Harry H. Kutner Sr., a World War II bomber pilot, former New York City police officer, Nassau Family Court judge and state Supreme Court justice, died Wednesday at the Hospice Inn in Melville of complications after a fall.
The longtime resident of Woodbury was 94.
An only child born in the Bronx, he was a 2-pound, 3 ounce-premature baby who later excelled in life. A 1940 graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he went to work at an insurance company in Manhattan for almost three years, his family said.
Kutner passed up a West Point appointment to enlist in the Army Air Corps and, at 23, was a pilot-commander of a B-29 Pathfinder with a 13-man crew. The men led bombing runs during which they found and set targets on fire, allowing trailing bombers to sight them, said his son, Harry Kutner Jr. of Garden City.
“Based on Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, he commanded 34 missions over Japan, volunteering for several missions thought to be ‘no return,’ and receiving medals for valor and distinguished flying while surviving a 20 mm cannon round in the back,” his son said.
Besides the Distinguished Flying Cross, Kutner Sr. also received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
His father was personally disdainful of pride and rarely mentioned his war or career accomplishments, Kutner Jr. said. But occasionally his father allowed peeks into his immense enjoyment and contentment with his marriage.
He wed Virginia Frances Gough in 1945. They had 11 children.
In 1946, he joined the NYPD, leaving in 1953 after receiving a law degree from Fordham University, from which he also received an undergraduate degree.
“He was an American hero,” said his friend Nat Swergold, labor counsel to the Town of Hempstead Sanitation District No. 1. Labor law was one of Kutner’s areas of expertise. He was labor counsel to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller from 1965 to 1972.
Kutner was also a noted criminal and civil trial lawyer. He was elected to Nassau Family Court in 1975 and the State Supreme Court in 1982. He retired from that post in 1996.
“He continued to practice law until two years ago,” his son said. After retiring from the bench, Kutner Sr. survived several serious medical issues, buoyed by his toughness and will to live.
In addition to his wife of more than 70 years, Kutner is survived by four other sons, Raymond, of San Antonio; Stephen, of Valley Stream, and Christopher and Kenneth, of Rockville Centre; three daughters, Ann Marie Perry, of Fort Salonga, Bernadette DelRossi, of East Northport, and Marybeth Marchand, of Ridgefield, Connecticut; 30 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was said Saturday at Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Woodbury. Kutner was buried in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.
Donations in his name may be made to Hospice Care Network, 99 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury, NY 11797.