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    James Gandolfini: New Jersey Politicians Pay Tribute to Beloved State Son

    James Gandolfini, Last Pic Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

    James Gandolfini's indomitable legacy won't soon be forgotten, especially by those whose state he so proudly represented and embodied.

    New Jersey politicians paid their respects to the late actor, who died suddenly Wednesday in Rome at the age of 51 and whose propulsive performance as iconic mob boss Tony Soprano on The Sopranos won him three Emmys and shined a bright light on the Garden State, which proudly embraced the New Jersey native as one of its own.

    PHOTOS: James Gandolfini's life in pictures

    "It's an awful shock. James Gandolfini was a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a statement.

    "I was a huge fan of his and the character he played so authentically, Tony Soprano. I have gotten to know Jimmy and many of the other actors in the Sopranos cast and I can say that each of them are an individual New Jersey treasure," he added. "[Wife] Mary Pat and I express our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gandolfini's wife and children, and our prayers are with them at this terrible time."

    "My condolences to the family and all those who loved James Gandolfini," tweeted Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who celebrated the actor as "a true NJ Great and NJ Original. RIP."

    PHOTOS: The Sopranos OMG moments

    Sen. Robert Menendez, meanwhile, singled out Gandolfini's pride in his home state.

    "James Gandolfini was a distinctive, talented actor whose unforgettable performances made him a television icon. Through all of his success, James Gandolfini remained a proud New Jerseyan, a Westwood native and a Rutgers University graduate," the New Jersey senator said in a statement.

    "His photograph has been displayed in my Washington, D.C., office for years as part of our New Jersey Wall of Fame. I am saddened at the news of his untimely death. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and all who were close to him."

    PHOTOS: Tony Soprano was one of TV's greatest villains

    Gandolfini's alma mater also paid tribute to its renowned alum.

    "The Rutgers University community mourns the sad and sudden loss of James Gandolfini, a 1983 Rutgers graduate who was inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2004," a university spokesman said in a statement.

    "Mr. Gandolfini was a proud and passionate supporter of the university for many years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Gandolfini's family."

    Immediately after news of Gandolfini's death broke, bereaved fans flocked to the iconic restaurant where The Sopranos' polarizing and controversial final scene was shot: Holsten's diner in Bloomfield, N.J.

    "People are just here reminiscing," the diner's co-owner Chris Carley told E! News exclusively, adding the place was "packed" and that up to 500 people had stopped by since Gandolfini's passing hit the news. "They are here to pay their respects."

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