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Pat LaRocca, leading member of the Essex Republican Party, dies at the age of 89
Pat LaRocca, leading member of the Essex Republican Party, dies at the age of 89

Patricia M. LaRocca, a fixture in Essex County Republican politics for decades and former chairwoman of the Livingston Republican Town Board, died July 6. She was 89.

She was one of Ronald Reagan’s early supporters and was in office in 1976 when he attempted to win the Republican presidential nomination against Gerald Ford.

LaRocca was a longtime ally of Joseph A. Intile, a renegade Republican Party leader in Essex County in the 1960s and early 1970s when Essex was still politically contested. She was part of Rep. Charles Sandman’s gubernatorial campaign in 1973, when he defeated incumbent William Cahill in the Republican primary.

In 1977, LaRocca supported former Senator C. Robert Sarcone (R-Newark) in the Republican primary for governor and ran for his position as Republican State Committeewoman from Essex County, but lost to incumbent Karla Squier. In the general election, she chaired a statewide organization of Republicans supporting the re-election of Democratic Governor Brendan Byrne.

She was also a strong supporter of John P. Renna in his successful 1977 run for Essex County Republican against Assemblyman Carl Orechio (R-Nutley). She supported Sarcone in his 1973 run for county chairman against Frederic Remington and Joseph Galluzzi in his 1976 run to unseat Remington.

She had an exceptional ability to fill vacant seats on county committees throughout Essex County, a skill that allowed her to amass a certain amount of influence in county politics.

LaRocca and her husband, Louis J. LaRocca Jr., first ran for a seat on the Livingston Republican County Committee in 1971, losing to Sanford Sobel and Rhoda Lieberman by about twenty votes. Pat and Lou LaRocca ran for the County Committee again in 1973. She defeated Carmella Arnold by 31 votes and her husband won by 61 to 35 against Kingston Fairclough. She had previously served as a County Committee member in Newark.

She worked as a senior investigator in the Essex County Adjuster’s office, where she was part of a team assembled by Frank Palmieri, an Orange Republican leader who had lost the 1960 congressional election to Rep. Hugh Addonizio (D-Newark). After Addonizio gave up his seat to run for mayor of Newark in 1962, he had to face union leader Joseph Minish (D-West Orange).

After leaving Essex County, LaRocca worked for the PMK Group, the engineering firm of former Philip M. Keegan (D-Newark), a former state legislator, Essex County landowner and Democratic state chairman.

She later served as an assistant to then-Representative Kevin J. O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove).

LaRocca was married in February after 63 years of marriage. She leaves behind four children and 12 grandchildren.

A viewing will be held on Monday, July 15th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Brunswick Memorial Home in East Brunswick, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial on Tuesday, July 16th at St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in East Brunswick.

(Editor’s note: Patty and Lou LaRocca were my first and best supporters in my 1984 campaign for a seat on the Livingston Township Council and were responsible for my two-vote victory in a contested county committee vote to support the organization. I will always be grateful to them for their unwavering loyalty and friendship. — DW)

By Seren