A Manhattan corporate attorney is leading a group of wealthy summer residents in Long Island’s tony Hamptons who want to tear down a road sign honoring a nun killed in a 2012 hit-and-run. Why? Because he’s tired of repeating her depressing story to guests. Let's face it, having to talk about a dead nun over petits fours and cocktails around the pool can be a real buzzkill.
“Every time someone visits, I am forced to recount this tragedy because they ask who Sister Jackie was,” says lawyer John Carley.
“While I have no doubt Sister Jackie was a wonderful person and deserves to be remembered by those who knew her, her tragic death while visiting us is not an event residents wish to recall.”
Sister Jacqueline Walsh, 59, was walking near the Sisters of Mercy convent on Rose Hill Road in Water Mill when she was run down by Carlos Armando Ixpec-Chitay, an undocumented Guatemalan working as a gardener in that village. Ixpec-Chitay, whose smashed car was discovered abandoned a half mile from the scene, fled the country to avoid prosecution with the help of his brother. The brother subsequently served four months in prison for aiding his escape.
Southhampton Town Superintendant of Highways Alex Gregor installed a blue sign last year that reads “Sister Jackie’s Way” above the normal green street marker to memorialize the victim.
Carley apparently isn’t the only resident irked at having to remember the Sister known for her work with the underprivileged and as a youth minister. Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst sent out surveys to the 43 residents of Rose Hill Road. Seventeen voted against the sign, two voted to keep it, and two indicated they didn’t care one way or the other. Twenty-two failed to respond at all.
The votes against the sign included millionaire real estate developer Andrew Borrok, Tao restaurant mogul Marc Packer, corporate attorney Amy Cherry-Abitbol and television producer Robin Craig.
Supervisor Throne-Holst had a town parks employee take down the sign last month, but Gregor promptly put it back up. Throne-Holst has announced her intention of having the sign removed again.
“The rich are made uncomfortable very easily,” Gregor said.
Maybe they are. But can you blame them? Between the horse shows, garden fêtes, gallery openings, that unpleasant Obama fellow and now - sigh - a tiresome tragedy to recall, it's getting harder and harder to find the time to just kick back and enjoy being rich.
1:00 PM PT: For those who've questioned why Sister Jackie has been singled out for a memorial sign, she has not. There are numerous memorial signs around the town dedicating portions of roadway for others who have lost their lives.
Nevertheless Highway Superintendent Gregor agreed today to take down the sign after the nuns who live at the Sisters of Mercy Convent on the road asked him to remove it to quell the controversy that has swirled around it.
“The sisters are upset about the controversy and asked me to please take down the sign,” Mr. Gregor told reporters. “They feel that they are not welcomed by the other residents of the street anymore and they don’t like the attention. I never meant for this to be the big hoopla it’s turned into.”
Mr. Gregor thinks that most people in the community were supportive of the memorial to Sister Jackie, and that the disproportionate influence of a few wealthy residents on the Town Board is what drove the campaign to have it removed.
“Not all people are created equal ... or maybe some are more equal than others,” he said. “It’s very disappointing.”