EDISON – Former Township Mayor Dr. Thomas H. “Doc” Paterniti, 88, died May 13 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center’s Haven Hospice Care Center in Edison, surrounded by his loving family, according to his obituary.
According to the obituary, Paterniti – a dentist for 60 years with a private practice in Metuchen – served twice as mayor of Edison and 12 years in the New Jersey Legislature, representing the 18th District as a state senator and assemblyman.
He was also Middlesex County’s longest-serving Democratic Municipal Chairman, a post he held in Edison for a total of 31 years until 2015, his obituary said.
Paterniti is widely regard as the “Dean of Middlesex County Democrats” for his long and distinguished public service career, his legislative accomplishments, his skillful political strategies and for mentoring many successful local, county and statewide candidates.
Born on Feb. 4, 1929 in Perth Amboy, he was the oldest of the late Thomas J. and Theresa (Quintiliani) Paterniti’s three children.
He graduated from Most Holy Rosary School in Perth Amboy and, within weeks of his 1946 graduation from Perth Amboy High School, Paterniti enlisted, at age 17, in the U.S. Army. He served two years with the 7th Division, 31st Light Infantry, including a 14-month tour of duty in Korea.
After his 1948, honorable discharge as an Army Corporal at age 19, Paterniti worked in the building trades, earning his carpenters’ union card as a journeyman lather. He proudly remained active in the carpenters’ union for 68 years, the obituary said.
Paterniti went to college on the G.I. Bill, graduating from Seton Hall University with B.S. in chemistry and earning a Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) in 1956 at the University of Maryland.
In 1957, Paterniti opened his dental practice on Grove Avenue in Metuchen, where he treated patients for nearly 60 years until his 2016 retirement. For 45 years, Paterniti also served on the dental staff at JFK Medical Center in Edison.
Throughout his adult life, Paterniti was active in state, county, and local politics. He served as chairman of the Edison Democratic Party from 1970-78 and as Mayor of the Edison from 1974-78.
He won an 18th District Assembly seat in the November 1979 election, serving four terms before being elected to the State Senate, where he continued serving 18th District communities from 1988-91.
After the untimely death in 1989 of long-time Edison Mayor Anthony M. Yelencsics, Paterniti was again elected Mayor of Edison, taking office in January 1990. Facing a tough Senate re-election campaign in 1991, he stepped down as Mayor after 12 months, the obituary said.
In 1992, the Edison Democratic Organization selected Paterniti as party chairman once again. He served an unprecedented 23 consecutive years at its helm. With his eight years as chairman in 1970s, Paterniti's 31-year tenure made him the longest serving Democratic party leader in Middlesex County.
As a state lawmaker, Paterniti was author and primary sponsor of many measures to protect public safety and implement tougher criminal penalties; to increase residential construction standards and safeguards tenant rights. A fiscal conservative, Paterniti consistently fought to minimize the state’s tax burden on property owners.
In Trenton, Paterniti championed laws to improve the quality-of-life for working-class and lower-income families, for senior citizens, veterans, and people with disabilities. His effort on behalf of New Jersey veterans, earned Paterniti an “Outstanding Legislator” award from the national Military Order of the Purple Heart.
As mayor in the 1970s, Paterniti led a successful fight to close Edison’s Kin Buc Landfill; he extended the municipal sewer system into North Edison, developed six new township parks, and established public library branches in North Edison and the Clara Barton section of town.
Paterniti was proud that, as mayor, he built the Woodbridge Avenue Senior Citizen Center and secured enough federal funding to build the Edison Municipal Complex without raising the town’s budget or burdening taxpayers with long-term debt.
A steadfast believer in civic service, Paterniti served for 26 years as chairman of the Middlesex County March of Dimes Campaign and for many years on the Central New Jersey March of Dimes’ board of directors.
Paterniti was a founding member and trustee of the Edison Sheltered Workshop for people with developmental disabilities and he served on the board of directors for the Central Jersey Association for Exceptional Children.
Paterniti was past-president of the Edison Library Board of Trustees, the Metuchen Chamber of Commerce, and the Metuchen Rotary Club. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
In recognition of his lifetime achievements, Paterniti was an inductee to the Perth Amboy High School Hall of Honor.
Paterniti is predeceased by his parents, the late Thomas J. and Theresa (Quintiliani) Paterniti, and his sister, the late Andrea Paterniti Moss.
He is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Helen “Pix” (Soltesz) Paterniti; a son, Thomas H. Paterniti of Pittsburgh, Pa.; three daughters, Maria Tomaro and her husband Freeholder Charles Tomaro of Edison, Sarah Mandel and her husband Dr. Marc Mandel of Westfield, and Lisa Paterniti of Edison.
Six grandchildren also survive him: Amanda Troiano and her husband Christopher, Justin Tomaro, Thomas and Tara Paterniti, and Brian and Joseph Mandel, and by a great granddaughter, Scarlett Troiano. He is also survived by his brother, Carmen S. Paterniti and his wife Nan of Califon, N.J.; his brother-in-law John Soltesz and his wife Dawn of Edison and his sister-in-law Brenda (Soltesz) Rinaldi and her husband Robert Rinaldi of Edison. Paterniti was lovingly known as “Uncle Tom” to nine nieces and nephews and as great-uncle to 12, always remembering each of them on Easter and Valentine’s Day with chocolates.
Funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at Good Shepherd Parish of Holy Rosary Church, Hopelawn.
Interment will follow in Holy Rosary Cemetery, Hopelawn.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Flynn and Son Funeral Home, 23 Ford Ave., Fords.
In lieu of flowers donation may be made to the Auxiliary of JFK Medical Center Reflections Program, 65 James St., Edison, N.J., 08820.