Government

Political Leaders Mourn the Loss of Former Democratic Chairman Ray Durkin, 78

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Mentor, political powerhouse, and former Democratic Party Chairman Ray Durkin passed away Tuesday night from congestive heart failure.

Born in 1936, Durkin grew up in the Vailsburg section of Newark’s West Ward and attended Sacred Heart Parish. 

As an adult, he later became a longtime resident of Maplewood, worked as a firefighter of 15 years in the City of Newark, before leaving to work in the Essex County Purchasing Agent’s office.

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From 1980 to 1992, Durkin served as Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Organization, having also served as chair of the State Democratic Party from 1985 to 1989.

Durkin was known and respected by politicians statewide and remained an active political advisor in Essex County politics until his passing. 

Senate President Steve Sweeney said, "Ray Durkin was a pillar of Essex County and our state Democratic Party who epitomized what public service should be,  A firefighter and dedicated advocate for the people of Essex County and this state, Chairman Durkin instilled those traits in his family and they will carry on with his son, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin."

Durkin is survived by his wife, Joan Codey Durkin, first cousin of former Governor Richard Codey.  He also leaves to mourn five adult children including four sons Raymond, Timothy, David, Chris and a daughter, Maureen Holleran. Durkin's son Chris followed in his dad's footsteps and has been serving as the Essex County Clerk since 2006.

Codey said, “I loved Ray Durkin like a father.  He was always there for me with great advice.  As Chairman of the state Democratic Party as well as in Essex, the largest Democratic County in the state, Ray was a great leader for our party. He always acted like a chairman, a statesman and a friend – never like a Boss.”

A viewing for Durkin has been scheduled for Sunday, December 28 from 3-9p.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange and a Mass will take place on Monday, December 29 at 11a.m. in the same location.

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