Robert J. Halpin, 90, of Seminole, Fla., former speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, died June 12, 2013.
Born in Vineland, he was a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in 1940, South Jersey College and the University of Rutgers Law School. In 1950, he was admitted to practice law in New Jersey and the U.S. District Court. He was a member of the Vineland and Cumberland County Bar Associations and served two years as assistant prosecutor of Cumberland County.
Mr. Halpin served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres. He was first vice-commander and Judge Advocate of the Vineland Catholic War Veterans and a past state trustee of the NJ Catholic War Veterans. He held memberships in the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, Navy Club and was an officer in the Vineland United War Veterans Council. He was a charter member of the Vineland Junior Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of the drive that obtained petition signatures for the successful consolidation of the Borough of Vineland and Township of Landis into the City of Vineland. In 1956, the Vineland Junior Chamber of Commerce named him the Outstanding Young Man with the Distinguished Service Award.
In 1952, he was elected to the Vineland City Council. He served on the City of Vineland Planning Board and the School Board of Estimates. He was re-elected to the Vineland City Council in 1956, and chosen by the council members as their president.
In 1959, he was elected to represent Cumberland County in the New Jersey Assembly and continued to serve for four consecutive terms, being selected as minority leader in 1965, majority leader in 1966 and speaker of the General Assembly in 1967. He also served a week as acting governor.
Mr. Halpin had many accomplishments during his legislative terms. He was most proud of being the prime Democratic sponsor leading to the passage of the New Jersey two-year community college legislation, which culminated in Cumberland County College being one of the first constructed in the state. Also, with the help of then Senator Bob Weber, he succeeded in his quest for a four-lane highway in Cumberland County called "Route 55."
In 1969, he was elected to the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, which gave the Democrats a 4-to-3 majority for the first time in the history of Cumberland County. In 1972, he was re-elected to the board. He served as the New Jersey attorney to the Delaware River & Bay Authority for three years and attorney to the Cumberland County Utilities Authority for 14 years, until he retired from the practice of law in 1989.
He was a member of the Vineland Democratic Organization and was elected Democratic city chairman from 1960 to 1975 and Cumberland County Democratic chairman in 1975. He was elected as a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
In 1955, he was one of the founders of the Buena Vista Country Club, serving as a director, secretary and attorney. He served as solicitor of the Vineland Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Sacred Heart School Varsity Club.
Mr. Halpin was a member of the Vineland Knights of Columbus, Third Degree and awarded a life membership in the Bishop Carroll Assembly Fourth Degree. He was a member of Sacred Heart Church in Vineland and St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Largo, Fla., where he also served as a lector.
Born on Dec. 8, 1922, he was the son of the late James and Margaret (Lane) Halpin. He is survived by his loving wife, Peggy (Edwards) Halpin; three daughters, Jeanne Rossi of Newfield, Kathleen Halpin of Wilmington, Del., and Jerri Ann Trevino of Millville; two sons, Robert P. Halpin of Las Vegas and Barry Halpin of Vineland; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by a stepdaughter, Robin Bertonazzi of Vineland; two step-grandchildren; and one step-great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his first wife, Kathryn (Malloy) Halpin; a grandson, Robert R. Halpin; three brothers, James, Gerald and Jack; and a sister, Elizabeth (Halpin) Reeder.
A funeral will be held at St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Largo, Fla., and details for a memorial service in Vineland will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Lighthouse Hospice Foundation, 1040 N. Kings Highway, Suite 100, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.
Local arrangements are under the direction of the Padgett Funeral Home, Upper Deerfield Township. Written condolences may be sent to the family through the funeral home website at www.padgettfuneralhomes.com.