Lautenberg's Strength Was His Generosity

The Record ( — Thursday, June 6, 2013


Regarding "A life dedicated to health, safety and New Jersey" (Page A-1, June 4):

Most everyone even remotely involved in politics or community life or with environmental or labor organizations has distinct and favorite memories of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Some are tied to fighting the good fight alongside Lautenberg for chemical safety or public transportation or health care and the rights of workers. He was steadfast, determined and spoke the truth when others shied away from the fight.

I also remember Lautenberg because my now-deceased mother-in-law worked for Automatic Data Processing in the very early days as a bookkeeper. As a young widow in the 1950s, she could provide for her family because of ADP, and she even paid off her home mortgage early with the ADP stock she received.

Years later, long after she retired, I took my mother-in-law and my 2-year-old daughter to see Lautenberg at a political meeting. I remember Lautenberg's warm greeting to her. He called her by name, Helen, hugged her and asked how she was. She left the meeting beaming that a U.S. senator would remember her and her loyalty to his company.

As someone who worked with NJ Citizen Action, and for years at the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), New Jersey's leading health care union, I have other memories of Lautenberg standing strong for average New Jerseyans, against big odds, walking picket lines and speaking at rallies. He was often the only elected official willing to step out and speak up when the stakes were high.

But my favorite memory is what he meant to an average family, as a business owner and a warm and generous human being.

Jeanne Otersen
Glen Rock, June 4

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