Tony Lupo placed a bouquet of flowers on the side of Main Street, where John Judge was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident as he left Astro Pizza on Tuesday night, with a note that reads: "To the best friend in the whole world."
"I lost a piece of myself," Lupo said from his Amagansett home, the morning after the accident that took the life of his friend of over 40 years.
Judge had just finished dinner at Astro Pizza — Lupo's son Joey made him veal marsala. "JJ," as they called him, lived right across the street in a rental apartment. The Lupos said he left through the side door, as he always did. No one quite knew exactly when he left, but they think it was around 7:40 p.m.
"He almost made it across the street," Joey Lupo said.
Dominick Stanzione, who is an East Hampton Town councilman, arrived to pickup a take out order, when he spotted a man the street, up against the tire of a Toyota Tundra that was parked on the eastbound side of the street.
He ran into Astro Pizza, yelling for someone to call 911.
Right away, Joey Lupo said, his father asked if the victim was Judge. After they called 911, he ran outside and recognized Judge by his jeans and his boots. His sweatshirt was pulled over his head, his body mangled, Joey Lupo recalled.
Police received the call at 7:52 p.m. The vehicle that hit him was long gone.
"You hit somebody and just go? Do the right thing," Tony Lupo said. "Even if it's a dog or something, you stop."
Lupo's wife Allison said Judge, 61, was a part of her family, someone who came on family vacations, was at the table for holidays, was a fixture at their family restaurant, and helped fix things around the house.
"We don't have the same last name. We're not blood related, but John was my family. He was like my fourth child and, for my husband, he was like a brother," she said.
She said he had coffee with her husband every morning at 8 a.m. and sat at the restaurant at night. "He was a predictable guy. Every day was the same day for him. He'd leave the restaurant and say, 'See you in the morning, kiddo.'"
The Lupo family described Judge as a generous person who would do anything for anybody. He lived simply and didn't care about making money.
Tony Lupo recalled a time when Judge was sick with a fever, but still kept his word to do some repairs. After two hours of work, he only charged the woman $20. "I had to keep on top of him to get paid because most of the time he wouldn't even charge," he said.
The two friends met when Lupo was 13 years old, newly emigrated from Italy and working at John's Pizza in Hampton Bays. They kept in touch for three decades as Judge, who was originally from the Bronx and was a bit of a drifter, travelled the country for work. Alison Lupo said Judge's wife died at 40 from colon cancer, and he was never quite the same. He showed up in Amagansett about 12 years ago and never left.
He worked odd jobs and enjoying fishing, boating and spending time with the Lupos on the beach. He had no children, but is survived by a sister, Peggy, in Florida, and two brothers, Billy, in Pennsylvania, and Bobby, in Virginia.
According to Allison Lupo, he had been selected in the lottery for an apartment at the affordable housing for seniors at St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Amagansett, which will be done soon. "He was so excited. He was going to have a home," she said.
Two days ago, she helped him fill out paperwork to receive Social Security, as he was going to turn 62 on Dec. 22. Gianfelice (John) Lupo, another son of Allison and Tony who teaches at East Hampton High School, said Judge just joked that he didn't think he would make it to the age to receive Social Security, since many of his friends hadn't.
"I feel terrible for my father. I don't know who my dad is going to hang out with now," he said.
While they are all reeling from the loss of a part of their family, they want to see the driver take responsibility.
"Knowing who it is isn't going to change the fact John is gone, but maybe it can just bring some closure to what happened," she said. "You don't just leave somebody on the side of the road like that. Whatever happened, it was an accident no matter what. Please, please come forward."
Crime Stoppers has posted up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver. For more information click here.