Lautenberg, Last WWII Veteran Serving In Senate, Dies

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

WASHINGTON, D.C.—United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate, died due to complications from viral pneumonia at 4:02 a.m. today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell according to a statement from his office. He was 89 years old.

Lautenberg is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; six children and their spouses, Ellen Lautenberg and Doug Hendel, Nan and Joe Morgart, Josh and Christina Lautenberg, Lisa and Doug Birer, Danielle Englebardt and Stuart Katzoff, Lara Englebardt Metz and Corey Metz; and 13 grandchildren.

“Today I am shaken by the loss of the Senior Senator from New Jersey – a colleague and my good friend and ally,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).  “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.”

“Frank Lautenberg was a moral guidepost on so many critical issues,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ- 6). “As a leader in the U.S. Senate, his impact was felt on some of the most important issues facing New Jersey and our nation.  His work on issues like gun violence prevention, improving our nation’s transit systems and transportation infrastructure, making Americans healthier through anti-smoking initiatives, and rebuilding our state after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy will be recognized for generations.”

“Senator Frank Lautenberg will always be remembered as a dedicated public servant and a tenacious fighter for New Jersey.  A proud Veteran of World War II he was New Jersey’s longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7). “My wife Heidi and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Lautenberg family during this difficult time.”

“It’s no mystery that Senator Lautenberg and I didn’t always agree,” said New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie. “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.”

“It was in his work in the U.S. Senate on transportation issues that I truly came to know Senator Lautenberg,” said New Jersey Democratic Party Chairman John S. Wisniewski, who also chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee. “The Senator understood the value of our transportation network to New Jersey’s economy and quality of life and was dogged in his pursuit of transportation funds to improve and maintain our roadways and commuter rails. He understood that such infrastructure spending helped create jobs and bring people into the middle class. Senator Lautenberg was also a passionate voice in defense of our environment and against the scourge of gun violence in our country.”

“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,” said New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “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.”

“America has lost a true New Jerseyan who dedicated his life to public service,” said state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union, Morris, Somerset and Essex). 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, and let his family know we are praying for them.”

“I’ve known Senator Lautenberg for over 40 years since I was 15 years old when he had an office in Hillside. I worked very closely with him on Sterling Forest and other environment issues. Not only did we lose an environmental hero, but I lost a good friend,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  “He has done more to protect New Jersey’s environment than almost any other elected official. He has been a fighter for the environment not just in New Jersey but nationally for over the last 30 years.”

“The New Jersey School Boards Association expresses its condolences to Senator Lautenberg’s family and his staff. His passing is truly a loss for our state,” said NJSBA President John Bulina and Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod in a joint statement. “Throughout Senator Lautenberg’s term in office, NJSBA had a consistent dialogue with him and his staff concerning the impact of federal education policy on New Jersey students. He understood the importance of a quality education for all children.”

Lautenberg was a long-time leader on environmental protection, transportation and protecting public health. His career highlights include:

  • Passing the law that banned smoking on airplanes;
  • Authoring the law that prevented domestic abusers from possessing guns; 
  • Writing landmark drunk driving laws, including the nationwide .08 blood alcohol standard and the 21 year drinking age law;
  • Co-writing the new GI Bill for the 21st Century;
  • Authoring the “Toxic Right to Know” law to empower the public to know what pollutants are being released into their neighborhood; and
  • Writing the law to create the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

After Lautenberg cast his 9,000th vote in December 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaimed on the Senate floor, “Frank Lautenberg has been one of the most productive senators in the history of this country.”

On Feb. 15, Lautenberg announced he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate. At his announcement in his hometown of Paterson, he set out an agenda for the remaining two years of his term that included reforming U.S. chemical safety laws, improving gun safety laws, and providing federal resources for New Jersey to rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.

Lautenberg had made significant progress on all three items, most recently by announcing a bipartisan breakthrough on modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act. Lautenberg’s legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines also received a vote in the Senate earlier this year.

Lautenberg was born the son of immigrants and grew up poor in Paterson. He enlisted in the military at the age of 18 and served in the Army in Europe during World War II. Upon returning home, he graduated from Columbia University with the help of the G.I. Bill. He joined with two boyhood friends to found Automatic Data Processing (ADP), which today employees 57,000 people worldwide and 4,500 in New Jersey. He left the business world to pursue a career in public service.

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