One of New Jersey’s best known actors died on June 19th, 2013.

James Gandolfini, New Jersey born and bred, died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy, after a day of sight seeing. He was only 51.

Gandolfini was born in Westfield and grew up in Park Ridge. He was a proud graduate of Rutgers and maintained a relationship with the university until his death. While he had an impressive resume of film (True Romance and Crimson Tide) and Broadway (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, and God’s Carnage) roles, he will forever be known for playing Tony Soprano from 1999-2007 on HBO’s hit The Sopranos.

He became a cultural icon for his portrayal of the New Jersey based mobster and won three Best Actor Emmys, among other accolades. The show was, at the time, HBO’s most successful series. TV Guide even named it the best TV series of all time, and it got the same ranking by Rolling Stone. It was of particular interest to New Jersey residents because of all the New Jersey locales and references; the title sequence had Tony coming through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Turnpike and through North Jersey, the Bada Bing Club was a real go-go bar in Lodi, Tony and Carmela’s house is a private residence in North Caldwell, and there’s a famous episode set in the Pine Barrens.

After The Sopranos ended, Gandolfini produced one documentary about soldiers returning from (Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq) and one about the history of PTSD in American soldiers (Wartorn). He had also completed two feature films before his death which were released posthumously: Enough Said and The Drop.

When his body was returned from Italy, Governor Christie ordered flags flown at half-staff, the lights on Broadway were dimmed in his honor, and a street in Park Ridge, where he grew up, was renamed James Gandolfini Way. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2014.

James Gandolfini’s son, Michael, plays a young Tony Soprano in The Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, which wrapped filming this week.

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