At Green Hill, the West Orange nursing home where scenes involving Tony's ailing mother were shot, executive director Toni Lynn Davis said the residents loved the show. Several even got hired as extras, and the show's payments helped buy a giant flat-screen TV on which they watched the show each week.
"They said it was their weekly vocabulary lesson," Davis said. "They learned all those new swear words."
She said the show has become part of the fabric of New Jersey.
"There are definitely parts of New Jersey that are very close to what was depicted," she said. "You can't go anywhere in New Jersey and not hear that the Sopranos was shot there. They went all over."
The house where Tony Soprano lived is in North Caldwell, and fans were stopping by to show their respects to Gandolfini. Michael Primamore, who lives nearby and whose family runs an auto repair business, left a bag of dried ziti next to the candles that sprouted in the driveway.
He said the show accurately reflected the experiences of his and other Italian-American families who settled in Newark before moving to the suburbs.
"The show was full of so many northern New Jersey Italian expressions, if you weren't raised in that world, you wouldn't get some parts of it," he said. "The show reached me on a personal level in so many ways."
Several North Caldwell residents recalled seeing and meeting cast members.
"They were great people, very personable," said Chris Masi, who said he met Gandolfini. "They would come up and give you a hug. They put us on the map. It meant a lot."
Fans also gathered at Holsten's, the Bloomfield ice cream parlor where the show's famous cut-to-black last scene was shot.
"I'm sad he died," said Fred O'Neil of Montclair, who, like Gandolfini, is 51. "I can't believe it. It makes me think of my own mortality."
Primamore said his reaction to Gandolfini's death was a lot like what Tony Soprano's would have been: "It's a tragedy. What are you gonna do?"
Associated Press writers David Porter in North Caldwell, N.J., Julio Cortez in Bloomfield, N.J., and Katie Zezima in West Orange, N.J. contributed to this report.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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