Joseph Anthony LeFante

Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey, USA
Death 26 Feb 1997 (aged 68)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Linden, Union County, New Jersey, USA
Memorial ID 36103485 · View Source
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Joseph LeFante , a force in politics from Hudson
Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ) - Friday, February 28, 1997
Readability: 8-12 grade level (Lexile: 1100L)
Author: William Kleinknecht, Star-Ledger Staff
76, died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

Mr. LeFante , 68, lived almost his entire life in Bayonne, where he rose through the local Democratic ranks in the 1960s, serving as a councilman and school board member before serving four terms in the Assembly.

He was elected speaker in 1976 and threw his full weight into the battle to win passage of Gov. Brendan Byrne's proposal for a state income tax. The effort exposed him to enormous criticism and almost ended his career.

"He went way out on a limb and showed tremendous political courage," Byrne said yesterday. "He was willing to sacrifice his political a career for what he thought was right. He was a great leader and a great friend."

Former colleagues described him as an old-fashioned politician who was beloved on the streets of Bayonne and never put on airs or turned his back on his working-class roots.

The night before he was sworn in as a congressman in 1977, he crammed all his relatives in his Washington hotel room and was seen around midnight walking through the halls with a pillow and blanket.

"He was looking for a place to sleep," said Neil Carroll, a lifelong friend who is now a Hudson County freeholder. "All the snoring and everything was so loud he had to leave the room."

Carroll and others said Mr. LeFante built up tremendous good will in Bayonne by doling out hundreds of favors and never forgetting his friends. His rise to the top of state politics was more due to personal loyalties and devotion to local politics than a keen grasp of issues, they said.

"I never remember him doing anything spectacular. He was just dependable Joe," said June Fischer, a Democratic national committeewoman from Union County. "He was a Bayonne pol and he knew exactly what he was. And everybody loved him for it."

Mr. LeFante , who was the son of a municipal laborer in Bayonne, operated a furniture business, Public Service Furniture, for more than 30 years. Even when he was in Congress, he would go to the store and work the counter while he was back in his district, Carroll said.

He got his start in politics by serving on the Bayonne Charter Commission in 1960 and 1961 and then spent the next five years serving on the City Council and the local Board of School Estimate.

Mr. LeFante was elected to the Assembly in 1969 and served seven years, including one as speaker, before being elected to Congress in 1976. Bowing to pressure from Hudson County political bosses, he did not seek re-election in 1978 and instead took a job as Byrne's commissioner of community affairs. He ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 1982.

Mr. LeFante also held posts in the Kean and Florio administrations and disappointed some of his old Democratic friends by serving as state chairman of Democrats for Reagan-Bush in 1984.

But Carroll said he was a lifelong liberal who only supported Reagan because he felt Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale had reneged on a promise to provide funding for a military terminal in Bayonne. He said his loyalty to Bayonne came before ideology.

In his last years, Mr. LeFante operated his furniture business before retiring and moving to Toms River about six months ago.

Viewing will be tomorrow and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Migliaccio Funeral Home, 851 Kennedy Blvd. at 33rd St. in Bayonne. The mass will be 10:30 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Assumption R.C. Church, 71 W. 23rd St. in Bayonne.

Burial will be at Rose Hill Crematory in Linden.

LeFANTE Joseph A. LeFante , a former Assembly speaker and congressman from Hudson County who was one of the prime movers behind passage of New Jersey's income tax in 19

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Garver Graver
  • Added: 20 Apr 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 36103485
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Anthony LeFante (8 Sep 1928–26 Feb 1997), Find a Grave Memorial no. 36103485, citing Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery, Linden, Union County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .