A former New Jersey senator and assemblyman from Monmouth County, who was known as a strong advocate for education, Joe Palaia died on Aug. 20. He was 89.

Sen. Palaia, of Ocean Township, was elected to the Assembly in 1982 after a stint in local and county government that began in 1967. He then served in the state Senate from 1989 until his retirement in 2008.

A former teacher and school administrator, who served for 33 years as principal of Wanamassa Elementary School in Ocean Township, the Republican legislator was known as an advocate for education and a champion of children with disabilities. During his years in the Legislature he sought to expand services for children with disabilities, often reaching across the aisle to do so. He served on the education committees in both houses.

He also often took part in the state’s annual Celebration of Special Education, and was a frequent speaker at NJSBA legislative forums.

“He was committed to public service and to the power of education, and he worked to improve the lives and educational opportunities of children with disabilities,” said NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod. “Senator Palaia touched many with his work on behalf of education and children. He will be missed.”

Palaia also co-sponsored the state’s Childproof Handgun Law.

Funeral arrangements were by Francioni Taylor & Lopez Funeral Home in Neptune City.