Alfred F. Samenga, who loved his job as a Nassau judge so much that he presided over traffic court cases well into his 90s, died Dec. 3 after an illness. The Massapequa Park resident was 95.
Samenga, who friends said never lost his sense of humor despite his seriousness about the law, was raised in Astoria, Queens, by his parents, Olympia and John Samenga.
He attended St. John's University for both undergraduate studies and law school. A Democrat, he was elected to the district court bench in 1964 during the Lyndon Johnson landslide, moved up to county court in 1974, and was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court in 1985 by former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
In 1986, then-Republican County Executive Fran Purcell named Samenga his special assistant, and in 1988 Purcell's successor, Thomas Gulotta, appointed him accounts commissioner. Samenga retired from county government at the end of 1995.
Mary Samenga, the judge's niece and a principal law clerk in Nassau Supreme Court, said her uncle was a lifelong role model for her.
"He set standard for how I want to live my life," she said. "Not just morally, but professionally."
"Judge Samenga embodied all the positive attributes one would expect from our judicial system. He had integrity, compassion and a profound respect for justice," said Anthony Marano, Nassau's top administrative judge.
Defense attorney Ben Gullo, who tried many cases in front of Samenga, including the high-profile 1984 trial of Robert Golliver, who was convicted of killing a Newsday paperboy, said Samenga "wasn't a pushover, and he wasn't the other way either."
Gullo said Samenga was proud of his Italian heritage and was fond of quipping in Italian from the bench.
Lynda Samenga, the judge's daughter-in-law, remembers Samenga's softer, sillier side at home as well. He loved to wear a plaid jacket with a floral shirt and sing Christmas carols and other songs, she said.
Mary Samenga said she saw her uncle days before he died.
"He said he was so grateful that he had opportunity to serve people and to dispense justice," she said. "He treated everyone fairly, and that's something to be remembered."
In addition to his daughter-in-law and niece, he is survived by his wife of 70 years, Ethel; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his son, Alfred Samenga Jr.