In the month since John Judge was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Amagansett, his best friends, who were like family, have struggled with the void left behind.
Thanksgiving — which fell just one day before the month anniversary of the accident that remains unsolved — was particularly difficult; Judge always had a seat at the Lupo family table. Donning a pilgrim's hat was just one of the family traditions he took part in.
"For me, I always feel like something is missing," said Allison Lupo, whose husband Anthony Lupo knew Judge for 42 years. He was walking across the street from their restaurant, Astro's Pizza, after dinner, when he was struck. A passerby found him lying by a parked vehicle. "At the pizza place, I'm always expecting him to walk in. Here, he always helped me. Something is definitely missing," she said from her home in Amagansett.
There are little reminders around the house — small picture frames Judge bought them once, the red 'Vino' sign because he loved his red wine. "I always think of him because there's always something to remind me of him. Thanksgiving, that's a tough day."
The Lupos have many traditions, but Allison said she nearly forgot about one that she started just last year; she had all of her dinner guests write notes on a white tablecloth.
While she was preparing to host 20 this year, she found the tablecloth tucked away, and began frantically looking for Judge's note. She thought, beause he didn't like to write, that perhaps he had never signed it. She found a sense of relief, she said, when she found his initials, "JJ," written next to the cornucopia she had drawn on the tablecloth. Now, it is now even more of a treasured keepsake.
At Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Judge was very much a presence. They remembered him in a prayer.
"I've been thinking about him every day," said Tony Lupo. "But what am I going to do? There's nothing I can do. He's gone. I hope he's in a better place."
The day before Thanksgiving, Lupo described how he was feeling as simply, "bad." He met Judge at his family's pizzeria in Hampton Bays when he was just 12. Even though Judge was older and Lupo spoke little English, the two became lifelong friends.
Judge, who moved around a lot, came to live in Amagansett about 14 years ago and he ingrained himself with Tony's family. He always ended up entertaining them. When the Lupo's daughter turned 21 and they threw her a Hawaiian-themed party, he wore a grass hula skirt.
"I miss his jokes. He had a joke for everything. He was a natural comedian," Tony said.
The Lupos are beginning to think of what to do to memorialize him. In the spring, they're planning on buying a bench with a plaque through the Amagansett Improvement Society to place in front of Decorum, near where Judge was found lying on the ground on the evening of Oct. 23. He also lived in an apartment behind that store.
The past month has been a whirlwind, the family said. Judge's family, who live elsewhere in the country, came to East Hampton for a service the weekend following his death. Allison and Tony got away for a week, during the hurricane, but two days into their trip, they received a call that Alison's nephew's girlfriend's mother, Dee Wright, was missing. She died in the storm.
Upon their return, the Lupos were sent Judge's ashes from his family. Along with another friend, the couple spread his ashes at his favorite spot. They used a wine glass to pour them out, and Tony did the honors. Alison said she thinks it brought her husband some closure.
While the police continue to look at the evidence left behind at the scene, the Lupos' hopes are dwindling that the driver will be apprehended or that someone who has information will step forward, despite .
"I want to give them the benefit of the doubt," Allison said, and she has refrained from buying into the notion that the driver is an illegal immigrant without a license. "It could have been a kid who got really scared. It could have been somebody who was drunk. I've got to tell you, if I didn't take my mom's license away last year, it could have been my mom — she can't hear, can't see. . . it could have been many different things. It could have been a big delivery truck that didn't even feel anything."
No matter what the situation, the family knows it was an accident, Allison said."The reality is, it's not going to change anything. And that's really hard to accept. But there's somebody who has to go to sleep every night, going 'Oh, my God, I killed somebody.'"
Police believe the vehicle that hit Judge was dark metallic blue and has front end damage. Anyone with information about the accident is asked to do the following: call the East Hampton Town Police Detective Division at 631-537-7575 or email detectives at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.
Tipsters may also text tips to the Suffolk County Police Department at CRIMES (274637) and text SCPD, plus the message. You may also go to www.tipsubmit.com. All calls will be kept confidential.