Frank Pedula Jr., a Korean War veteran who was 26 when he was elected to the Franklin City Committee in Gloucester County in 1954, died Feb. 25. He was 93 years old.
Pedula was probably one of the last living New Jersey residents to run in the first by-elections of President Dwight D. Eisenhower nearly 68 years ago. During his eight years in the local government, Pedula played a leading role in expanding Franklin’s leisure office.
The opportunity for Pedula to run for local office came after another Democrat, James Parave, refused to be re-elected. He defeated Republican Joseph Caron by about 100 votes, 52% -48%.
Pedula ran for a ticket led by spokesman Charles Howell (D-Trenton). Howell sought an open seat in the U.S. Senate and lost to former MP Clifford Case (R-Rahway) with 3,370 votes nationwide, 48.7% -48.5%.
In 1956, Pedula became the youngest mayor of the state. He served as mayor until 1961.
He was re-elected to the township committee in 1957, making him one of the last surviving Democrats to run for governor Robert B. Meiner. Pedula was the best vote-picker, ahead of Republican Joseph Minotti, a former freelancer in Gloucester County, by about 200 votes. Minotti won second place by about 30 votes compared to Democrat Ernest Goldsmith, and Republican Francis Cankaglini, president of the Malaga Fire Company, came in fourth with about 400 votes to Pedula.
In his application for a third term in 1960, Pedula ran for the Democratic Party led by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. He again became the top scorer, ahead of Republican Albert Montana Jr. by about 100 votes, who ran for the township committee after Minotti was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly. Pedula finished by about 150 votes, ahead of Republican Astar Javinatsi.
The race was particularly close considering that Kennedy and his teammate Lyndon Johnson defeated Franklin by about 500 votes.
Pedula’s time as mayor came to an end after the Republicans won a 4-1 majority in the Franklin City Committee in 1962. He did not seek re-election in 1963.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, Pedula and his brothers founded the Asphalt Paving Corporation. He remained active in the community as a volunteer firefighter and members of Elk and the Knights of Columbus.
He is survived by his wife Mary, who is 67, his nephew John Gravenor, who runs the family’s cobblestone business, and his niece Rene.
The visit will take place on March 3 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s Church in Newfield, followed by a funeral Mass at 11:30 p.m.