDDLESEX COUNTY – Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel died Monday after being rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center in New Brunswick from his Milltown home.
Voters re-elected the 78-year-old freeholder to another three-year term as a member of the county’s governing body last month. Crabiel had served as an elected official since 1960, and had been a freeholder for 27 of the past 30 years.
Deputy Freeholder Director Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina said that Crabiel’s death was a “big shock.” “I lost good friend,’” he said. “He was good for the people of Middlesex County. He was a hard-working freeholder.”
Crabiel had been hospitalized for several days last week but spent the Thanksgiving holiday at home with his family in Milltown.
Crabiel began his career in elected office as a councilman in Milltown in 1960. He was elected mayor in 1967, and served in that position for 11 years before being appointed to the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1978.
He lost his re-election bid, one of many Democrats throughout the state who were voted out of office in the taxpayers’ revolt over former Gov. Jim Florio’s tax hikes. Crabiel won his seat back in 1994 and remained on the board until his death, serving as Freeholder Director for the past 12 years.
The 1991 defeat made Crabiel reluctant to raise taxes and he often referred to the county’s record for keeping taxes stable. During his administration, Middlesex County built a 180-bed nursing home in Edison and broke ground on a second long-term care facility in Old Bridge.
Crabiel was a graduate of the American Academy of Funeral Services in New York City. He founded Crabiel, Inc., which operates six funeral homes in Central Jersey.
Crabiel was married to the former Mary Varga; the couple has five children, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.