MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Longtime Middlesex County Freeholder Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina died Saturday, Oct. 5, surrounded by his family. He was 83.
A lifelong resident of Woodbridge Township, Freeholder Dalina was the owner and proprietor of Dalina’s Tavern and Restaurant in the Fords section of Woodbridge Township, a family business for over 55 years.
He was serving his eighth term on the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
“On behalf of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, I extend our deepest sympathies to Eleanor Dalina, and the entire Dalina family, who with the passing of my Freeholder colleague and good friend, lost a tremendous husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “Pete was a generous, enthusiastic public servant, who for 50 years, gave of himself to make the lives of the people of Woodbridge and of Middlesex County better.”
“We lost a great role model and our community has lost an irreplaceable leader,” said Dalina’s son, Rick. “He was proud to have dedicated his life to the people of Fords, Woodbridge and Middlesex County. My father was proudest of his work creating the parks and recreational opportunities that afforded people from across the community the opportunity to come together. We were blessed to have him for 84 wonderful years and we will forever hold him in our hearts.”
Dalina was first elected to the County Board in 1990. He served as Freeholder Deputy Director from 1994 to 2008 and as Director in 2009.
Prior to that, he served as Woodbridge Township Council President for two years, Council Vice President for four years and Council Member for 12 years. He was a former Chief of the Fords Fire Company, Past President of the Woodbridge Township Youth Association, and member of the Executive Board of St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen for eight years. Freeholder Dalina held positions in numerous other charitable, sports and civic organizations.
The American Hungarian Foundation named him Hungarian of the Year 1997.
He lettered in three sports while attending Woodbridge High School, was named to the All-County Football Team, and played football at Villanova University.
“An incredible athlete and avid sports fan, Pete was the force behind the expansion of our parks system,” Rios said. “His vision to give athletes of all abilities the chance to compete, gave life to the Level Playing Fields in Roosevelt Park, the first barrier-free sports field of its kind in the nation.”
“His name will live on in the Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina Sports Complex within Fords Park, which was dedicated in his honor in June. But for those of us lucky enough to know him, to work with him and to call him friend, it’s his hearty laugh and gracious nature that we will never forget,” Rios said.
Rios has ordered flags at all county buildings to be flown at half-staff starting Monday.
Dalina is survived by his wife Eleanor, four sons, Gary, John, Richard and Stephen, and their families.
Visiting hours are 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Flynn’s Funeral Home in the Fords section of Woodbridge Township. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Peace Church, Fords.
Rios said, “He will be sorely missed.”
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