Joe Azzolina passed away yesterday evening at St. Vincents Hospital in New York. He was 84.
Azzolina was a great family man, entrepreneur, philanthropist and civic leader.
He built his family business, founded by his parents as a small corner grocery store in Highlands, into the SuperFoodtown chain with stores throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties. The company remains a family business today, lead by his nephews and sons.
Azzolina enlisted in the Navy upon graduating from high school in 1943 during World War II, and was called back to action in 1950 to serve in the Korean War.
He represented much of Monmouth County in the state legislature in the Assembly from 1965 to 1972, the Senate in 1973 and 1974, the Assembly from 1986-1988, and finally from 1992 through 2006.
He was the owner of The Courier, the bayshore weekly newspaper, buying the paper from the estate of its founder in 1982.
I will always remember Azzolina as an honest man from the moment I met him in 1997. I was at the statehouse in Trenton to lobby against a bill that was on the calender that day. Coming upon Azzolina in the corridor, I introduced myself as his constituent and asked him to vote against the bill. Without hesitation he gruffly told me I was wasting my time and to go home. He said the leadership and the governor had already determined the bill was going to pass. Every other legislator I talked to that day placated me. The bill passed.
Senator Joe Kyrillos said this morning that Azzolina as a "businessman, military officer, legislator, father and leading citizen lived a remarkable life and led by deed and example."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Azzolina and Scaduto families.
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Pallone's Town Hall Meeting, Red Bank, August 25, 2009