Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich dead at 83

(From left) Union County Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter, Union County Acting Prosecutor Grace H. Park, Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich and New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman joined law enforcement officials and church leaders today a state-sponsored gun buyback program at The New Zion Baptist Church in Elizabeth. (Photo by Jim Lowney/County of Union)

The late Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich appears in this file photo with Freeholder Linda Carter, Prosecutor Grace H. Park, state Attorney General John J. Hoffman and other law enforcement officials and church leaders at The New Zion Baptist Church in Elizabeth after a state-sponsored gun buyback program. (Photo credit Jim Lowney)

ELIZABETH — Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who was first elected to the position in 1977, died Sunday at the age of 83.

Froehlich succumbed to cancer, which he had been battling for several months, shortly after he was honored on the 55 year anniversary of his work in law enforcement at a July 9 dinner, which he was unable to attend due to illness.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak remembered Froehlich as a friend and political ally.

“When the head of the Union County Democratic Party, Elizabeth Mayor Tom Dunn, dumped me off the organization line for re-election to my third term in the Assembly, Sheriff Froehlich immediately announced he would be my campaign manager, ever though he was running for Sheriff on the organization line,” Lesniak reminisced.

“Ralph Froehlich was totally dedicated to the community he served,” Lesniak said. “We are fortunate if one person like Ralph Froehlich comes into our lives in a lifetime.”

“Sheriff Froehlich had a long and distinguished career as a public servant and was a true giant in Union County,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney in a statement. “His decades of service, both as sheriff, a police officer and as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, are a testament to the dedication and commitment he had to his community and his country. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

State Democratic Chairman John Currie issued a statement saying he was “saddened by the passing of” the longest-serving County Sheriff in New Jersey history.

“In his 13th three year term, Sheriff Froehlich, a fixture in his community, was working hard to improve the quality of life in Union County before many of its residents were even born,” said Currie. “Although the length of Sheriff Froehlich’s service distinguishes him, it is the gravity of his responsibilities, his innovative solutions to law enforcement problems, and his constant dedication that made him such an extraordinary career professional.”

“Unfortunately, these last couple of months have been rough on Ralph and his family, but he’s in a better place now,” said Assemblyman Jerry Green, the county Democratic chairman. “I am very proud of the sheriff’s department, one of the best run in the state, and I want to congratulate staff for sticking together and making Ralph proud. They are Ralph now.”

“He touched three generations of Greens,” said the party leader, whose son, Jerry II, is an undersheriff; and whose grandson, Jerry III, recently joined the office.

Gov. Chris Christie is expected to name a replacement within 30 days. but PolitickerNJ reported that Assemblyman Joe Cryan, who is also an undersheriff, told the website that he is now acting sheriff and will be on the November ballot to fill the remainder of Froehlich’s term.

Cryan would have to resign from the Assembly because the state Constitution prohibits lawmakers from serving as sheriff.

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