Joseph Romano Sr., owner of Sea Isle Ice Co., died Wednesday, several local officials and friends of the popular businessman said.
Assemblyman Jack Gibson said Romano, 73, was his "best friend," and that he had just had lunch with him Tuesday and he seemed fine. Romano began feeling ill Tuesday night and sought medical attention Wednesday. He was being taken to a hospital in Philadelphia when he died, Gibson said.
"We were friends since we were kids," Gibson said. "He was a pioneer in this town, a good businessman and a fair man. He will be greatly missed."
Romano moved to the Sea Isle when he was 9, Gibson said, and he never left. Sea Isle Ice Co. got its start in Sea Isle in 1965, and branched out with a plant in Woodbine 20 years ago.
He was a member of various civic and business organizations, and at one point served on the Sea Isle Board of Education, Gibson said.
But while interested in politics, Romano never chose political sides, instead opting to help build up his communities, something he did first in Sea Isle and later in Woodbine.
Woodbine Mayor William Pikolycky said Romano was a huge asset to his community.
The company employs 75 people and operates 50 delivery trucks, according to its website. Pikolycky said Romano's business provided many jobs to local residents.