Saturday marks what would have been John Judge's 62nd birthday.
It's on this day that his family has chosen to spread some of his ashes in the ocean off the coast of Florida. His close friends in Amagansett have already spread the rest of his ashes off of Maidstone Park Beach. They all said that he simply loved being out on the water no matter where his travels took him.
Dispersing of his ashes is something that his sister Peggy DiLena hopes will bring some closure to his sudden death — Judge was the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Amagansett two months ago — though she is left with the question of who's responsible. She described not knowing as a "ripping apart of your heart."
"Regardless of how it happened, you can't bring him back. I wouldn't wish that kind of death on anyone," DiLena said. "May God forgive the person who did that — they're going to have to answer to a higher authority eventually," she said.
Her entire family has resigned themselves to the idea that the driver who struck and killed him will never be found, she said.
Judge was crossing Montauk Highway in Amagansett after having dinner at his best friend Tony Lupo's restaurant, Astro Pizza, on Oct. 23 when he was struck. The driver fled. The vehicle was never located and no arrests were ever made, though East Hampton Town Police Detective Sgt. Robert Gurney said the investigation remains active. Detectives are working with the Suffolk County Crime Lab to analyze evidence left at the scene.
There is $10,000 in reward money available for information leading to an arrest. Half of the money came from Larry Siedlick, an Amagansett homeowner who didn't know Judge, but wanted to try and make sure his death got the attention it deserved. Superstorm Sandy arrived less than one week later and the accident quickly fell off the front pages.
"Regrettably, public awareness and media attention of John’s death was overwhelmed by the events surrounding Hurricane Sandy," Siedlick said this week. "I think it was Gandhi who said 'There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.' Perhaps the responsible person will ultimately listen to his or her own 'court of conscience' and do the right thing."
DiLena's husband Dennis DiLena said they've been in touch with the police, whom he said have tried their best. "As times goes by, it gets harder," he said.
He recalled the night they received the news at their home in central Florida. "My wife almost fell over. We were devastated," he said. They traveled to the South Fork for a service the following weekend. They made keepsake lockets and placed some of his ashes in them, he said. "We're just making the best of a bad situation now."
DiLena described her brother as sweet, good natured, and a giving person. "There's nothing he wouldn't do for anybody. I don't think he ever said 'no' to anybody," she said.
He had been married once, and his wife died young of cancer. "I know that tore him up something terrible," his sister said. Her death left him "brokenhearted," she said, and never quite the same.
Judge's sister takes solace in the fact that her brother had found loving friends and put down the deepest roots he ever had in Amagansett, having spent the last decade there with the Lupos. It was with them that he spent his last birthday, having dinner at he East Hampton Grill. They cherish photos of him unwrapping a sweater and blowing out a single candle.
However, he never had a permanent home after leaving his parents and moving from Central Islip. "Especially after my mother was gone, he was always looking for someone to look after him," Judge's sister said. "He loved the Lupos. I'm glad they were there for him."
"I've never met such nice people in my life. It's a rarity to find people like that," Dennis DiLena said, adding that after he and his wife traveled to the South Fork for Judge's service the weekend after he died, they got stuck there due to the hurricane. The Lupos donated one of their cottages in Maidstone Park to them.
The cottage was near Judge's favorite beach, where he spent time on his boat and with his friends. Although he left no will or directions, his sister said she is sure he would want the water to be his final resting place. "John's going to be around, hopefully, for a long time in spirit," his sister said.
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