Eric Munoz, Represented Area Since 2001, Dies at 61
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
SUMMIT – State Assemblyman Eric Munoz, 61, of Summit died Monday night following a heart attack at his Summit home on Monday morning. The assemblyman and trauma surgeon had served in the the State Legislature since 2001.
State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. of Westfield, who represents the 21st Legislative District (since 2002) remained at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where Mr. Munoz had emergency surgery, from 2 p.m. until the lawmaker’s death. He told The Westfield Leader that the assemblyman never regained consciousness.
“It’s a very sad day,” Senator Kean told The Westfield Leader. “He was an extraordinary person and a great and loyal friend.”
“There will be a little less laughter in the world with his passing,” Mr. Kean said. Aside from Mr. Munoz’s successes in medicine and politics, Mr. Kean said his colleague’s “most important priority was his family.”
Mr. Munoz previously served as a member of the Summit Common Council from 1996 through 2001, and was the city’s Republican chairman from 1998 to 2004.
He was nominated by the GOP committee in the district to fill a vacancy in the Legislature created when then-Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole of Essex County moved up to the State Senate. Mr. Munoz was elected to four terms in the Assembly and was preparing to seek a fifth term this year along with his runningmate since 2003, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick of Westfield.
“The tragic loss of a warm and caring father, husband and devoted public servant affects everyone in our state,” Mr. Bramnick said. “Eric was a true friend and our state’s doctor.”
The 21st District includes Berkeley Heights, Chatham Township, Cranford, Garwood, Harding, Long Hill, Madison, Mountainside, New Providence, Roselle Park, Springfield, Summit, Warren, Watchung and Westfield.
Union County Republican Committee Chairman Phil Morin described the lawmaker as “an outstanding husband, father, surgeon and legislator.”
“He was one of those rare people in public life who did many things behind the scenes that no one ever knew about. Eric had a generosity and kindness about him that was endearing,” Mr. Morin said. “He will be missed by me and the entire Union County Republican organization for the values of family and citizenship he championed as a legislator and lived every day.”
Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (LD-26, Morris Plains) said that fellow lawmakers and medical professionals knew Mr. Munoz for his “dedication and commitment…for making people’s lives better.”
“His selfless devotion to his work, whether as a surgeon or legislator, was remarkable,” Mr. DeCroce said.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) called the assemblyman’s death “a shocking and tragic loss that suddenly robs the Assembly of one of its most expert and passionate health care advocates.”
“As a trauma surgeon and professor of surgery, Assemblyman Munoz was tirelessly devoted not only to public service and his constituents, but to caring for those in need at their most desperate moments,” Mr. Roberts said.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th, Union), a former state legislator who was elected to Congress in November, said he served with Mr. Munoz in Legislature “for almost a decade.”
“While Eric will be deeply missed, he made a profound and extremely positive difference in the lives of the people of New Jersey,” Mr. Lance said.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie said Mr. Munoz “served our state with passion, honor and a commitment to improving the lives of his fellow New Jerseyans.”
The Summit Republican Committee released an e-mail that said it was with “great sadness” that they announced the “sudden and unexpected passing” of the assemblyman.
A native of Colts Neck, Mr. Munoz graduated from University of Virginia and received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1974.
Mr. Munoz also received a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Columbia University in 1983. He is survived by his wife Nancy, four sons and daughter.
A viewing for Mr. Munoz will be held today Thursday, April 2, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the William R. Dangler Funeral Home, 309 Springfield Avenue Summit.
A Funeral service will be held Friday, April 3,at 11:30 a.m. at St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church, 306 Morris Avenue Summit. Interment will take place at Fair Mount Cemetery in Chatham.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to the following organizations: UMDNJ Foundation, 65 Bergen Street, Newark, NJ 07103; Project Liberty Ship, P.O. Box 25846, Baltimore, MD; 21224-0546, and New Jersey Ballet, 15 Microlab Road Livingston, NJ 07039.
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