Roseville's former state senator Lunardi dies

By: Staff report
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A lifelong Roseville resident and former California state senator and assemblyman has died.

Paul J. Lunardi, 91, passed away peacefully on Jan. 11, 2013. He was born Sept. 30, 1921 in Roseville and lived his entire life at the family home on Earl Avenue.

The Roseville High School graduate enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After the war, he was elected to the Roseville City Council in 1950 and 1954, winning the mayoral seat in the latter year.

He was instrumental in the adoption of a city charter for the council-manager form of government, obtained Central Valley Federal power for the city and led the drive to construct the first hospital in Roseville in 1952.

Lunardi was interviewed by the Press Tribune in 2011 upon receiving a resolution on the Senate floor.

“It was sort of accidental,” he said of going into politics. “I just kind of expressed myself about what was happening in Roseville.”

Lunardi was elected to the State Assembly in 1958, representing the 6th District, which spanned 11 mountain counties. He served in the Assembly until 1963 when he was elected to the State Senate to represent the 7th Senate District, which included the counties of Sierra, Nevada and Placer. He retired in 1966 due to redistricting.

Skiers and mountain residents still benefit from one of Lunardi’s major legislative accomplishments, which designated the “Truckee shortcut” as a California State Route Highway 267, linking Truckee to Kings Beach. Prior to 1965, the road was regularly closed by snow in the winter. Lunardi’s legislation enabled the road to remain open year-round, worth millions of dollars to the area’s tourism and ski industries, and allowing for the development of Northstar.

One of Lunardi’s proudest accomplishments was his legislation designating the ghost town of Bodie as a State Historic Park. Bodie is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the best preserved and most visited (200,000 people a year) ghost towns in the nation.

 Lunardi introduced the first bill in the state’s history to assess farmland at a lower tax rate. The bill later passed with the help of Assemblyman John Williamson and is now known as the Williamson Act.

Senator Lunardi was honored in 2008 when his hometown of Roseville dedicated a park in his name, to honor his civic achievements and his dedication to the community that he lived in his whole life.

He lived in a home on Earl Avenue, next-door to the home he was born in.

“People would say to him, ‘You were a senator, you could have built a house, how come you never moved?’ It’s because this is his roots. It’s where he was born,” said his daughter Nancy Lunardi on Monday.

Right up until his death, his daughter reports that Lunardi would work in the yard, preferring to keep busy rather than do nothing.

Despite being a powerful lawmaker, Lunardi would never ask for favors from anyone, she said.

“After he was born they threw away the mold,” Nancy Lunardi said. “Anyone who knows him like I did would say same thing.”

Lunardi’s large extended family includes his late wives, Lou Lunardi and Gerry Lunardi; children Nancy Lunardi, Yvonne Sena (deceased), Carol Kennedy, Janet Bedrosian and Richard Kennedy; 11 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

No family funeral services will be held. A remembrance celebration is being organized by his close friends. Donations in memory of Lunardi may be made to the Salvation Army.