West Caldwell Democratic Committee Chairman Alexander A. Trento died Thursday while hospitalized due to complications from an illness at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.
Trento, who turned 70 on June 5, was for many years the Democratic leader in West Caldwell, serving as Chairman of the West Caldwell Democratic Committee, mentoring candidates and running himself for mayor in 2010.
He got involved in politics at a young age, unseating a longtime councilman in Irvington at the age of 25, according to friend and former running mate District 4 Essex County Freeholder Leonard Luciano.
Luciano was in his twenties himself when he said he knocked on Trento's door seven years ago and declared he was running for council against his candidates.
Luciano said Trento responded, "You are trying to tell me that I’ve got three candidates this year when most years I can’t find any?"
Although generations apart in age, the two became close and Trento was instrumental in getting Luciano elected to freeholder last November. On Friday, Luciano called Trento not just a friend, mentor and legislative aide, but also a "surrogate" father.
The freeholder said Trento taught him that, "Even when you lose you win by meeting good people, making friends along the way, raising issues in the community and also keeping the opposition on the balls of their feet."
Trento got involved in West Caldwell politics when he moved to the township in 1978. Republicans have had a stronghold in the municipal government for decades, but those who knew Trento said he managed to be influential without being elected to office.
After two failed council runs, Trento attempted to unseat longtime West Caldwell Republican Mayor Joseph Tempesta in 2010 when he ran on the same ticket with council candidates Luciano and Bob Natko.
During his campaign, he said he wanted to create a business advisory council to help fill commercial vacancies in the township. He also spoke passionately about ethics reform.
"Although I am not happy with the result, I am encouraged by the energetic enthusiasm of the electorate to come out and participate in government," Trento told Patch after his failed mayoral run.
Running mate Bob Natko said Friday he knew Trento for five years and was very fond of him.
"I felt very privileged to know him. I never knew anyone like him," Natko said. "He had such a fantastic energy and such an insight. He really wanted to do good."
Mark Cohen, a friend of 30 years, was re-elected as Vice-Chair of the West Caldwell Democratic Committee on Monday. Cohen said Trento's wife, Marie, was chosen to take over as Chair.
"He was a good guy," Cohen said, "that’s the best way to put it. And he will definitely be missed by everyone he touched."
This year, Trento was working on the campaigns of Marc Driggs and Frank Mondsini, the Democratic party's council candidates for the November election.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Alex Trento. Alex welcomed us with love and kindness into his family. He was our greatest source of guidance and inspiration," the candidates said in a prepared statement. "His love for West Caldwell was evident from the very first time we met him. We are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to call him our friend. He will forever be in our prayers."
Luciano said aside from politics Trento loved spending time with his grandchildren and was a NJ Devils' season ticket holder for more than 20 years.
"He loved the New Jersey Devils to no end," Luciano said. "Definitely put a smile to his face to see how well the team was doing this year."
Trento graduated from Montclair State College. He was a teacher in Newark and served as a school administrator for many years before coming to the West Caldwell campus of Essex County Vo-Tech High School, where he retired as principal in the late 1990s. Trento served on the Irvington council for 12 years, two years as council president. He also ran for state assembly in 1979.
Trento is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Marie, two children Alex and Gina, and two grandchildren.
Visitation for Alex Trento will be at Farmer Funeral Home, 45 Roseland Ave., in Roseland, on Monday, June 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Tuesday, June 19, from 4 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will be held at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 28 Livingston Ave., in Roseland on Wednesday, June 20, at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Ridgedale Road in East Hanover.