BY KATHY CHANG
EDISON — The Township Council took time to remember Dr. Thomas “Doc” Paterniti, who served the township in so many ways.
“Doc mentored many of us, including myself,” Council President Michael Lombardi said at a council meeting on May 24. “Doc was a true public servant.”
On May 13, Paterniti, 88, died at JFK Medical Center’s Haven Hospice Care Center in Edison.
Paterniti 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.
Councilman Joe Coyle said he had known Paterniti for 20 years.
“He had a great energy, the man was in great shape and supported many things we’ve done in the township,” he said. “He was always available for me even before I was councilman.”
Coyle, who sits on the Board of Directors for the Edison Chamber of Commerce, said Paterniti made time for the chamber.
“There was never a time where he didn’t allow me to come to his office and interrupt his [dental] practice [in Metuchen] when it was something for the residents, I appreciated that,” he said.
Councilman Robert Diehl said it was very difficult to share his feelings for someone as special as Paterniti.
“I don’t really know how many people I meet and engage and deal with, hundreds maybe thousands,” he said. “In that unbelievable number, only a handful of people make a difference in your life. Doc Paterniti was one of those people in my life.”
Council members said Paterniti would share his wisdom through the many stories he had.
“We would be sitting at a firehouse and Doc would say ‘Yeah, I built this firehouse’ and he would tell how the firehouse was built in the late 1940s and 1950s when he actually was the laborer,” Diehl said.
Councilwoman Sapana Shah recalled that Paterniti took her aside as a young committeewoman in 2009 and said “Kid, I got a lot of things to teach you.”
“I would stop by at his active dental practice and he would tell me stories about politics,” she said, adding Paterniti was her biggest cheerleader in her first election for the Edison Board of Education and later as councilwoman.
“He preached to always do the right thing,” she said.
Councilman Vice-President Alvaro Gomez said he is celebrating Paterniti’s life that was full of self-less acts.
“It was never about him, it was about everyone else and how he gave back to the people,” he said. “We will keep his memory alive [through] what he did and the precedence he set [for us] to follow.”