Water Mill's controversial Sister Jackie's Way sign removed

Alexander Gregor, Southampton Superintendent of Highways, poses in Alexander Gregor, Southampton Superintendent of Highways, poses in front of the street sign that now hangs in his office in Hampton Bays, memorializing Sister Jacqueline Walsh, who was killed in a 2012 hit-and-run, Aug. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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Rose Hill Road in Water Mill is Sister Jackie's Way no more.

Southampton Town's highway superintendent last week removed a street sign memorializing Sister Jacqueline Walsh, a nun killed two years ago in a hit-and-run crash, after neighbors complained it was depressing.

Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said he removed the blue sign, which was affixed above the green sign marking Rose Hill Road, on the evening of Aug. 6 after nuns at the nearby Sisters of Mercy Convent said they had tired of the controversy.

"One of the sisters said Sister Jackie never would have wanted this," Gregor said last week. "I respect their wishes. Again, it was just a celebration of the woman's life."

No one answered the phone at the convent Friday.

Walsh, 59, died July 9, 2012, while walking near the convent along Rose Hill Road. She lived in Syosset and was at the convent to attend a retreat. Police sought but never apprehended a suspect, Carlos Armando Ixpec-Chitay, 30, a laborer who allegedly fled the scene. Authorities said they believe he returned to his native Guatemala.

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Gregor installed the memorial sign last summer. He said he paid $45 for it. Neighbors soon began lodging complaints, town officials said.

"Your sign is a painful reminder of a dreadful crime and the inexplicable failure of law enforcement to apprehend the man who did it," John Carley, a corporate attorney who lives on the street, wrote in a letter to Gregor. "Every time someone visits, I am forced to recount this tragedy because they ask who Sister Jackie was." Carley did not return a call to his residence last week.

In February, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst sent an informal survey to 39 residents of the neighborhood about the sign. The results: 17 said they didn't like it, two said they did, two said they didn't care either way and 18 didn't respond.

The town board asked Gregor to remove the sign, but he refused. On July 24, town parks employees took it down, but Gregor put it back up hours later.

On July 28, the town attorney's office said in a letter to Gregor that the town board, not the highway superintendent, has the legal authority to name streets.

In the end, Gregor said it was the nuns' objections that swayed him to take down the memorial.

"I'm keeping the sign," Gregor said last week. "I'm going to hang it in my office. If anyone comes in and wants to know why that sign is there, I have no problem saying, 'It's [in memory of] a wonderful woman who dedicated herself to the church and teaching poor children.' "

Throne-Holst declined to comment through a spokeswoman. Gregor said he was disappointed the supervisor sided with the "rich neighbors."

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"We're all created equal," Gregor said. "I guess some people are a little more equal. It's a shame."

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